- A $US45 a month plan that gives you unlimited talk, text, and up to 4 GB of LTE data.
- A $US55 a month plan that bumps that up to 6 GB of LTE data.
- A “T-Mobile One Prepaid” plan that costs $US75 a month for “unlimited” LTE data, but caps video streamed over the network at 480p unless you pay $US3 for 24 hour’s worth of HD streaming. It provides “unlimited” mobile hotspot usage, too, but only at 3G speeds. As with the postpaid One plan, T-Mobile says you may also notice “reduced speeds” in areas of congestion if you use more than 30 GB of data in a given month.
- In each case, you need to call T-Mobile directly to order the plan.
One Prepaid looks like a worse deal than the standard One plan, which allows LTE video streaming and some LTE hotspot data by default, and costs $US5 less a month — but the other two seem like fine-enough value on the surface.
In the process of reworking its offerings, though, T-Mobile formally ditched a plan that is widely seen as one of the best deals in mobile.
That plan offers 5 GB of 4G data, unlimited text, and 100 minutes of talk time for $US30 a month. While the 100-minute limit is strict, 5 GB of data is a healthy amount, and it’s still possible to use WiFi-based services like FaceTime or Skype as a calling replacement.
More importantly, the $US30 prepaid plan has long been the cheapest way to get onto a major carrier’s 4G network with a non-anemic allotment of data. It doesn’t hurt that T-Mobile’s network has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years.
All of this, combined with the fact that T-Mobile had always kept it somewhat hidden, led to the plan attracting a sort of cult following over the past half-decade. Various articles have been written explaining how to activate it, and review sites like The Wirecutter have recommended it as great value.
For what it’s worth, I’ve used the plan for the past three years: The 100-minute restriction is a bit tricky for my line of work, but the hundreds of dollars I’ve saved each year are worth it.
As of late March, though, T-Mobile is no longer selling the plan to new subscribers, and details of it appear to have been scrubbed from T-Mobile’s website.
T-Mobile’s PR team did not respond to requests for comment. A call to the carrier’s customer service line, however, did confirm its removal. According to the T-Mobile rep, those who have the $US30 plan today are now “grandfathered” in, but for new customers the $US45 a month offering — which gives unlimited talk, but 1 GB less of 4G data — is now the cheapest option.
That said! Over the years, T-Mobile has used the $US30 prepaid plan as a sort of promotional tie-in with Walmart, making it available on the latter’s website and retail stores. According to reps from both T-Mobile and Walmart, that partnership is still in place, so those who purchase a T-Mobile SIM card or device from Walmart can still call up the carrier’s customer service line and request the $US30 plan.
So, it’s still possible to take advantage of the deal, but you have to jump through a few more hoops without T-Mobile advertising it anywhere on its site. Even then, your mileage may vary, since there’s no written guarantee that you’ll be able to activate the plan, and it’s unclear how long the Walmart tie-in will remain active.
Nevertheless, the hassle might be worth it. The best freely available value now likely comes from AT&T, whose cheapest prepaid plan gives 6 GB of 4G data, unlimited talk, and unlimited text, but costs $US40 a month. Verizon’s prepaid plans start at $US40 a month for only 2 GB of 4G data, meanwhile, and Sprint’s start with 3 GB of data for the same amount.
Either way, it’s clearer than ever that T-Mobile would really like you to buy something else.