Next to cable providers and airlines, wireless carriers are probably the most hated service that we pretty much have no choice but to pay for.
About a year and a half ago, I switched to Verizon from AT&T because I had a lot of problems making calls that didn’t drop. (Yes, I still talk on the phone a lot. My family lives thousands of miles away in Texas and it’s still the best way for me to keep up with them.)
I’ve been mostly happy with Verizon. The data speeds are fast. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dropped call. And I’m covered just about anywhere I travel.
But boy is it expensive. I pay $US110 per month for 2 GB of data and unlimited calling/texting.
Yesterday, T-Mobile made an offer I can’t refuse.
If you switch to T-Mobile from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint, T-Mobile will now pay the early termination fee (ETF) carriers charge you to cancel your contract, up to $US350 per line. You’re also required to trade in your old smartphone, which T-Mobile will pay you for so you can buy a new one. That means there’s no risk for me to abandon my contract from Verizon. T-Mobile will foot the bill.
And T-Mobile’s plans are cheaper. I can pay $US65 per month for 2.5 GB of data and unlimited calling/texting. Unlike Verizon, T-Mobile doesn’t charge you extra if you go over your data allotment. Instead, it slows your data down a bit until the next billing cycle starts. Assuming I get a new iPhone 5S, I’ll also be paying $US25 per month for my phone. (T-Mobile sells you an iPhone 5S for $US0 down plus $US25 per month for 24 months. You also have the option to pay off the phone in full right away if you’d like.)
So if I switch now, I’ll only be paying $US90 per month, $US20 less than I do now. Plus I’ll be getting 500 MB more data per month, and I won’t have to worry about getting slapped with the occasional $US10 fee Verizon sometimes charges me if I happen to go over my data plan. I’d rather have slightly slower data for a few days than pay that fee.
Then there’s the question of devices. I have an iPhone 5 now, and I’ve been holding out for the iPhone 6 (or whatever Apple ends up calling it) that should launch this fall. If I switch to an iPhone 5S now, then I’d still theoretically be paying it off in the fall and won’t be able to get the new model.
But T-Mobile has a fix for that. It lets you pay off your phone whenever you want and switch to a new device on the payment plan. So when the next iPhone comes out, I’ll pay off my 5S, sell it on Craigslist (iPhones hold their value really well), and get the new iPhone on T-Mobile’s monthly payment plan. Not bad. And I’m still saving money in the long run.
My biggest concern is coverage. T-Mobile’s 4G LTE network (the fastest wireless standard available today) is still tiny compared to what AT&T and Verizon can offer. Luckily, from what I understand, T-Mobile’s LTE is pretty good in New York where I live. In fact, my former colleague Dan Frommer says it’s better and more reliable than Verizon. That’s pretty appealing.
My other concern has nothing to do with T-Mobile. I imagine when I tell Verizon I want to cancel my contract it won’t make it easy on me. And I’m pretty sure it’s going to take some time to get my ETF refund from T-Mobile. These kinds of things can’t happen overnight.
But in the long run, I’m going to be saving money every month on my wireless bill. And that’s worth a little bit of hassle.