I Cut My Bill in Half Switching to T-Mobile – Three Months Later…

Posted Sep 11, 2012 at 2:57 am in Threads > Opinions

So three months ago, I asked you for help in finding a better carrier for me than Verizon. You all offered some great suggestions but the path I ultimately took was to move my family to T-Mobile’s Family Value plans. I had some concerns making this move but I also held a lot of hope looking forward to the move. So how did it turn out?

Well, it’s not been all peaches and cream. First of all, I went into this knowing that it’s undeniable that Verizon simply has a larger footprint of coverage. I also went into this knowing that Verizon’s frequencies have a better ability to penetrate walls of buildings (and this is of particular interest to me because I work in a basement). And I also went into this knowing that I previously received great speeds from Verizon’s LTE pretty much everywhere I was near work or home here in Indianapolis. So from the way things sounded on paper, T-Mobile already had an uphill battle from the beginning.

Fast-forward three months and I am now much wiser. And if I had all of this new wisdom three months ago? Well, I would have made the same decision! Now mind you, with T-Mobile I have only had my Galaxy S III but with Verizon I had a Thunderbolt, a Galaxy Nexus, and a Droid X, so I haven’t had a perfect sample set of devices but I feel comfortable enough now that I think I can say I definitely made the right decision!

Price
There’s no doubt that T-Mobile is cheaper. how much cheaper? Well, at Verizon, our family plan (4 lines) would run us ~$240/month. That would be 1400 shared minutes, unlimited SMS, and a variety of data plans. At T-Mobile, frankly, I still don’t know what our monthly bill is. However, it *should* be ~$105/mo for 5 lines. That would be 1000 shared minutes w/3 lines at 2GB data, 1 line at unlimited, and 1 line with no data ($110/mo), insurance ($8/mo), and Family Allowances ($5/mo since we have a teen) minus a 15% discount (-$18.45/mo). (More under “Support” for why I don’t really know what my recurring bill should be.)

High-Speed Data
With Verizon, I would usually get ~15mbps (peaking at ~30mbps). With T-Mobile, I usually get ~11mbps (peaking at ~23mbps). So is Verizon faster? Yes, but not enough for it to really matter to me. But yes, Verizon tends to be faster when I get “4G” connections. T-Mobile’s 3G is definitely faster as well but again, that doesn’t really matter much.

Reception
With Verizon, I could keep a signal ~95% of the time in my basement office but never in the bathrooms. With T-Mobile, I actually keep a connection ~99% of the time, even in the bathrooms! I was shocked about this! And frankly, I can’t really explain why this is the case (and yes, this even held true with my Droid X with Motorola in theory having the best reception of all manufacturers).

Now the flip side to this is that there have been several times where I’ve dropped to an Edge (2G) connection with T-Mobile when I would have had a solid 3G connection with Verizon. However, I can also say the reverse in that there have also been several times where I’ve gotten “4G” with T-Mobile when I dropped to 1x with Verizon.

Lastly, T-Mobile has this awesome feature called WiFi Calling which is essentially VoIP integrated into your phone to use your T-Mobile phone number also as your VoIP phone number. It’s quite handy because 1) it allows you to hold conversations and text even when you don’t have cell reception and 2) if your sales person clicks a checkbox (which costs you nor them any money to do so) then all phone calls over WiFi Calling is free and won’t count against your Anytime Minutes!

Stability
So far, it seems that T-Mobile has been more stable than Verizon. Verizon seemed to have serious data outages about once a month. And when LTE went down, I could never even connect to 3G. T-Mobile has had a few hiccups as well but they seem to only last ~30 seconds (I’ve noticed it maybe 4 times so far) and every time, I am still connected via an Edge connection (which runs ~200kbps for me). So neither are perfect but I would greatly prefer the T-Mobile experience over the Verizon one here.

Customer Support
Okay, Verizon gets a big fat F in this category. I would have problem after problem and I would try to get things resolved and I would get excuse after excuse about why I was experiencing problems. Once I even spoke with an exec who offered to reimburse me $0.14 (not a typo!) to compensate me for my troubles. Ultimately, I just got the general feeling that nobody really cared if I was a happy customer or not, and it wasn’t worth their time to try and help me, EVER!

T-Mobile, they get an A for effort but a C for execution. They generally want to help me and they seem to try very hard to help me with my problems and to understand why I’m having problems. However, the C is mostly due to either their billing reps or their billing system itself. As far as I can tell, their billing system is so complex that nobody really understands it. I’ve already have 3 inappropriate charges that shouldn’t have been on my account be reversed (bad that they were on there to begin with, good that they fixed it).

Just yesterday, I spoke with 3 different people, all of whom I asked, “What is my recurring monthly bill going to be after this month?” One would think this would be an easy question. The first person told me ~$224. I KNEW that wasn’t correct so that rep (a tech support, not billing guy) transferred me to somebody else. The next person told me it was ~$195 but apparently the previous guy transferred me to the wrong person, so this person transferred me again, this time to the correct person in their billing department. This last person initially said ~$175 then changed it to ~$155 and then later to ~$135, and only then did that person say, “Oh yeah, you get some unknown amount off due to your discount.” So moral of the story is, watch your T-Mobile bill and expect to be very confused by it since T-Mobile themselves are very confused by it!

Ultimately, I must say that I am quite happy with my decision at this point. I feel like I’m getting VERY comparable quality of cellular service (if not better) even though I expected quality to drop significantly, I feel like the people who I depend on to fix problems really care and try to help me, and I feel like I have so many more options when it comes to devices now that I can consider international GSM devices! In the end, paying approximately $21/line (where my line has unlimited data even) really just cannot be beat! Granted, I don’t get subsidized phones but with the service cost being so low, that’s actually ideal since most of my family get their phones from eBay/Swappa/Craigslist!

  • lou2cool88

    This is great to know, thanks for the heads up! I’ve been on Big Red all my life and was going to make the switch when the Share Everything plans were announced but my family was still in the middle of their contracts and we didn’t all want to switch one at a time.

    Thanks for the helpful thread!

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Ultimately, if you’re toying with the idea of going to T-Mobile, I STRONGLY encourage you to go borrow a TMo-compatible GSM phone and activate a new pre-paid line with T-Mobile for their $30 100 minute 5GB data plan to test it out before actually making any changes. This will let you see if their coverage is good or not for you without making any commitments or changes to your current situation, and you’re only out $30.

      One caveat to keep in mind: They throttle their pre-paid plans to ~6mbps. So don’t be shocked when you can’t get any higher speeds than that. I get ~20mbps now that I have a value plan in locations I would only get ~6mbps with my “test prepaid line”.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Oh, and the WiFi Calling thing won’t work on prepaid lines so unfortunately, you won’t get to test it prior to switching. However, trust me, if you have a good wifi source, it works incredibly well! The ONLY bad thing about WiFi calling is that many (not all, depending on your phone) AOSP-based ROMs don’t have WiFi Calling built in. So, for example, with my Galaxy S3, if I flash CM10, AOKP, MIUI, or anything else that isn’t Touchwiz-based, then I lose WiFi Calling. However, if I flash a hacked Touchwiz-based ROM, then WiFi Calling works well. However, some phones have had somebody port WiFi Calling to work with AOSP ROMs. So all hope may not be lost in this area. But definitely expect it to take a while for somebody to get it working. (Official CM7 releases for the Vibrant have WiFi calling built in, so it really does work well sometimes too!)

  • kazahani

    Not trying to shill for Verizon here, but I thought it bears mentioning that the Verizon prices you mentioned are now out of date since they went over to their new plans. I sell wireless so I can go over their new pricing real quick:

    I’m assuming that you have 5 lines with 3 smartphones and 2 basic phones.

    Base fees for each line would be $40 for smartphones and $30 for basic, bringing you to $180 for your 5 lines. This includes unlimited minutes and SMS.

    You currently have 3 gigs per smartphone, so I would say you could get away with the 8 gig data plan for $90 bringing you to $270 total for your 5 lines, minus whatever discount you would get through your work. Total of $54 per line.

    It’s still quite a bit more than T-mo will charge you, but VZW gives you unlimited anytime minutes now, plus all the advantages you talked about in your post.

    • http://www.jaxidian.org/update/ jaxidian

      Thanks for the updated detailed comparison. A couple corrections though, if you don’t mind recalculating with these:

      1) All of my lines are smartphones – no basic/feature phones
      2) 3 of the 5 lines have 2GB Data
      3) 1 of the 5 lines now have Unlimited data (I estimate I’ll use ~5GB/mo)
      4) 1 of the 5 lines just had the data pulled off (I was swapping SIMs before when I only had 2GB/line so I could use 4GB but no longer need to now that I have unlimited)
      5) I can upgrade to unlimited minutes for everybody at a cost of $4/line ($20 total).

      So to sum it up, for an appropriate comparison I think I’d need a plan with:
      - 5 smartphones
      - 11 GB shared data
      - 1400 minutes
      - unlimited SMS/MMS
      - 1 insurance plan for my SGS3

      Also, please don’t round my 11GB down to 10GB or anything. We frequently hit our “limit” and then get throttled back to our “2G speeds”. So I would actually be inclined to say if we go to Verizon, we would actually need *more* data because on T-Mobile, we use more than what our limit is. (My teen sister LOVES Youtube and my mother-in-law tethers to her limit.)

      • kazahani

        VZW now forces you to get unlimited calling minutes. Stay away.

  • redraider133

    This is good to see. I am going to look into TMO when my contract is up in June because with my 4 lines and 2 w/data on the new share plans we are going to pay more for less. Wish verizon would have kept some of their old plans as well like att did.

  • cody

    well what i think about tmobile is that its affordable and verizon will destroy you