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Earlier this year, T-Mobile, as part of its "Un-Carrier" strategy, did away with long-term carrier contracts and device subsidies on its calling plans. Instead of being locked into two-year deals, all plans are month-to-month, at a lower rate than their competitors, with unlimited talk and text.
The end of device subsidies somewhat negates these benefits, as the cost of an iPhone 5S or Galaxy Note 3, paid in installments over two years, brings T-Mobile's price to near that of its competitors. (Though it is nice to be able to quit, pay off the remaining balance on the phone, and avoid early termination fees. Their "JUMP" program, which allows frequent phone upgrades for the gadget-obsessed, is a nice feature as well.)
It's T-Mobile's newest feature, however, that make them worth a longer look: free international data.
Unlimited (Albeit Slow) Data Abroad
International data roaming horror stories aren't a rarity, especially in the smartphone age. Travelers turn on their phone to check their email at a WiFi hotspot, forget to turn it off, and end up with a $1,000 bill.
T-Mobile's new "Simple Global" feature gives subscribers free 2G (128kbs) data in over 100 countries. The data speeds are barely better than mid-90s dialup, but for email or a quick "where the hell am I?" check on a maps app, it'll do. For those in need of faster speeds, they offer high-speed data packages as well.
Free Incoming SMS, $0.20/Min Calls and Outgoing Texts
You can't control who sends you a text. Fortunately, you won't pay for those spam texts, or annoying messages from your boss. If you choose to text back, however, it'll cost $0.20 cents per text. (We'd recommend installing Google Voice for free texting over your data connection, here or abroad, from your PC, tablet, or smartphone.)
Calls are $0.20 per min., whether incoming or outgoing, which isn't too shabby for the quick, "Hi, I'm alive," check-in.
What's the Catch?
As always, our biggest gripe with T-Mobile is domestic coverage. It's magnificent that you can data roam for free abroad. But outside of major metropolitan areas domestically, your phone probably won't work.
From personal experience, any part of California between just south of San Jose and just north of Santa Clarita is a data dead zone. (Most other carriers have decent coverage all along the I5 freeway.) Worse, nearly the entire drive from California to Kansas was a dead zone as well (unlike my brother's Verizon phone).
But, if you don't spend much time in the domestic boonies, or you travel abroad frequently, T-Mobile might just be your best option.
Have an opinion on T-Mobile's new international strategy? Tweet us @FindLawLP.