The Total Price of Smartphone Ownership

To say the least, wading through the dense world of cellular plans can be maddening. Going to every carrier’s website, navigating through clunky interfaces, then obtaining the numbers to actually calculate the total cost of hardware and service is arduous, so we here at TMonews did most of the legwork for you.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the total cost of ownership of a smartphone over the typical 24-month contract length. Not all carriers are equal, so it’s particularly important to research coverage in your specific area to help you decide which carrier will best suit your needs, especially if a contract is how you plan to purchase cellular service.

We’re focusing on smartphones because smartphones have all but taken over the cellular landscape, and each quarter they continue to capture more and more market share.

Nearly every cellular customer can benefit from the ever-expanding feature set of today’s smartphones, but with hundreds of features found within these tiny pocket computers, there are bound to be particular features that benefit different users, while other features go largely unused.

First, lets look at the smartphone user who will benefit more from the device rather than the connection. Perhaps this would be an avid Twitter user or Instagramer with a constant wifi connection, or maybe a business man or woman who principally utilizes his or her smartphone for text-based email. These users are bound to use a minimal amount of data and will benefit from the savings afforded by carrier rate plans with small data allotments.

Cheapest Smartphone Plans:
Note that for this section, I used the iPhone 5 for all calculations except the T-Mobile Classic rate plan because its price is the same across all carriers except T-Mobile. Since only third party retailers still offer T-Mobile classic plans, I used BestBuy.com for classic plan pricing. At this point in time, the iPhone 5 is not listed as a compatible device for classic plans, so I chose the Galaxy S4.
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Note that even though you may pay fewer dollars with AT&T, you get very little and will be disposed to a rather sizable risk of incurring overages, both by texting and by going over your data allotment.

Low data allotments definitely don’t suit all of us. I, for example, am a huge music fan. Last month alone I consumed around 5 gigabytes of audio, plus 3 more gigs of miscellaneous data, despite having wifi connections both at home and work. So for the music-loving, Netflix-watching, high-res photo-posting users, let’s take a look at plans with 4 gigabytes of data or more.

I skipped 2 gigabytes and went straight to 4 gigabytes because AT&T doesn’t offer anything between 1 and 4 gigabytes of data on their Mobile Share pricing structure, and only offer 3 gigs with individual plans.

Unlimited Talk, Text, and Four Gigabytes of Data:
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Compounding Savings With Family Plans
For these numbers, I chose to share 10 gigabytes of data between 4 lines on AT&T and Verizon. I also decided to continue using flagship devices for consistency. Once again, iPhone 5 was used accross the board except for T-Mobile classic plans, for which I used the Galaxy S4. I used 2.5 gigabytes per user for both T-Mobile pricing structures.
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Where T-Mobile’s Value Plan Pricing Really Excels
T-Mobile’s plans and financing options are great, but consumers will see the greatest benefit of T-Mobile’s Value Plans plans when either bringing their own devices or keeping the same devices after the completion of financing. Unlike its larger competitors, T-Mobile drops the price of service after the device’s full value is repaid, allowing even cheaper rates.

A quick search reveals that the cost of a used iPhone 4S or Galaxy S3 in my area typically sells for around $350 on Craigslist. If I bring an unlocked last-generation smartphone to T-Mobile and sign up for unlimited everything, my bill is just $70 a month because I’m not paying for a device I’ve already purchased. With the $350 phone and a $70 a month service charge over 24 months, the total cost of ownership amounts to $2,030.

If I don’t need unlimited data, I can opt for the $50 plan, including unlimited talk and text with 500 megabytes of full-speed data, dropping the 24-month cost of ownership down to $1,550. The equivalent plan on Verizon would come with less and cost at least $570 more over two years, barring any data overages.

If I buy 4 used last-generation flagship handsets for $350 a piece (or 4 brand new Nexus 4s) and sign my family up for T-Mobile’s unlimited talk and text with 2.5 gigabytes of full-speed data value plan, I’ll save the $80 a month I would have put toward financing. The upfront hardware cost of $1,400, plus 24 months of service at $140 a month gives us a total cost of ownership of $4,760! That’s a whopping $3,240 less than Verizon over two years!

Want smartphones with a major carrier as cheaply as possible? Buy 4 used Galaxy S2s or iPhone 4s at $200 piece, get them unlocked for $5 a piece on eBay, and opt for unlimited talk and text with 500 megabytes of full-speed data on T-Mobile for $100 a month, or just $3,220 (with hardware and unlocking costs factored in) for two whole years.

These configurations aren’t by any means exhaustive, and there are myriads of options from which to choose when purchasing smartphones and service. The beauty of T-Mobile’s new Value Plans, however, is that you can purchase the phone you want (being as frugal or flashy as you please) and pay only for the service you need without making payments toward a phone you’ve already bought like the other carriers make you do.

Now, as I mentioned previously, coverage is crucial. If you live in the rural hills of West Virginia, one of the locales in which T-Mobile has no native coverage, you will find yourself roaming on 2G. Despite the higher cost, in that circumstance one of the bigger carriers would be more sufficient for your needs.

However, if T-Mobile has sufficient coverage in your area, their Value Plans are extremely compelling. But don’t take my word for it. Evaluate your smartphone needs, check your local coverage, and crunch the numbers for yourself.

Edit: Thanks to everyone who corrected me on the numbers of the T-Mobile Family Value Plan. The chart should now be correct and contain no further discrepancies.

  • http://twitter.com/SParKlngCyaNide SparklingCyanide

    Comprehensive and informative article Brad, thank you.

    • Brad Lopez

      Glad to help! Thanks for reading.

  • ShoeVixen

    Nicely done David! Reminds me of that Lowermybills site. I’ve considered leaving Tmo but when I look at other carriers and how much it would cost to carry 4 lines it always a no brainer to stay. Not that I’m unhappy with Tmo. I’ve been with them for so long I guess I was just looking for change but definitely not at that expense. Thanks for putting in that work.

    • Brad Lopez

      I’m really glad to help, ShoeVixen. Thanks for reading.

      I’ve found that one of the best ways to save money is to lower recurring expenses, so I’m glad to get this information out there!

      • ShoeVixen

        My apologies Brad! Didn’t realized someone else wrote the article. Welcome to Tmo News!

  • Green2u

    Dropped Sprint, bought my own phone (new Galaxy Note II) and signed up (available online only) for T-Mo’s $30 100 minutes talk | Unlimited text | First 5GB at up to 4G speeds. Supplement extra talk time with app GrooVe IP Lite. If I keep my current phone for 3 years on this plan, I will save nearly $1k over my former Sprint plan. This factors in my upfront cost of buying the Note II. And in ATL where I live I am noticing significantly better coverage on T-Mo vs my 10+ years with Sprint.

    • Brad Lopez

      Not to mention, T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ is significantly faster than Sprint’s 3G and more ubiquitous than their LTE. It’s a win-win in my experience.

      • jdubtrey

        I agree; this is a key.

        However, there is potentially a different sweet spot for everyone. For example, if you do have good sprint LTE or WiMax coverage and need a good amount of data, the Sprint 450 plan might be the cheapest of them all. For most practical uses, you are getting unlimited minutes because of their Anymobile Anytime, plus their off peak starts at 7pm. You’re getting unlimited data, nearly unlimited minutes and would only have to pay for tethering (which many people either forgo or configure themselves as needed).

        This is a very informative post and a good starting point, but each person will still have to examine every plan to see where his or her usage would land in terms of actual dollars.

    • http://twitter.com/ZamoraO OZ

      Definetely one of the best plans out there. Now we need to figure out a way to receive all calls via VoIP instead.

      • nwtrekker

        Another option is to use the VoIP app: Line 2 (line2.com). They give you a phone number, or you can port an existing one. Excellent quality and customer support. Plus, Line 2 is tri-mode calling, utilizing WiFi, 3G/4G, and cellular voice.. However, cellular will count against your TM minutes. I use Line 2 almost exclusively. Low cost per month.

        • http://twitter.com/ZamoraO OZ

          How much is the service?

        • nwtrekker

          $8.95. Also get unlimited texting.

        • http://twitter.com/ZamoraO OZ

          Not bad at all. I do have a VoIP provider that supports any SIP software. Any recommended one I can download from Google Play?

  • Dj Chea

    who is this Brad Lopez guy? Dude is killing it.

    • Brad Lopez

      Well thanks!!

    • g2a5b0e

      Haha. I was thinking the same. Definitely a great addition to the team.

      • Brad Lopez

        I appreciate you.

  • James

    Beautiful, I’ve done these same calculations for family and friends to show them how we can save money. Was hoping it would go online, and here it is. Excellent!

    • James

      And it should be noted, that T-Mobile simple choice plans are cheaper than many MVNO’s!

  • Anthony Marchesini

    You’re too low by $20 per month on the T-Mobile value plan for 4 lines with 2.5GB of data.

    • Eric Hare

      I think so too…he is missing the $10 add a line fee for the 3rd and 4th lines.

      • Anthony Marchesini

        Yes, it is just in the chart. He has the right cost $140 in the text but he forgot to add $10/month for lines 3 & 4, making the base $100/month plus $10 x 4 for 2.5GB of data on each line.

        • Tom C

          Right. so, 4 Line 2.5gb base is $140.
          2 AAL (add a line) is $20.
          4 x $20 device subsidy is $80.
          Total for at least ~22 months is $240.
          What would this mean for Tmobile if its actually higher than sprint?…

    • Brad Lopez

      Thanks. I’ll correct that ASAP

  • Aaron Peromsik

    Nice write-up… but many of the low-usage customers you are trying to cover with the first chart will be better served by a T-Mobile MVNO. I’m currently spending less than $12/month at PTel. Two-year cost would then be roughly $288 + phone. Galaxy Exhibit or Optimus L9 are among the growing number of good choices for people who don’t want to pay $600 for a phone.

    • Brad Lopez

      MVNOs are definitely a great option. I wanted to focus this particular piece in the big four, but you may see some coverage on MVNOs in the future.

      Your carrier is called PTel? What’s your plan include?

      • Aaron Peromsik

        My plan includes nothing– pay as you go. 5c/min voice, 2c/text, 10c/MB. They also have unlimited voice/text with 250MB 4G for $40/month or with 2GB 4G for $50/month. http://www.platinumtel.com

      • Marc Sabatella

        Even just focusing on the “big 4″, you can do better at the cheapest end using T-Mobile’s own pay as you go or other prepaid offerings. Not that they are going out of their way to promote these any more, but they are still viable options for many of us. I assume Aaron is on PTel’s pay as you go plan, meaning it “includes” nothing – you pay by the minute, by the text, and by the megabyte. I do the same with T-Mobile. Like Aaron, I pay between $10 & $20 per month on average, because I am not a very heavy phone/text user and I have WiFi access most of the time.

        Unfortunately, T-Mobile’s pay as you go plan does not include a way to buy data by the megabyte. You have to pay for it by the day, by switching to a pay by the day plan temporarily. So it doesn’t work well for people who use only a little data but use some every day. Works great for people like me who don’t need data at all most days because we have WiFi at home and at work, but might need quite a bit once a week or so if we spend the day at another location. On the plus side, though, T-Mobile’s coverage is better than that of their MVNO’s like Ptel

        As for Ptel, it’s a pretty well established company. Google will be happy to tell you all you need to know.

        • Brad Lopez

          Thanks for that info! I wasn’t aware of that option.

        • fentonr

          How do you get that T-Mobile’s prepaid options are cheaper? The $50+ plans offer exactly the same service as the post paid counter parts for the same costs plus a few perks. The sub $50 plans are different options than the postpaid offerings so while they might be a better fit for someone, its apples and oranges. Just curious what plans you were thinking of.

        • Marc Sabatella

          I specifically said *pay as you go* – Not monthly, not daily, but by the minute/text. As I said, I average $10-$20 per month between calls, texts, and the one or two days a month I need to switch to a pay by the day plan to get data. So it works out to well under half the cost of the $50 plan, and the amount of service provided is quite comparable to the bottom tier AT&T plan.

          As for prepaid monthly plans, I agree the $50 & up plans no longer have any special appeal (lack of credit check, maybe?), but the $30 “special” (Walmart/online/new activations only) plan with limited minutes/texts but tons of data is still a much better deal than the $50 plan for many users.

          I suppose it’s hard for some to fathom, but there really are those us of out here who do not see the point of spending $50 or more on phone service if you can avoid it, yet still value the smartphone experience enoigh to spend money on the phone itself.

        • fentonr

          Ahh, missed that you had said pay as you go. If that works for you, that’s great. I never could get away with it, but you’re right, if you have very light usage, that is a good option.

    • http://twitter.com/ZamoraO OZ

      Would you share a link where I can read more about this? Sounds too good to be true.

    • Mirad77

      You make a valid point but everyone has a different need and use of mobile services. I will not make it using PAYG giving my usage. Another thing is MVNO have restrictions that the big 4 don’t with network as in speed and tethering. My wife runs 5gig a month coz of tethering but has unlimited to stream shows and movies on the go. Bottom line is we all have to get what best fit our needs and wallet. T-mobile has been for me.

    • http://www.facebook.com/joeyklatzko Joseph Klatzko

      Nice! Don’t forget the Nexus 4 is only $350 if you need a high end Android on the cheap

      • Deibid

        I encourage people to take a look at a new start-up cel company from Florida called BLU Products…they are making Android devices with nice specs and even cheaper than the Nexus (I am not an employee, in fact I am a T-Mobile RSA in So cal) I think competition is great and consumers need choices!

        • http://www.facebook.com/joeyklatzko Joseph Klatzko

          Never heard of them! Thanks, I’ll check them out!

      • Baxter DeBerry

        or buy a LG Optimus L9, for what 150-200, but if you want somethin more powerful nexus 4 for sure

  • Wilma Flintstone

    David, this is off topic but did you hear that the US versions of the Galaxy S4 are shipping with Locked Bootloaders?

    • Wilma Flintstone

      Wow, didn’t read the Author. Hi Brad and Welcome to Tmonews.

      I address the same question to you as well.

  • GwapoAko

    Good job!!

  • mreveryphone

    It’s always good to see the raw data when dealing with saving coin! Article was ace!

  • scot

    Your wrong on the price on tmob value 100 base 80 loan 40 data. That equals 220 for the first 24 months.

  • JB

    Great write-up, Brad! I happen to live in an area with not only great T-Mobile coverage, but also in one of their LTE markets, as does my family. They’ve been wanting to switch carriers for a while because they were complaining about the price, and I always convince them to stay because of the great value they are getting vs the other three. Now the next time we have that argument, I can show them this chart! Lol

  • NextBig313

    I regular research all prepaid competitors to T-mobile’s monthly 4g. As of right now, there is nothing better then paying 70$ for unlimited/uncapped/slowed service with HSPA+42. I regularly achieve anywhere from 1-3 mb DOWN. Imagine once LTE is in my area. Here is the straw that broke the camels back…. For some reason my tethering started working a few days ago on my laptop. I would love to go shake the new CEO’s hand <_<

    • just me

      The new unlimited plans include 500mb of tethering, I think prepaid customers get it automatically when their new months start :)

      • Baxter DeBerry

        yeah they do

    • http://www.facebook.com/joeyklatzko Joseph Klatzko

      Jeeze, I live on Long Island which has HSPA+42 and I never see speeds that low. I regularly see 8+ down, and I’ve seen as high as 20Mbps

      • NextBig313

        I’m not one to complain. Right now this is faster than all the DSL providers in my area

  • Will

    I don’t understand why you skipped an obvious choice on AT&T for individuals with iPhones. For $10 more than the plan you specified, you would get 3GB of data. So the total would be $69 for 450 minutes+3GB of data. If T-Mobile coverage is not good in your area, that is a terrific plan for iPhones especially since you can skip the messaging and use the free iMessage app (assuming all of your friends and family are iPhone/Apple users which they tend to be so in groups). Nobody would go for the 300MB plan on AT&T. So realistically the cheapest (and most common) plan would be the 3GB one which is only $9 more (10 with taxes).

    • LC

      You’d be surprised how many customer I have switching over from AT&T that are only on the 300mb plans. It’s definitely more than you would think.

      For myself personally, it’s hard to believe that anyone would want that plan, but I see it a lot.

      • 21stNow

        I have months where I use around 100MB of data. It depends on how you use the phone and what your lifestyle is. I am around a desktop computer and Wi-fi for the vast majority of the day. I’m usually pulling cellular data on smartphones only when I’m standing outside on breaks. I don’t use my phone to stream music when I drive, so there really isn’t a lot of cellular data for me to use on a regular basis.

    • fentonr

      People still skip texting?

      • Will

        Texting is primitive. It’s ok if you are using an ancient flip-phone. But really, who texts these days? Even iMessage is an improvement since it will pop up on your Mac as well. Plus it’s free. Or choose anything other than SMS.

        People that text probably also still use CDs.

        • Deon Davis

          I hate when people try to come on here and state their opinion as fact. Texting is not primitive. Most people still text as it the only universal cross platform way to message somebody.

        • Will

          Cross-platform means cross-operating systems, not cross-service providers. For example, iMessage users can send a message from an iPad, and iPhone, or any Mac computer. Just try to send a text message to an iPad or Mac with no data connection. Not going to happen with primitive SMS.

          Time to move away from SMS. It should be a method of last resort (sort of like VHF radios on boats; boaters only use them when the boat is sinking. All other times, they use their cell phone.)

        • 21stNow

          I think that that’s only because it’s what people are used to. I agree with Will; why have a message come up only on my phone when it can come up on my phone, tablet, and desktop computer for free?

        • Hyptiotes

          There are far more primitives forms of communication than texting. I have yet to send my first text message via phone. In fact, I have yet to buy a cell phone of any kind. I checked out this article to look into buying a smartphone. After looking at the unbelievable costs, I don’t think I will…..ever.I’d rather retire early.

        • jdubtrey

          I disagree. Many people I know text.

          Of course, many people I know also use google voice so they aren’t paying to do so (whether texting is included in their plans or not).

        • Will

          See you are proving my point. Take a look at the ancient cell phone pictured in Google Voice’s SMS page: http://www.google.com/mobile/sms/voice/ .

          See even Google portrays SMS as primitive. SMS was a good technology. But the cool kids have moved on. You can hang on to your 8 track era technology. The rest of us will giggle in the corner.

        • Mirad77

          Mr Will as modern as you want to be, there certain things that will not change. As long as there is gsm( basically cell phone), there will be SMS. SMS is not based on app or OS but technology.
          Got a question for you, why are computers still using bits given how far we’ve come with them?
          A road will be a road no matter what surface it’s made off.
          I wonder how the world would be if you are in charge given how much you have contributed.

        • Will

          I retired at age 39 because my contributions to wireless technology and UX development. So I would say that I am very qualified.

          SMS is indeed software running on hardware. Since you do not seem to understand what I am advocating is that SMS is a dead technology. There is no radical development in SMS. However, semi-instant communications have undergone great leaps in technology. Look at VOIP based systems such as Skype or FaceTime (or even Facebook’s message systems for that matter). They all are evolving. Even Apple’s attempt at messaging allows near perfect integration with the phone. People don’t even realize they are using it. SMS is not evolving but remains primitive and serves only as a “what else can we charge them for item on the bill”. It should go away just like all out-dated software and technology.

        • Mirad77

          Good for you for retiring that young but like I said as long as there is cell phone there will be SMS. Skype, FaceTime and the rest are modern but need data to work whereas SMS doesn’t. The bad thing is some are not cross OS compatible.
          We all wish for many things but not all of them can we make a reality. I know one of yours is SMS

        • ziggy123

          Texting is primitive?! Ok for a flip phone? WOW! You’re not even close to reality. Stick with the Apple ecosystem :)

        • Will

          Even Google shows an an ancient phone for their Google Voice SMS page. Do a search for it.

          I will stick with my original statement. Texting is primitive. It belongs in the museum along with 8 track.

        • fentonr

          I think that’s just you. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have texting and in two and a half years working as a dealer I’ve only run into 2 people under 60 who didn’t have it.

        • Will

          But do they actually use it or are is it on their plan only because the dealer “recommended” that they add it?

          Unlimited SMS is kind of like those Extended warranties that the car dealers get you to buy when all you want to do is just go home with your new toy.

        • fentonr

          Yeah, they do use it. Considerably more than calling.

        • Mark

          It’s a decent feature for people (like my SO) who think mobile internet is a stupid waste of money. It’s also cheaper than buying a smartphone for the offspring, plus it doesn’t give them an unsupervised internet connection in their pocket.

          And yes, I do use CD’s. They sound much better than MP3′s on my sound system and I haven’t wanted to carry music with me in years.

        • kalel33

          When I was a rep, I seen probably an average of 3-4 accounts per day that didn’t have text messaging and most of them had them blocked, both with T-mobile and when I was with Verizon.

      • why

        Or you could just add a text plan and still be paying the same amount at T-Mobile once you add the phone eip amount each month (most likely $15-20). At the end of 2 years your more likely to get a new phone with a new eip anyway with T-Mobile just as you would be upgrading with Att. Your splitting hairs at that point and not really saving anything significant to make it worth it. Who needs unlimited minutes anyway. You get mobile to mobile with ATT and i know far more poeple with att than tmobile so minutes wouldn’t be an issue in that comparison.

      • 21stNow

        I have text messaging blocked on my AT&T lines. People who know me well know to send me text messages on my Google Voice number. I started getting too many text messages from people who were only moderately associated with me at one point in time. I wasn’t interested in paying for a text message service just to facilitate them, so I blocked text messaging on those lines.

    • 21stNow

      Brad needed to be able to keep it consistent. There are some users who do choose the 300MB plan on AT&T because it actually suits their needs.

      • Will

        Yeah but the iPhone is a very data heavy device. So most AT&T reps, I know will tell people to get the 3GB plan since that is more realistic for today’s smartphones. The 300MB is just like T-Mobile’s old $5 200MB (which I still use myself). Eventually it will get replaced with more data for the same price. It is worth noting that AT&T will not allow a smartphone such as the iPhone without a data plan. So if you really are cheap and need AT&T’s coverage, maybe 300MB is your only option. Certainly not cost effective in the long run.

  • mdosu

    agreed, ATT data usage restrictions is the catch for the lower price. It’s a bit pointless to own a LTE phone to yet only be limited to 300mb of data. I blow through 500mb of data every week. It’s like owning a Ferrari, yet you only drive it to the grocery store once a week, what’s the point? You want to take it out on the track to use it to its full advantage (if you’re into cars, you know what I’m talking about).

    • Whiskers

      WIFI , that’s the point of 300-500mb plans for people with LTE smartphones.
      If your in a WIFI area alot , use that and not t-mobile’s data , then save your LTE data for when your not and need the cellular data. You will be amazed how many areas you can pick up WIFI that cost nothing and saves you alot of data cost.

      • Will

        Another point not apparent in this article: AT&T has free wifi hotspots in major metropolitan areas. If you have an AT&T phone, it will automatically connect to it without you doing anything and save you (and AT&T) the hit to your data usage. HomeDept, Starbucks, and quite a few other national chains all provide instant wifi for AT&T customers. Pretty smart on AT&T’s part.

        • Baxter DeBerry

          except they plan on making those hotspots go against your data plans to over the long run with hotspot 2.0… that being said its all about making money with AT&T

        • Will

          That’s not correct. Data used on the wifi hotspots is provide for free (at least for smartphones) and does not show up as data usage in the monthly billing.

        • Spanky

          “its all about making money with AT&T”
          And with other carriers, it isn’t?

    • Whiskers

      I use less than 500mb of data a month since i’m around WIFI almost 12hrs a day .
      But when i’m outside the WIFI area i then use the cellular data. The only way i would pay for T-Mobiles unlimited data plan would be if they gave you unlimited hot spots on it as well.

    • 21stNow

      Since there is Wi-fi available, you would have to change your analogy to say that you only drive the Ferrari to the grocery store, but you have your own private driving course and racetrack that you can use to get the full performance of the car on. You can even invite your other Ferrari friends for a drive, too!

  • Mirad77

    Good informative write Brad. Ultimately everyone has to shop and get the best deal that fits them.

  • Scoot

    Your price is not correct for the t-mobile family plan on classic or value

  • http://profiles.google.com/mrice.hill Mr. Hill

    Good article and very informative. Wish it were posted on more tech sites so that more people could see the difference in prices.

  • Will

    Wait…How can you be away from a computer all day. That’s sounds worse than water torture.

    I even take a laptop or tablet when I go out on my boat. Nature is better when it is augmented with technology.

    • TechHog

      Your boat. You own a boat. You own a boat and you care about value…

      • Brad Lopez

        Maybe it’s a canoe.

        Maybe he got to where he can own a boat by being frugal elsewhere.

        • Will

          Brad is right. I was thrifty. My boat is a Grady White that inhales 6 gallons of gas per hour so I have no choice but to be thrifty. You can’t take a canoe into the Chesapeake. That would be like taking a bike on the BeltWay.

      • Will

        Boat owners can’t be thrifty? Have you seen the prices of gas at the marina? I have not choice but to care about value with my cell phone.

  • 21stNow

    Under the cheapest plans section, what plans are you using for Verizon Wireless? It would seem like this would be a comparison of plans that a new customer walking in would be eligible for, because attempting to compare grandfathered plans would be futile and tedious.

    This looks like the basic phone plan for Verizon Wireless’ Share Everything plans. The lowest smartphone data bucket is $50/1GB, so the cheapest monthly cost for a new VZW smartphone customer is $90.

    • kalel33

      You can do 300mb for a smartphone line. It’s not recommended but the system will allow it.

      • 21stNow

        Can you do it for new customers or only for existing customers that don’t want to change from their old tiered plan types?

        • Brad Lopez

          New customers as well.

        • kalel33

          Actually, there’s not even a 300mb options for customers on the old Nationwide plans, it’s 2GB or 5GB and that’s it. Only people on the Share Everything plan.

        • 21stNow

          Thanks to you both. I didn’t know that this option existed.

  • why

    Value is in the eye of the beholder. I “value” having reliable coverage nationwide with my travel schedule and I “value” making sure my kids have a reliable phone in case of an emergency. When my daughters car broke down on a road trip and had no coverage and she had to borrow a strangers phone (using Verizon no less) I wasn’t thinking “man I got a great deal on my monthly bill” i was pissed and couldn’t change services fast enough. Paid the etf on all my phones and couldn’t be happier. I will gladly pay $600 more over a 2 year contract to make sure i have reliable coverage. Based on the subscriber numbers and lack of growth for T-Mobile, the majority feel the same way. You get what you pay for folks…

    • Brad Lopez

      I definitely agree that what is considered a good deal is contingent upon coverage and need. Someone who never goes 30 miles outside of NYC will have a much different experience than a backroad commuter.

    • Edgar Gomez

      Or you cold buy a prepaid sim card for ATT and leave it in your car. Switch it out from your Tmobile phone and use ATT signal. Its really not worth the 600 dollars more every 2 years.

    • Marc Sabatella

      Seems a bit extreme to me. I mean, surely you check the coverage map before signing up for a service? T-Mobile has a *lot* of coverage, and completely meets the needs of the vast majority of the US population. If you happen to live in one of the areas not well covered – rural midwest & mountain states, for example – then indeed, you do need to consider coverage an issue. But if you have all the coverage you need in your home area with T-Mobile, switching to a more expensive provider just because once or twice a year or so you might take a road trip outside hat area seems crazy to me. Why pay hundreds more per year just for better coverage a few days out of that year? Just get a pay as you go sim from someone with better coverage in the area you’ll be travelling in if the coverage maps shows it to be an issue. You’ll still come out hundreds ahead each year.

      • TechHog

        Not to mention the fact that T-Mobile has a roaming agreement with AT&T now.

        • kalel33

          But not in all areas. The roaming agreement was only for parts of their network. I don’t get AT&T when I’m in Western Kansas, even though AT&T has coverage there.

      • Covered or NOT Covered

        I have been with T-Mob since they began. I have a GalaxyS4 which gave me awesome service for the first year. Until recently I have not had a single problem with products or service (that’s for 12 years folks). I moved to a rural area last May. I get service, but, it is intermittent at best. Yes, I checked the coverage before moving here, and I admit I am on the border line of the towers, but the service has sucked for me since moving. I’ve asked for help, I’ve complained, I even tried to get out of my “contract” due to the lousy service and constantly using ATT towers. (ATT will allow data usage IF their customers aren’t already signed on – when they do – I get bumped off.) You would think they could ‘upgrade’ the service out here since there are quite a few folks that use T-Mob, and of course they “say” they’ve done all they can. But, My service still sucks, more than half the time I can’t even get signals through my Wi-Fi. They still want me to pay an ETF to get out of my “contract”. I even got a “signal booster” which hasn’t helped either.

        I don’t know what’s been going on at TMob but as a LONG TIME customer of theirs, I am disgusted with the “Everywhere coverage” that is NOT and the lack of response from the Technical Team that is supposed to be ‘fixing’ the problems.

        I really don’t want to move away from T-Mob, because they’ve served me extremely well for 12 years, but I’m paying $175 a month and I can barely use my phone. There is something VERY WRONG in this and so far – no one has helped get the problem fixed.

    • TechHog

      Good for you.

    • how

      Sounds like you should have used the same logic with the purchase / maintanence of your daughters car as you did with your wireless carrier. Spend more and get more reliability.

      • why

        It was actually her fault for not keeping up with the maintenance that caused the problem. You can buy the best car in the world but you can’t make a young lady remember to make sure the oil is changed and the fluids are topped off.

        • Matt

          Actually you can make a young lady remember to make sure the oil is changed and fluids are topped off, you know, you can just ask her if she did those things and remind her to do them. How could you let your daughter go on a road trip and not check up on her car before she leaves?! I would never let my daughter leave on a road trip before doing that! So spending hundreds of dollars to switch carriers because one time someone couldn’t make a call makes sense, but taking the time to remind your daughter or just take her car yourself to get a $30 oil change is too much to ask for? I can also guarantee there are spots throughout the country where your daughter could have broke down and only T-Mobile service would work and Verizon wouldn’t. Verizon doesn’t have 100% coverage throughout America.

        • why

          Because she is an adult and I choose not to hold her hand through everything in life. Plus she lives on her own, didn’t even know she was leaving town otherwise I would have done just that for sure. Sure I let her know what needed to be done, after that its up to her as an adult to take care of her business. My gripe wasn’t with the car, that was a learning experience and trust me she now reads that maintenance schedule like the bible on her new car she bought with her own money. My gripe was in an emergency she did not have reliable service, which is what I paid Tmobile for. I travel all over the US with my job. Sometimes to the middle of nowhere. Only once have I not had coverage with Verizon, which was almost always the case with Tmobile.

          My point was looking at the bottom line price isn’t always what matters. If it was Tmobile wouldn’t have a third of the subscribers as Verizon.

        • http://twitter.com/turtledude558 Brandon Cruz

          Your point was made by the original author of this article in his last 2 paragraphs. No point in repeating what’s already been written.

    • Jose Hernandez

      So, if you are not a T-Mobile customer anymore why are you here? If Verizon works better for you, that’s great. Actually the post did say you should check for coverage to make sure your service will work ok for you. So, I ask again. You are no longer a T-Mobile customer. Why are you posting here? Why bother to come to a T-Mobile branded news site at all? What’s the point? Why indeed?

    • bobododo

      Generally in areas where there is no coverage at all, T-Mobile should roam on AT&T. How come that didn’t happen in your case?

      • samsavoy

        There’s an AT&T site down the road from me that T-Mobile doesn’t roam on. It’s really frustrating. They don’t have roaming on every tower.

        • bobododo

          There’s a difference though between an area that otherwise has no TMO coverage at all (eg out in the country) vs areas that TMO does cover but has occasional no coverage spots. In those areas they don’t cover at all they do tend to roam on other carriers.

        • samsavoy

          2 miles north, they roam on an AT&T site that is smack dab in the middle of their coverage area. When I walk in a building I sometimes roam on AT&T. Go figure.

    • Esechico

      I was in an area where I was trying to call 911 to report a car fire using sprint. The tower must of been down because the call would not go through. My cousin happen to have a cheap prepaid T-mobile phone and I was able to make the call on that. Things happen when you least expect them it doesn’t justify spending $600 more. I eventually went to AT&T and got tired of the endless dropped calls (and they raised my bill), I’m now with T-mobile (brought my iPhone 5 from AT&T) and haven’t had a single dropped call yet. Are they perfect? NO, but it works for me, coverage is good and its a lot cheaper. If having your car break down for your daughter is really a concern I would suggest going to bestbuy and buying “ON-Star” that way if her phone fails she can just hit the on-star button.

      • Spanky

        When you have to make a 911 call and your carrier’s tower is down, it’s required by law that you are allowed to connect to any other carrier’s tower in order to make this call. I don’t think it was a tower issue.

        • bobododo

          Exactly. By law any cellphone, even one that isn’t activated with a carrier can call 911.

        • Esechico

          Yeah I though so too but for some reason there was a glitch in the tower so even I had full bars when I dialed 911 it got stuck on connecting. Even after power cycling the phone it would register with that tower and not put the call through. I reported it to sprint but they didn’t know what had happened. I think it would have connected to another tower if the phone would of registered that that tower was down. Instead it thought it was on that tower and kept trying to make the call.

        • Esechico

          To be fair this was almost 2 years ago, and the CDMA phones didn’t usually have the gsm bands. Most phones today are world phones and include gsm bands on the newer CDMA phones. Because of this situation I just ended up buying a cheap $20 track-phone that I kept in the car for emergencies in case it ever happened again. It never did though.

    • http://profiles.google.com/mrice.hill Mr. Hill

      So if Tmobile was that bad in your area why did you sign a contract with them as well as stay beyond the 14 day return period? Doesn’t make sense at all to me. Before signing with a wireless carrier I would first check the coverage where and live and travel and then check the real world usage during the 14 days where you actually have the service and then decide whether or not to cancel. You should’ve done better research.

      • why

        Are you illiterate? I said my daughter was on a ROAD TRIP, I.E, not in our home area.

    • http://about.me/daylondeon Deacon

      you’re right .. i pay for good coverage at a tremendous price with TMO and i get just that. :)

    • Wyn6

      Sounds like instead of spending $600 more on a reliable phone service, you perhaps should think about purchasing your daughter a more reliable vehicle. I’m not being funny. I’m serious. It’s your daughter, after all.

      • Marco

        I thought the exact same thing when I read his post. :)

  • FILA

    I spend $1680 on T-Mobile Even More Plus, Unlimited 5GB data, 500 mins, unlimited text. Still better then the new shitty T-Mobile plans

    • bob90210

      $1680? A month?

  • floto

    David are you a business major ?

  • WW

    A notable item that I think was left out is that carriers typically have “activation” fees per phone for new phones of around $35 (I recently priced AT&T…$36)

    I don’t know how long this has been going on nor how long it’ll last but currently, T-Mobile is showing “waived” for this charge.

    This can become a significant cost when you start looking at family plans.

  • 66_Large

    Interesting stats. There’s no way these folks get together and set pricing. I enjoy the use of a T-Mob and a VZW ‘smart phone’ (iPhone & Nexus4) for bus. and ‘pleasure’. Over the decades I’ve used cellphones I’ve sought out clear price comps and ‘accurate’ coverage info. The contract prices you can usually find to untangle. True coverage/usefulness info is mysteriously lacking. Wonder why?

  • Jay

    These phones sometimes cost almost nothing to make. The manufactures are screwing us over

    • dfghjgjfdgf

      You do know how a business works right? Companies DO spent hundreds per phone to make (the iphone chepaest model costs over a 100 to make, for example)…look it up. Many independent companies actually tell you how much the parts cost an OEM to produce or buy.
      Not to mention that they still have to cover overhead. You know that samsung call center you contact to bitch about not getting a free bluetooth with every phone purchase? It costs calls centers like that nearly 4 thousands dollars a month just to keep the lights on, not to mention water, heat, trash, rent of property, maintenance, staffing, red tape compliance, and more. Thats just for a call center. Then you have to consider their other locations, trucks for delivery, advertising budget, and more. In fact, most companies dont make a 99% pure profit like you suggest. Thats a big myth and one continued on with by the ill informed.

  • Nick

    T-Mobile’s switch is not saving me money at all. I pay for three people on a family plan, with two people still on contract and one who is not. To upgrade the phone that is not on contact would cost me an extra $20 per month over what I pay now, which is crazy. This whole value plan idea is a way for T Mobile to save money, it has nothing to do with the comsumer. I would much rather have a subsidized phone. In the perfect world, T Mobile would return to haveing a one year contract for an extra $50 like they had in the old days.

    • ssl48

      I agree. This new deal helps T-Mobile more than the consumer. They can’t afford to offer you a subsidized phone and also have lower cell phone plans. The only way it works out for the consumer is if you bring your own device.

      • asdfghjkl

        Not really. If you “bring your own device” you are still buying the device from somewhere. You can get a cheaper used phone online sometimes, but cost for most new devices are about the same. You might save 50 bucks, or something more if its an older phone. For example: the note 2 sold 679 through tmobile, and online new ones sold for 600-650. Still a few bucks less, but then you dont always have the benefit of the warranty (as OEM warranties are not transferable between owners) and you dont always initiate a qualifying period to add a protection plan. So it has its pros and cons.

        Not to mention that even with the cost of a new phone, the new plans are cheaper than tmobile’s old plans, and even tmo’s old plans were cheaper than the competition already.

    • 12bucklemyshoe

      Actually to upgrade the phone that is not under contract would cost you only the down payment. T-Mobile has a thing called “Bridge to value” which allows customers, like yourself, who have some lines that can easily move to the value and some that cannot, to be able to at least get discounts on the lines that are no longer under contract, or at least apst the minimum 18 months since they last got a discount on a phone. This means that you can ‘upgrade’ that line, and pay the 20 per month financing, but you would also get a 20 per month DISCOUNT on your rate plan, in the way of 15 bucks off your data plan and 5 bucks off your voice plan. Meaning the bill WILL NOT GO UP 20 bucks, but instead remain the same cost, with the plan discount and finance cost balancing each other out. Then when the other lines are ready, they can move over to and increase the savings.

    • Dimitri Gatsiopoulos

      It all depends on what plans you had before. It’ll save my mom and sister about $40 a month. For me O
      I came from an even more plus plane at $59.99 with 500 minutes unlimited data (slowed after 2.5gb but actually slowed after 4) and unlimited texts. I Now pay a penny more for unlimited minutes and everything else stays the same.

  • Thomas C Montano

    I switched to the value plan from a classic family plan and am now saving close to $80 a month. That’s almost $1200 a year. Plus T-mobile waived my $150 bridge to value fees. WIN.

    • Binny Gupta

      how did they waive it?

  • Maggie Falls

    I have a Virgin mobile flip phone with no contract. $32.10 a month. I cancelled my Sprint phone when they priced a new one at $600. I’m always surprised at what people willingly (or unwillingly) spend to buy and use a smartphone. I think I’m the smart one.