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T-Mobile is making its 'unlimited' data plan even more confusing

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T-Mobile has figured out a remarkably confusing way of expanding its brand-new unlimited data plan. Because the new T-Mobile One plan doesn't actually offer unlimited data when it comes to video — all video is limited to 480p — T-Mobile will begin selling "HD day passes" for $3 per day, allowing customers to stream in 1080p for 24 hours.

That's simple enough, but here's where it gets really weird: T-Mobile is also offering a plan called T-Mobile One Plus, which, among other benefits, offers unlimited HD day passes. So by subscribing to the plan, you can stream 1080p video all you want every single day — but only if you go and activate the HD day pass again every single day.

T-Mobile seemingly wants you to forget to enable HD video

Presumably, T-Mobile is hoping you'll forget to activate those passes, or else it would have just lifted the 480p quality limit without this bizarre constraint. Making this even more confusing, T-Mobile originally announced plans to offer an "HD add-on" for the One plan that offered unlimited HD streaming without constraints. That's no longer going to be an option, however, so if you want HD video streaming, you're stuck re-enabling it every day. A T-Mobile rep framed the change as "giving customers more" for the same price, which is true (both cost $25 extra per month), but the new plan also involves the strange new reactivation hurdle.

The One Plus plan does have some other benefits. It comes with unlimited LTE tethering, which is a big addition. Although, T-Mobile prioritizes data to smartphones and tablets over tethered devices, so there are still some limitations. Subscribers will also get 256kbps data speeds while traveling abroad, double what T-Mobile's other subscribers get.

So just to summarize everything, there are now two plans named T-Mobile One:

  • T-Mobile One: unlimited data, except tethering (limited to a slow 512kbps) and video (limited to 480p)
  • T-Mobile One Plus: unlimited data, unlimited tethering (LTE, but deprioritized), unlimited 1080p video (if you reactivate every day)

The latter of which is replacing:

  • T-Mobile One with HD add-on: unlimited data, 5GB of LTE tethering, unlimited 1080p video (no need to reactivate)

I'd like to quote T-Mobile's press release, from 11 days ago, when it announced the original One plan (emphasis mine):

"With this industry-shaking move, T-Mobile One upends the very idea of traditional wireless rate plans with a single, simple, 100% unlimited offer for smartphones"

Sounds about right.

Update August 29th, 11:40AM ET: T-Mobile says the One Plus plan replaces the HD add-on. This article has been updated to note this.