Welcome to a new weekly column where we break down each carrier to let you know the best devices and current promotions. T-Mobile was voted the number two carrier in our Android Bowl , so we thought we should cover them next after our Verizon Buyer’s Guide last Friday. Each week we will rotate between the big four US carriers, so that each buyer’s guide gets refreshed every month. Read on for T-Mobile’s best devices and deals.
Current Promotions and News
My First Smartphone sweepstakes: T-Mobile is giving away free smartphones on their Facebook page with the My First Smartphone sweepstakes. Unfortunately, it’s a Windows Phone (Nokia Lumia 710), but free is free. Contest ends 2/17/12.
500,000 fans promo: To celebrate 500,000 fans on their Facebook page, T-Mobile is giving away coupon for 30% off any one accessory at a T-Mobile store. Offer expires 6/30/12.
President’s Day Loyalty offer: Our friends at TmoNews are reporting T-Mobile will offer a special loyalty promo this weekend only. Not all customers qualify, so check with your local store. You could score a free phone with mail-in rebate.
T-Mobile offers Square: At select T-Mobile stores, you can now find the Square card reader. This awesome accessory in combination with the Square app allows users to accept credit cards on their Android device. See this T-Mobile blog post for additional details.
Continued commitment for WiFi Calling: T-Mobile has offered WiFi calling on most of their Android lineup for awhile, but they don’t advertise it much. Some wondered about the future of the service, but T-Mobile responded that it is here to stay. See The Verge for more info.
This pick was easy. The Samsung Galaxy S II is the best Android phone available on T-Mobile. We polled our staff, readers, and even some T-Mobile employees who all unanimously agreed upon the Galaxy S II as their favorite device.
T-Mobile normally sells the Galaxy S II for $229 with 2-year contract, but you can find better deals if you look around online. Our favorite online store Amazon currently has it for $199 with new service or upgrades.
The Galaxy S II was one of the best Android devices of 2011 and most of the team here uses one of the versions as their daily phone. Our very own Angie has this model on T-Mobile and she loves it. The main selling points of this device are the gorgeous 4.52 inch Super AMOLED Plus display, stellar 8 mepapixel camera, support for 4G HSPA+ 42 Mbps, and Samsung’s excellent build quality.
We never posted a full review of the T-Mobile version, but we did review the Sprint model and I suggest you check that out. The major difference is that the Sprint model used a dual-core 1.2 GHz Exynos processor which has a faster graphics processor, and the T-Mobile model has a dual-core 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S3 processor.
The Snapdragon processor doesn’t have as fast a GPU as the Exynos, but it has other unique benefits like GLONASS location services and support for T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 Mbps network.
Currently the Galaxy S II ships with Android 2.3, but Samsung has already promised that upgrades to Android 4.0 will begin in Q1. T-Mobile’s model might not be the first with the update, but it will eventually receive it.
Runner up: We absolutely love the Samsung Galaxy S II, but if you are partial towards HTC then go with the Amaze 4G. It also supports T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 Mbps network and features an equally amazing camera. The only downside to this phone is the sub-par battery life. Check out Edgar’s review of the Amaze 4G for more info.
Alternative pick: T-Mobile does not sell the Galaxy Nexus, but if money is no object you can buy one online and use it on their network. The Galaxy Nexus is the best Android phone available thanks to shipping with Android 4.0. Amazon currently has the GSM Galaxy Nexus listed for $629. Check out Anthony’s review of the Galaxy Nexus for more info.
Comparison of top T-Mobile phones: To see a complete comparison of the Samsung Galaxy S II, HTC Amaze 4G, and Samsung Galaxy Nexus head over to gdgt.com.
If you have a thing for QWERTY keyboards, then the myTouch 4G Slide is your device. T-Mobile currently sells this device for $199 on contract, but you might find a better deal if you shop around.
Notable features of the myTouch 4G Slide include 3.7 inch Super LCD, 8 megapixel camera, front facing cameara, dual-core 1.2 GHz Snapdragon S3 processor, and support for T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ network.
When this phone launched last year, T-Mobile advertised it as having the most advanced smartphone camera. Highlights include improved low-light performance, zero shutter lag, SweepShot, ClearShot HDR, and burst shot. Comparisons against other high-end devices even showed it bested the iPhone 4S by a slim margin.
This device still ships with Android 2.3, but it is expected to eventually receive Android 4.0.
Let me repeat what I said in my Verizon buyer’s guide. Because of the current data plans, I’m not a huge fan of carrier branded Android tablets. However, if you need an Android tablet with wireless connectivity, then the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus should be your pick.
T-Mobile currently sells the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus for $249 with 2-year contract. Monthly data plans include 2 GB for $39, 5 GB for $49, and 10 GB for $79.
When it comes to 7-inch Android tablets, the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus is our current favorite. Just ask Clark, this is his mini tablet of choice. It features a dual-core 1.2 GHz Exynos processor that turned in some of the fastest web browsing scores we have ever seen. Another selling point is the IR port, which works with applications like Peel Smart Remote to control all the gadgets in your living room.
Check out our hands-on with the Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus for additional details.
Now that online stores offer high-end devices for $99-199 with new 2-year agreement, it is becoming harder and harder to suggest a budget phone. The lower priced devices generally don’t receive major software updates to newer versions of Android and are outdated as soon as you buy them.
If you wait for a big T-Mobile sale, you can normally score one of their high-end phones for free. They just had their Valentine’s Day sale, and I’m sure there will be another sale next month.
However, if you need a budget Android phone right now, then we would suggest the Samsung Exhibit II 4G. T-Mobile is selling the phone for only $29 on contract, which is a nice price for a mid-range 4G phone.
Highlights of the Exhibit II 4G include Android 2.3, 3.7 inch display, 3 MP rear camera + VGA front camera, 1 GHz processor, 4 GB internal storage, and all the usuals like WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth 3.0.
We doubt this device will ever be upgraded to Android 4.0, but that’s what you get with budget smartphones.
What’s Coming Next
Just around the corner we have the Samsung Galaxy S Blaze 4G, but we don’t have all the details about this phone yet. It appears similar to the Galaxy S II, but it could be targeted more towards the mid-level pricing. T-Mobile has a sign-up page to be notified when more details are available.
If you are in the market for a high-end phone, keep an eye on the HTC One X and One S, formerly the Edge and Ville. Previously, the Ville was rumored to coming to T-Mobile, but it is a LTE phone. The One X (or Edge) is more likely headed for T-Mobile since it features a HSPA+ modem.
Follow our coverage of Mobile World Congress 2012 later this month to see which new phones get announced.
We have long wanted to maintain buyer’s guides for every carrier, but it’s just something we have failed to produce. As one of the most influential sources of Android information on the web, we realize that our opinions are valuable and the average consumer just wants to know what phone they should buy without having to do all the research.
Our hardcore audience lives and breaths Android, so most of them already know what device they want to buy next. However, I realize that for most of the public, reading our blog is like trying to read Swahili or some other foreign language. The purpose of these guides is to try and help the average consumer.
Having said all that, consider this first guide as a rough draft that will continually be updated and improved over time. We would love to hear your feedback on what other sections or information should be added to the next version. Our lead developer Clark has some amazing site features that are coming down the pipe (like the new profiles), and we are 100% committed to this community.
I ask for your help by sharing this guide with your friends on T-Mobile and leaving suggestions in the comments below.