I’m trying to make sense of T-Mobile’s new wireless contract pricing plans. And I’m having a hard time.

If you didn’t hear, T-Mobile got rid of the two-year contract system that every other major carrier locks its customers into, instead opting for a month-by-month payment system. Plans start at $50 for unlimited talk and text, plus 500 MB of 4G data for one phone. A second line costs $30, and each additional line costs $10 more. For each phone, you can add 2 GB of data for $10 a month, or bump up to unlimited 4G data for a total monthly fee of $70.


The biggest part of the phone market that this plan changes, though, is the way phones are subsidized. When you go to a Verizon store or AT&T, you can get a new 16 GB iPhone 5 for $199 when you sign up for a new two-year contract. The phone itself costs $649, which is the price you’d pay if you weren’t eligible for an upgrade. Verizon, AT&T or just about any other carrier eats the $450 difference because it knows you’re going to pay close to $2,000 over the next two years for the data and service that hardware requires.

With T-Mobile’s new plans, you have two options. You’re able to buy an iPhone 5 from T-Mobile for $579 up front, which is $70 less than just about any other carrier, which is awesome. Or, you can essentially lease your phone from the company, for $20 a month for 24 months, after forking over a $99 up front cost.

As I have previously written, wireless contracts and plans are obscenely expensive. T-Mobile’s new plan theoretically would save me several hundred dollars over a hypothetical two-year phone cycle when compared to Verizon’s Share Everything plan or an individual plan on AT&T.

The Catch

But the problem is that I live in the middle of nowhere, New Jersey, and know for a fact I don’t get T-Mobile coverage out here. When I drove cross-country last summer, I bought a T-Mobile prepaid 4G broadband card to give me internet access in places I wouldn’t otherwise have access to Wi-Fi. It was cheaper than the Verizon one, Best Buy had a promotion on it at the time, and (when I was in a coverage zone) it would be significantly faster than the Verizon 3G prepaid devices offered to me.

When I tried to set it up, I was barely able to activate it. I had to move the device all around my house until I found a place that had juuuuuuuuuuust enough reception to get the device turned on and my first month of service started. Once I hit the road, the device was again pretty hit-or-miss (with the emphasis on miss.)

While coverage was spotty, I have to say that when I was in a major city, the service was pretty awesome. It was great in New Orleans, Los Angeles and Kansas City, where I was able to browse the web, upload pictures and check e-mails with almost the same speed I had at home with Comcast cable internet. (And this was before T-Mobile rolled out true 4G LTE, which it also just announced this week.)

But when I was on the road, or in a smaller town, or in a hotel outside of town, the service was barely usable. If I could somehow connect to 3G – forget about 4G service in most of the country – the service was barely usable. I wound up paying for Wi-Fi in a lot of places I thought I wouldn’t have to.

So, no, T-Mobile, I won’t be switching to your service. If I lived in a major city or spent most of my time in one, your plan would make sense to me and I might go with it. But being outside your grid makes your slightly cheaper service a bigger waste of money than throwing an extra few hundred bucks to Verizon over the course of two years.

About Joey Lewandowski

Joey is the Manager of Content and Community at ShellyPalmer. With a journalism degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey, he's a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan, enjoys watching movies and loves all most things tech. You can follow him on Twitter @soulpopped.



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