T-Mobile: Stay or Go?/iPhone or No?
April 14, 2013 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I have had a reasonably happy relationship with my T-Mobile G2 (aka HTC Desire Z) these past two years, but my contract is up, and I have long coveted the iPhone, mostly based on its picture taking and video chatting capabilities. Should I just get one and take advantage of T-Mobile's new pricing? Or should I jump to a new carrier? An attempt to make this less open-ended is inside.

I have been a T-Mo customer nearly as long as I've had a cell phone, and I really do like their service and pricing, especially the new scheme. I rarely make calls, but quality is normally fine. My impression is that my data service is slower than other carriers, but I don't really know how to judge what difference a new carrier and a new phone would make. I spend most of my time in Washington, DC and always have pretty good reception. So here is the main question:

How can I tell how much faster things would be if I switched to AT&T or Verizon?

Bonus overthinking about whether iPhone is right for me: I am happy with Android, but I don't consider it a member of my family. Also, I'm pissed at Google over killing Reader (which I do consider to be a family member). I mostly use the phone for web browsing, email, Facebook, NYT, and podcasts (using doggcatcher). It is rarely convenient for me to sync the phone with a desktop - would that impact my iPhone experience? I am willing to consider hot new Android phones, but I am not crazy about how enormous they are. And I like the idea of being able to use FaceTime with friends and family who also have iPhones.
posted by Xalf to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In my opinion, if you're happy with T-Mobile's service and pricing, stick with them. And if you like Android but aren't in love with it, you'll probably love the iPhone. No need to ever sync it to a computer either, nowadays.
posted by ferdinandcc at 9:00 AM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you know if your old phone was 3g only? If so, you'll almost definitely get better speeds no matter what phone/carrier you choose.

If you're spending most of your time in DC and the major suburbs, you're gonna get LTE or HSPA+ connections from any of Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile with a new phone. The difference between the two is not that significant for a typical mobile user (You can stream HD video quite well on the slower HSPA+ standard, LTE is even faster). Of course, actual speeds will vary by network saturation, spottiness of coverage in certain areas, etc. I don't really know of a way to reliably check this out other than to ask friends to run speedtest.net or their app to check their data connection.

The newer iPhones don't really need to be synced to anything, though I found that their podcasting app worked much better for me when I had it sync wirelessly. Haven't used the podcasting app on the iPhone 5 though, so maybe they've worked it out.

As for Android phones, I'd give the Nexus 4 a look, though it's a bit old for a phone right now. It doesn't have the gigantic screen, though it is wider than the iPhone's. It's main feature is that it's full-featured but really cheap for a smart phone, $300 off-contract, compared with $600 for an iPhone. Between the two, I'd say the iPhone's camera and battery are clearly superior, but otherwise it's a matter of personal preference.

Oh, and I always make this plug for those considering T-Mobile: consider their $30, 100 minutes of voice, unlimited text and up to 5gb of 4g data pre-paid plan, which is still available and great for people who don't make frequent phone calls. If you live in an area with good T-Mobile coverage, it's really a great deal.
posted by skewed at 9:06 AM on April 14, 2013

Consider a Nexus 4. Much cheaper than the iPhone ($350 with no contract) and no carrier-specific bloatware. I got one in February and am thrilled with it. The size of the phone I have not really found to be a problem. Actually, my iPhone-using wife is jealous of the bigger screen.

The only big issue with the N4 is that the glass is very slippery and the phone slides off almost anything that's not perfectly level. I addressed this with a $7 skin from Bestskinsever.com. Apparently new models of the phone have little nubs on the back corner to help prevent this.

I have it on T-Mobile's $30 a month plan. Within a year it'll pay for itself compared to the $70 I was paying with Sprint. Speed is quite good.
posted by kindall at 9:45 AM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

It is rarely convenient for me to sync the phone with a desktop - would that impact my iPhone experience?

No. I can't remember the last time I synced mine. I'd have to look at my iTunes backups menu to even know.

That said, if you're considering switching to one of those two carriers, kick AT&T off that list. I had them for years and they're awful anywhere I went with them. Constantly overloaded and slow data, dropped calls, all of the crappy things about cell service besides ok coverage.

I had tmobile for years and likes how fast it was. You probably wouldn't notice a giant difference going to Verizon LTE. It was just a huge upgrade for me to go AT&T>Verizon. It felt like the first time I had high speed Internet at home, or when I first used a computer with an SSD. Absolute game changer. I work with people who have HSPA+ tmobile phones and my vzw iPhone still feels remarkably faster.

If you're on that $30 a month plan though and it's enough for you, I'd stick with tmobile. If you're not, I'd seriously consider verizon. AT&T had awful "slow zones" like downtown seattle basically ever, tmobile seemed to be mildly effected by this as well. Verizon has none. It's just consistently good anywhere you can get signal. This is the kind of thing I, at least, am completely willing to pay for. To me it feels like buying pants that last two years instead of six months for twice the price or something. Not having to be irritated with it or even consider it happening is amazing.

As for the iPhone itself, I've owned every variation. I've also owned several android phones. For what you do with your phone, I honestly think you'd love it. The only things that have annoyed me with mine are certain apps or mods/tweaks I couldn't find an equivalent of.(or irritating things like the grooveshark app, which is jailbreak only on the iPhone and seems to no longer be updated as well). The overall experience with the software and hardware just feels subjectively nicer though. It's little stuff like the buttons/style that carries through most apps, the smoothness of transitions and animations, the battery life that seems to spank any other smartphone when actually used in some situation that isn't a reviewer testing it, the durability, availability of accessories(how many android compatible car stereos are there?), and a ton of other little things you'll notice over time.

And there's also the fact that a 3 year old iPhone is still worth $200. What's a 3 year old android phone worth, a cheeseburger? If you don't like it you can sell your new iPhone and buy probably any android phone available and still have money left over. I remember when I could barely get $100 for my g1 and it wasnt even an entire year old(and yes, I've used many newer phones including the S3).

I definitely think you'd enjoy an iPhone, even if just as a new experience to shake things up. But I can't recommend one carrier or the other without knowing what your usage pattern is, and what plan you're on. Verizon and AT&T can get expensive quick.
posted by emptythought at 10:18 AM on April 14, 2013

I switched from LTE through Verizon to T-Mobile 2 months ago so I could use a Nexus 4. The speed difference is not noticeable. I can run a speed test and determine the speed difference (I guesstimate my Verizon averaged 12 Mbps, T Mobile averages 7 Mbps), but in everyday use I can't tell.

The only difference I've noticed it is Verizon has significantly better 4G coverage along highways in rural areas. So unless you are a complete addict and do lots of travel in rural areas, it's a pretty minor distinction.

if you're currently happy with T Mobile, I would suggest sticking with them and getting a Nexus 4. You will save a ton of money and your phone and data speeds will be excellent
posted by PCup at 10:48 AM on April 14, 2013

I could have written this exact question 3 months ago. The keyboard on my G2 was starting to fail, but I was hesitant to jump ship from T-Mobile's good customer service and my grandfathered unlimited everything plan, but I got sick of waiting for the Nexus 4, and I ended up jumping onto my sister's Verizon plan with an iPhone 5. The speed difference is noticeable to me, and the picture taking is quite an improvement. I initally missed swype typing on my android phone, and three months later I still miss it, but not as much. I'm really happy with the iPhone 5.

I got ok coverage with TMo in Boston, but none at all at my parents' house in Maine, and with VZW I get good coverage in both places, but if you don't travel much and you're happy with TMo, stick with them and go for the iphone. I'd bet you love it.
posted by hungrybruno at 10:57 AM on April 14, 2013

I use Walmart Family Mobile ( T-Mobile ) as it offers my hugh cost savings. I was paying about $225 per month for three phones with AT&T. Now I pay $111 per month and just pay for the data as needed ( it actually rolls over! ).
posted by usermac at 1:23 PM on April 14, 2013

I have never synced my iPhone wih my desktop. iCloud and iTunes Match handle everything.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:41 PM on April 14, 2013

Just something to consider. Personally, I think T-Mobile deserves to be rewarded for instituting better policies.
posted by brookeb at 3:15 PM on April 14, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all. I'm ready to go for the iPhone on T-Mobile, but here is a weird curveball: "Customers in Washington DC and Puerto Rico are not eligible for EIP."
posted by Xalf at 3:38 PM on April 14, 2013

I love my Nexus 4 on T-Mobile as well. If you can afford to buy it direct from Google, it is definitely the most cost-effective option out there for a high-end smartphone.
posted by demiurge at 3:53 PM on April 14, 2013

I just got the iPhone for T-Mobile and I'm happy with it. I think one thing you should think about is that although there are speed differences among carriers (but T-Mobile is catching up), you may find with an iPhone you end up using a lot of apps for things for which you previously used a web browser, and with apps you may not notice a whole lot of difference in speed, plus with T-Mobile you can set the iPhone to automatically use Wi-Fi for data whenever possible anyway (home, office, whatever). I like the Nexus 4 phone but the Android ecosystem definitely offers less apps and more risks of small problems since it's a less tightly regulated and managed environment.
posted by Dansaman at 9:15 PM on April 14, 2013

Any reason why you can't just buy the iPhone separately instead of relying on T-Mo's EIP?
posted by evoque at 8:18 AM on April 15, 2013

You can buy the iPhone separately, but it's cheaper through T-Mobile. ($650 from Apple, $580 from T-Mobile, and you don't have to pay it all up front.)
posted by kindall at 11:09 AM on April 15, 2013

nthing the advice to stay with T-mobile. If the service quality is good for you, and you like their new pricing...here's an anecdote to consider: I'm a T-mobile customer going back to the late 90s. On our family plan, we were paying about $240/month for service, four of us had data, everything had caps (but pretty generous ones). When the new pricing came out, the CSR told me she could get me down to $170/month for all five lines, and we'd all have data and unlimited everything. I was thrilled. Couple weeks later I called about when that plan would kick in. Nobody remembered it, nobody could replicate it. They put me through to retention (their idea, not mine.) Long story short, the guy was able to get me down to $90/month (for all five lines), tear up the 3 contracts I still had (no term fees) and threw in a $10 discount for the next three months just for my time.

So I guess what I'm saying is, you have to consider whether a company this consumer friendly can even survive. I'm kind of serious.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:39 PM on April 15, 2013

Response by poster: Sad to report that after 3 phone calls to T-Mobile and a visit to a T-Mobile store, I had to end my relationship with Old Magenta. For residents of DC where the new installment plan is mysteriously not offered, old style plans are still available. On my third call, the representative told me I would be able to keep my monthly bill and get two iPhones for $150 each with a new 2-year commitment. In the store, though, I was told that my monthly bill would go up by $30 per phone, putting the monthly cost with T-Mobile at about the same as I would pay with Verizon. So, now I am a happy Verizon customer/iPhone owner. I gave the guy in the store a chance to work something better out, but he didn't seem to try very hard. Maybe a phone call to retention would have helped, but I was out of patience.
posted by Xalf at 4:22 PM on May 9, 2013

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