Nov 20 AT 9:10 PM Taylor Wimberly 31 Comments

T-Mobile deaf users, make your voice heard

The great thing about having this platform is allowing others to occasionally share their voice. I’m always willing to let individuals use our site to get their message out or ask for help. One of our readers, Robert Barrett, asked us to find out if T-Mobile has any plans to offer data only plans on Android phones for their deaf customers. Currently they are required to purchase a voice plan which often goes unused.

There is a great thread over at the official T-Mobile forums that explains this issue.

My name is Ian MacGregor and I am deaf. I currently have a G1 mobile phone. This phone is quite awesome and I am very happy with it. The one thing I am not happy about is that T-Mobile requires everyone who gets the G1 to also have a voice plan – which increases our monthly bill. Deaf users cannot use a voice plan because most cannot hear well enough and some cannot speak well enough so the voice plan amounts to wasted money every month.

I just got off the phone with a T-Mobile customer care representative who helped me file a formal complaint. My complaint was as follows:

1) Deaf users are required to pay for a voice plan on the g1, but they cannot use the voice plan due to being deaf.
2) Making the voice plan optional for g1 users (similar to the Sidekick data plan) would likely increase T-Mobile’s customer base by making the g1 more attractive to deaf users.
3) Requiring deaf users to pay for a voice plan that they cannot use may be a violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).
4) Current deaf Sidekick users may migrate to other carriers when switching devices due to the voice plan requirement for the G1 – this would cause T-Mobile to lose customers.

I filed my complaint as a deaf G1 user for the sole purpose of making my voice heard in support of the deaf community. This T-Mobile customer care representative told me that the T-Mobile TTY operators have also been making the same request (no required voice plan) from day one. This rep also told me that other deaf users have filed the same complaint and T-Mobile might make some changes if enough customers speak up.

So, if you have time and you agree that this is a valid issue for deaf g1 users, please call the TTY T-Mobile operators and file a similar complaint. The T-Mobile TTY customer care phone number is: 1-877-296-1018

We asked T-Mobile USA to clarify their policy for deaf customers with Android phones and received the following response.

At this time, T-Mobile does not offer a data only plan for Android-powered handsets; however, we offer such plans for BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and T-Mobile Sidekick devices. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

It is unfortunate that T-Mobile allows data only plans for other phones, but not Android devices. Hopefully if enough people speak out on this issue, T-Mobile might reconsider their policy.

If you would like to express your feelings towards this issue:

  • Be polite.
  • Contact the T-Mobile TTY customer care phone (1-877-296-1018) and file a formal complaint.
  • Post on the official T-Mobile forums thread.
  • Retweet this post to help spread the message (use the greet Tweetmeme button at the top of this post).

I truly believe that if enough people speak out (in a positive way), something will be done to help our friends in the deaf community. It is odd that data only plans are offered for other smartphones, but not Android.

If we receive any new information, we will update this post.

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • robert b

    Wow, talk about fast!!! Thanks and this will be going onto Facebook for sure.

  • Brian

    Why just deaf people. Shouldn’t we all have the option to have data only plans?

    • http://Website Shannon

      People who are deaf should be allowed a data package because the are unable to use a voice plan. I understand what you are saying but think about it from another point of view. If you do not want text or data you do not have to pay for it. In this situation the voice feature is unable to be used, therfore it is ridiculous for them to have to pay for it.

  • ryan

    Yeah sure but the point is hearing and required not deaf and required so…..

  • josh

    the person who filed a complaint should also do it though the better business bureau it just might have better results.

  • Tamara

    My sidekick 2008 sucks after the recent outage the battery dies at the drop of a hat. The G7 also is always out of service most of the time. When that happens my battery dies G7 blinks blinks then SIMS replaces blink blink that then poof battery dies . I have to bring the charger to work with me. I didn’t get all my contacts back either and the track ball doesn’t work half the time. I asked if I wanted to changed phone if I would still have to pay the 200 fee for breaking the contract early was told yes. I don’t think that’s fair they messed up the phones so therefore we should have the option of switching phones. When my contract is up in july I am seriouly considering switching to either a blackberry or an iPhone becaust not happy with tmobile service. They screwed us really good

  • josh

    I have T-Mobile and one thing everyone should understand is the amount of people that would abuse this with google voice. Also if they had a data only plan it would most likely have the the cost of voice built into it by just chargeing more for a data only plan. I understand the need for not takeing advantage of people but you also have to understan they are a bussiness. Remember one bad apple can ruin it for everyone. Just my two cents.

  • Charles

    Both my parents are hard of hearing, they are both on T Mobile. My mother had a sidekick and I really happy for her once she got it because she was able to communicate with me(This was before the rapid expansion of video relay phones). When I lived with my mother, she couldn’t really get job and she was stuck with SSI, which is a check the state pays to non-working deaf or hard of hearing people. I personally never once used the voice service because I thought she didn’t have it because she didn’t need it, imagine all the money we could of saved. Now I’m outraged, I can’t imagine having to pay for something I never needed or wanted in the first place. I’m so anal about my own phone bill, even with one charge on it that I don’t know anything about, I’ll call it in and complain. For most part she gets suckered into a 2 year contract with a voice plan which she will never use.

    My Father’s family, they all have G1′s, on the other hand has only one stepson who is hearing yet my Father pays for 1400 minute plan because it allows my father and his hard of hearing wife to have unlimited data and texting for cheaper price I presume. I just can’t imagine his stepson actually using 1400 minutes all by himself. Between my girlfriend and I, we have 500 minutes! All in all, if T mobile changes their policies the other companies will follow soon after. I can’t imagine Verizon doing that…


    Sidekicks are really popular with the deaf and hard of hearing community because they charge a cheaper price for them. Also the sidekick features an application called IP Relay which they can use their Sidekick’s qwerty keyboard to talk to an operator and relay the message to the hearing individual.

    • Charles

      Sorry for posting twice. I don’t know if they charge for voice for the the sidekick now these days but back then they charged for the cheapest plan, the 300 minute plan.

  • Philosophics

    I think T-Mobile should pick up the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10.

    That will change things up…

  • just some dude

    wait how did they just get off the phone if there deaf.

    • http://Website Austin


  • bob

    how is the deaf and hard of hearing community to file a formal complaint? you offer a phone number.

  • Charles

    There’s these web-cam devices called video phones. You connect it to TV which allows deaf or hard hearing individuals to talk to interpreter and the interpreter translates the sign language and speaks into the phone for them.

    There’s also TTY, which is like small typewriter with led screen and makes beeps and boops that translate into text which the interpreter can relay the message.

    • http://Website Kathy

      Use a TTY sometime and see how much fun it is to wait for an operator if you are on the opposite end. You have to be precise and they type everything you say word for word. If it is a long sentence it takes FOREVER, then you have to wait for whoever you are speaking to type back. Also there is the 1-800 number you have to dial first.
      It is a long process and tiresome for everyone involved.

  • Andy in Indy

    With the mixing of Voice Recognition and Voice Synthesis, I am surprised that no one has written a phone app that works like a relay service. How would that work legally with the requirement to be a registered user of a relay service?

  • Joe

    If there was a data only plan for G1 users, T-Mobile will charge $55 a month for it… The same amount as it is now if you go basic plan + data… T-Mo will charge you the same price (with no voice) and just call it a ‘data only’ plan…. Happy?

  • Meredith

    I am hard of hearing and a G1 user. I can use the voice plan on my phone (I have a family plan with my hearing spouse anyway) but obviously most of my friends cannot.

    There is little risk of non-deaf people abusing the feature by using Google Voice if T-Mobile uses the same TAP requirements that AT&T has. AT&T requires users to submit documentation of their hearing loss for the reduced TAP pricing.

    As for why it wouldn’t be offered to hearing people, it’s because T-Mobile likes to make money. It’s perfectly justified for them to expect a hearing person to pay for a voice plan. If you want a data-only plan – for example if you have two phones – get something other than the G1. But expecting deaf people to pay for a service they CANNOT use is silly.

  • http://Website Cat

    I am deaf and do like to android phone. But I am experienced with tmobile. I was easy negator with tmobile service because voice plan turn down minute lowest cost. and unlimited data plan high cost with web, video, text, game link to 3G cuz 3G with data plan without voice plan it’s would be cheapest cost monthly If 3G give to new video phone it’s best for deaf people without text because video in voice. But tmobile company obey the law policy that they can’t change own data plan between voice plan. however that who is deaf or hearing and I suggest tmobile should be must separate own number sim card what is your plan cost? maybe we should talk to president obama can change the law new for deaf people of million u.s. and the world. cause the mobile can’t change the law. is that understand? We need change the law now mr. president obama! wake up those deaf and hard of hearing people millions and milliond in the U.S. and the World. ok?

  • http://Website Andres Hernandez

    well there can not blame to T-mobile care customer. I already knew about almost 2 year ago G1 require purchase voice I turn down them i dont take it. which he purchase G1 countinue without question about voice require that he is part reponsiblem first talk question before buy. what why i have sidekick for many years alway only data. T-mobile is not fault doing because depend products the cell phone their own . you have to blame G1 at google company which made G1 you have file against them not T-mobile company. G1 company should change accept and let T-mobile know change to data without voice. two day ago i talked t-mobile The first phone with MOTOBLUR, the CLIQ automatically delivers your messages, contacts, e-mail, updates and photos from social sites, and more–right to your home screen. A data service is required You dont have to worry about voice they accepted because product company Mortorblur. month $ 40.00 incudle map and lost pager found where location awesome POWER. best for deaf community grow like sidekick . what happen Oct 2 2009 was crash all sidekick Lx / 2009 people blame T-mobile ? NO it was one Mircsoft was bought Sidekick take over place that was Danger Company sold to Mirscsoft . Mirscosoft was one reposible big messed crash. T-mobile was upset with Mirscsoft and susponsed no sale tmobile alll sidekick until straight out. Micrsoft loss benfits already. Danger company went together help with mircsoft together everything restore your data . they still work on everything done . mirscsoft was planning change update and system more better and graphic upgrade later. it was cheap $ 30.00 month data and unlimit text message afforable sidekick ! I order Cliq for my son. I was think plan buy driod Verizon interesting one bec i want mifi work together with my ipod touches anywhere without worry find look wifi. i dont have to get iphone. I support verizon not ATY&T ! thank you

  • RobertMfromLI


    No, I am not hearing impaired… but nonetheless, I needed to add my voice to this… as I hope everyone, regardless of how well or poorly they can hear will.

    Please TMobile, come up with a plan for hearing impaired users where they aren’t paying for something they aren’t using. It’s not like it should cost you anything to do so… if they aren’t paying for voice, then cut off their voice access features and just leave the data ones accessible via the network… or whatever it takes… or come up with a 20 minute voice plan specifically for the hearing impaired if some aspect of the G1 really requires the voice connection.

    Or make a public statement/response as to why it isnt possible for the G1 phones.


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  • http://Website Austin

    It’s not just the deaf that need a data only plan, nonverbal people like me also need a data-only plan.

    I would be perfectly ok with T-mobile requiring documentation of my disability, the same way that AT&T does. Just as long as they offer a data-only plan to us.

    My contract ends june, 2010, and if there’s no change by then, I’m switching to Sprint. They offer a data-only plan on an Android phones.

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  • http://Website alison

    wow..get over yourself and quit trying the whole minority thing just to have another pointless thing to bitch about. nobody is forcing you to use t-mobile, or have the g1 plan. why a huge corporation would change their entire policy on a smartphone package for such a small group of people is just a little self-absorbed don’t you think? clearly they aren’t too worried about your “migration”, maybe you could overreact about something worth your time.

    • Anthony Domanico

      ummm…I disagree. And you do realize you’re complaining about somebody complaining, correct? Isn’t that worse?

      I believe that T-mobile should offer a data-only option for phones. Why not? They already offer a data-only plan for their web-connect stick. Why not offer that as an option for a phone plan? Then maybe not fully-subsidize the phone so a customer would pay about $299-399 for a high-end smartphone (HD2?).

      Either way, picking on someone with a disability for requesting a service to meet their needs from a company who has positioned itself as a customer friendly/customer service powerhouse is probably not the right way to go. Oh, especially when they already offer this type of service for anyone who has a laptop and a web-connect stick.

    • http://Website Kathy

      You are an idiot! I have a deaf child and she, along with other deaf are not considered a minority!
      What we need is equality for everyone. I wouldn’t pay for something I don’t use or need. How about if someone were to put Chinese on your phone for you and you didn’t need or use it but they still insisted you have it because that was part of “the plan ‘? Would you be happy or would you bitch that you are having to pay for a service you don’t need?
      My daughter has lived around closed minded ignorant people like you her whole life and I have to be the one to be her VOICE. I have to let you STUPID people know that this is not a handicap or as you called it, a minority. It is a way of life for deaf and hearing both.
      If you lived in an all deaf community, would you consider yourself a minority or just someone who is different because you can hear? If you were treated like some of the deaf or hard of hearing people maybe you would understand and not be so judgemental towards others.
      I think you need to grow up and learn about differences in people before you judge.
      I think you need to realize how many deaf there are in the world before you speak your mind and bitch about something more worth OUR time.

  • http://Website derek

    hey there, the G1 is a SMART PHONES! they probably cost you like 55 dollars per month. so i had a blackberry 9700 for like 3 months then i closed the account. TMO SUCKED MOFO! thank god i have verizon phone that is driod!

  • Astrid Bidanec

    I can’t believe you are asking deaf T-Mobile customers to call customer care. Did you even read your own post? Most of them cannot talk on the phone and that’s why the voice plan is useless. How are they supposed to file a verbal complaint when they can’t hear and sometimes not speak either???

  • Abel Helgerman

    The heart of your writing whilst sounding reasonable in the beginning, did not work very well with me after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer but just for a very short while. I still have a problem with your leaps in logic and one would do well to help fill in those breaks. If you actually can accomplish that, I would definitely end up being impressed.