How much do T-Mobile's new plans really save you? No, really.

A lot of speculation has emerged recently over the pricing for T-Mobile's new contract-free pricing scheme, much of it surrounding the comparison published by Nathan Ingraham on March 26th. Because I and several others have questioned the way that comparison was put together, I decided to run my own numbers for the plans that I, and I believe most other individuals, would shop for.*

*Because questions of loyalty always come up on The Verge, I should note as a disclaimer that my wife (iPhone) and I (Nexus 4) currently are on AT&T. I should also state that the math is not all that different, just the perspective through which it is applied.


2GB, Unlimited Text, Voice
$100/month plus taxes
with an iPhone 5 every two years


There are actually two comparable options for AT&T. The first is the 4GB plan used by The Verge, however, for all of you who have gone over your limit on AT&T, you also know that there is a second, more economical option for hitting the reasonable 2GB option. Below are both.

4GB, Unlimited Text, Voice
$110/month plus taxes
with an iPhone 5 every two years

With AT&T you can also buy 1GB of Data and pay $15 a month for an additional 1GB.

1GB, Unlimited Text, Voice +$15 for 1GB
$100/month plus taxes
with premium phone every two years


Sure, Sprint has voice limits, but Mobile-to-Mobile is free, so realistically, it's unlimited. That means there is absolutely no need for unlimited voice at $110. Who calls land-lines anyway?

Unlimited Data + Texts, 450 minutes of non-mobile calling
$80/month plus taxes
with an iPhone 5 every two years


This requires a bit of explanation. T-Mobile offers two interesting choices for the average consumer. Its Unlimited Nationwide 4G pricing offers unlimited data, that will likely be pushed on the vast majority of customers. It looks great (who doesn't love Unlimited?), it's branded (who doesn't love pink?) and it has a great price. However, it also only offers 500MB of tethering and costs $10 more than the carrier's own 2.5MB plan, a plan that fits the needs of most consumers and includes tethering on top of the same unlimited text and voice. Because of that, I've run the numbers for that plan below. If you don't like it, add $240.

2.5GB, Unlimted Texts, Voice, Tethering
$60/month plus taxes
with an iPhone 5 every two years ($20 x 24 months + $100 up front)

There is also the option to purchase (or bring) your phone unlocked. An unlocked iPhone 5 runs $650. Likewise for other such premium devices. However, one should also remember that an unlocked Nexus 4, an excellent choice for Android users, is only $350, a $300 savings on top of what is presented below.

with an unlocked iPhone (or similar) every two years
with an unlocked iPhone (or similar) every one year

The Whole Point

To me, that final bit seems to be the whole point of T-Mobile's allure. A T-Mobile customer gets to have the newest phone every year for basically the same price as everyone else, who only gets one every two years (or 22 months). Sure, it is a little bit more, but you're getting a new iPhone every year for a slight $140 premium. Of course, there's the option to remain with an older phone, one you may already own, purchase used or through other, perhaps more unscrupulous, channels. In this case, you can save as much as $380 dollars. If you prefer Android and buy a Nexus 4, it's even more of a savings, since they cost a full $300 less. Sure, that doesn't look like a lot when your two-year cost is $2000 or more, but $380 (or $680 on the Nexus) is still a lot of money. Enough to buy a new gaming console every two years. Enough to add two premium streaming services, such as Spotify, rdio or Netflix to your service. And while many customers already have these services, it certainly puts the savings into perspective.

Not only that, T-Mobile saves you even more money if you're like the millions of customers who don't even care enough to upgrade their phones on a two year cycle. While this may sound like heresy to those of visiting The Verge every day, for many, that seems reasonable. For every month you go beyond the two year "phone contract" on T-Mobile, you save up to $40 over your Verizon and AT&T brethren.

Sure, T-Mobile's new LTE may be slow, incompatible and unavailable, but then again, so is AT&T's. And Sprints. And Verizon hates customers.


So what does this mean in real terms? Well, if you want to treat T-Mobile's new strategy the same way you treat Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, by buying a phone with a monthly payment plan every two years, sure, it comes out about the same. A little less, like it has always been. But if you want the ability to switch phones, leave the network (say, because you're travelling abroad for a month and don't want to pay on your two-year contract) or you simply enjoy a CEO with a sense of humor, T-Mobile could be an excellent choice. In fact, it does precisely what we've all always clamored for, a network that doesn't care how you buy your phone, only that you talk, text and surf with them.