Feature Article

March 27, 2013

T-Mobile's New Data Plans May Represent Bad News for Smartphone Users

The merger of T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS held a lot of promise for the American smartphone user. For one thing, T-Mobile has been promising new data plans for smartphones and tablets that would be radically different from those offered by its larger competitors like Verizon and AT&T.

Unfortunately, the plans went public this week and, while T-Mobile's plans are somewhat competitively priced, they really aren't all that different to data plans found anywhere else in the country. Indeed, the biggest differentiator seems to be that rather than purchasing additional data as they reach their monthly cap, users can will instead have their speed throttled.

The other major selling point of these plans is their lack of a two-year contract, but as some have pointed out, you can't really take your phone to any other carrier except AT&T. Even in this scenario, T-Mobile's and AT&T's 4G bands are incompatible, so you'd be stuck with only 3G data service.

Furthermore, going with T-Mobile right now means poorer coverage than other carriers, especially in terms of 4G LTE, while infrastructure expansion is expected to take years to accomplish. Also, no contract means no subsidies and a higher upfront price for smartphones. T-Mobile does offer installment plans, though, and once the device is paid off, monthly costs actually decrease — a legitimate benefit over competitors.

Still, according to InfoWorld blogger Galen Gruman, once the options are broken down into simple numbers, T-Mobile and Verizon typically come out on top in terms of pricing, while AT&T and Sprint tend to have higher costs. On the whole though for most scenarios, the four carriers offer similar pricing.

Obviously, this is bad for the consumer, as none of the major carriers are attempting to really lower prices. In fact, Verizon's new Everything plans that were rolled out in the summer actually raised prices for customers. With the T-Mobile-MetroPCS merger being the last beacon of hope for mobile prices, it's unlikely that the situation will get much better any time soon.

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