T-Mobile is going prepaid?!

T-Mobile is going purely pre-paid. Why this is making big news in the tech news and blogosphere is beyond me; I’ve been no-contract since before T-Mobile made it cool.

Since I got my first cell phone back in 2003 at the age of 16 when I finally got my license to drive, this was when Virgin Mobile and TracFone first came out. My parents wanted to contact me or let me call them, a nearby friend, or even 9-1-1 if there was an emergency when I was out and about. (My first phone was the Nokia 5160. I would go on to use mostly Nokias, besides one or two Sony Ericson phones and the Sidekick 3, with the C7 [Astound] as my last Nokia before I would permanently them to go Android when Symbian was finally kaput.)

After two years of being pissed with TranFone’s service, I switched to Virgin Mobile and, except a brief stint with T-Mobile, stayed with them ever since.

The perks of switching from pre-paid on Sprint to pre-paid on T-Mobile:

  • Their coverage is still greater than Sprint’s (Virgin is one of two pre-paid brands owned and operated by Sprint) and 3G/4G speeds are faster.
  • T-Mobile has more phones and uses a phone payment plan so you can still buy some good phones over time instead of being able to pay full price upfront. (What, you think iPhones were really$200? Nope, that two-year contract you sign subsidizes the price; it costs you ~$600 retail otherwise.)
  • They finally have a fully compatible iPhone 5, and you can pay for it in installments. Virgin is still only stuck with the iPhone 4 and 4S, with no word when we’ll get the iPhone 5…and all these phones are paid for upfront, no installment option exists.
  • You can buy any second-hand unlocked or earlier T-Mobile phone and bring it to your account by just sticking in a T-Mobile SIM card, yet on Virgin Mobile phones it must have Virgin software already on it.

So why am I not switching?

  • T-Mobile’s cheapest plan for unlimited everything begins at $50. I don’t talk much at all, so why pay for unlimited usage? Can I get a discount for not going over a certain amount of minutes? Virgin starts at $35/month for 5 hours use, and even then most of the competitors start with plans including 450 minutes…
  • The basis of pricing. T-Mobile still bases their options on calls, and not by data usage, as a primary use. More and more of my generation use mobile Internet and texting  than for calls anymore. People unfamiliar with bandwidth and data usage have no idea how much Internet they use, so they question “why?” with 500 MB vs 2 GB of data.
    Virgin Mobile has their Beyond Talk option, which gives you unlimited Internet and texting (yes they still throttle after some 2.5 gigabits of data but at least they don’t charge you for going over), period. You don’t have to worry much, if at all, about how much data you use. They price their plans, instead, on how much talk time you need or want. Even their cheapest, at $35/month, gives you the unlimited data and texting, the only thing shorted is 300 anytime minutes (5 hours) of talk time. If you find yourself using more or less talk time than the agree allows for, you can easily long on to your account and switch plans, without any penalty, you just have to pay for a new month if you upgrade.
  • That $35/month includes all fees, taxes, and surcharges, just not sales tax. (So, including that sales tax at 7%, I only pay $37.45. That’s it!) It’s not like T-Mobile, which starts at $50/month before they add taxes and surcharges, and can add up to an extra 20% on your final bill.

So T-Mobile thinks it’s being all hip and cool with this no-contract thing, when players like Virgin, MetroPCS (whom it acquired), and Cricket have been around for the better part of a decade doing this. T-Mobile is just cashing in on the fact that no-contract plans make up 1/3 of the wireless market, because plans are cheaper, phones are better, and they have mobile Internet (even if now always 4G, but they are playing catch-up).

T-Mobile is such a poser!!

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