Switching to T-Mobile in NYC
September 12, 2014 8:05 AM   Subscribe

I have been impressed by T-Mobile's innovative new plans (offering things like unlimited data, international data included, no lock-in, wifi calling, etc) and am tempted to switch from AT&T. I live in NYC and don't travel much within the USA. If I do, it is generally to other big cities. I am wondering if any other Mefites have experience switching from AT&T to T-Mobile or if they can shed light on the general T-Mobile experience. I am grandfathered into an old AT&T plan that no longer exists, so I am somewhat hesitant to switch. That being said, it seems that I would save something like $20/month with T-Mobile. Thanks.
posted by beisny to Technology (38 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yeah go for it. Especially if you have a newer phone. I did this same switch and don't regret it at all.
posted by JPD at 8:15 AM on September 12, 2014


Had T-Mobile for ages, and love it. I use the wifi calling in the basement of the building where I work, international data when traveling, and the data has been good. Coverage isn't always amazing (the wifi calling helps), and data isn't as fast. But with the benefits and the cost, no other provider compares.
Oh, and talking to customer service is always a delight. They are very pleasant and to the point.
Once, we did have a problem with being charged a fee we shouldn't have been, but it was resolved quickly. It was the only unpleasant call I have had with them.
posted by troytroy at 8:16 AM on September 12, 2014


I switched from a grandfathered Verizon plan to T-Mobile in NYC this winter. I actually had T-Mobile for about ten years prior, switched to Verizon for a couple of years because I wanted an iPhone, and switched back when T-Mobile got the iPhone. On a totally general basis, I'm satisfied, but I haven't had any significant problems yet, and I haven't been out of the city since I switched (although I had been with my old plan and never had any problems.)

Keep in mind they have different plans they call "unlimited data." I think they have a truly unlimited plan at top speeds, and then past that you can have a certain data allotment at top speed and then it drops to whatever the lower speed is until the next billing cycle (or you paying them to upgrade your data plan.) I overran my allotment a few times, and the slow speed is really slow: definitely no YouTube, and many sites expecting faster speeds even on a phone took their sweet time to load. MeFi and Wikipedia were fine but Salon and Tumblr were out.
posted by griphus at 8:18 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, one other thing: if you plan to get the iPhone, keep in mind that T-Mobile does not subsidize it, so you're going to be paying the $600+ out of pocket entirely (rather than the ~$200 at AT&T or Verizon.) They do let you split the cost of the phone up into interest-free payments across your bills for up to 24 mos., though. I think there's a deposit involved if you do that, but it's not massive.
posted by griphus at 8:23 AM on September 12, 2014


It's nice to hear all these nice things about T-Mobile in NY. I'm out in the burbs and plan on switching myself.

If you're not a big fan of talking on your phone (ugh ...), they have a $30/mo plan if you bring your own device (i.e., pay full price as griphus mentions) and activate online. Unlimited data (but throttled after 5 GB), unlimited texts and 100 voice minutes per month.

That's less than half of my AT&T bill so I'll recoup the costs of an unsubsidized iPhone quickly.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:29 AM on September 12, 2014


My husband and I switched from AT&T to T-Mobile in NYC a few months ago. We love it. Their customer service is SO MUCH better than AT&T's. We have found that data can get a bit spotty in rural areas and smaller towns, but in big cities it has been great. We got the full unlimited (most expensive) plan because we use a crapton of data.
posted by bedhead at 8:32 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


We just switched to T-Mobile from Verizon here in Chicago.

Our call quality improved dramatically but that could be the phone. (LG Lucids to Samsung Galaxy Lites)

Beware of the promises of the t-mobile sales reps though. We were promised a rebate that never came and we asked repeatedly about a phone access fee and told there wouldn't be one and low and behold there was.

Still cheaper and much better for frequent international travelers than Verizon. We save about $40/month. Plus you are free to leave them any time.
posted by srboisvert at 8:34 AM on September 12, 2014


My husband and I have had T-Mobile for 10+ years. It's been great. Our plan is super-cheap. Customer service is always pleasant. Four thumbs up.
posted by kat518 at 8:36 AM on September 12, 2014


They got me to switch as well, from AT&T. Mostly for the free international data. It's not 4G super fast international data, but I got 3G, which is plenty fast enough for emails and checking maps, and let me tell you, it is a game changer. So great. Also, I'm paying $40 less per month now!

One caveat, though... the service outside of the city isn't great. Up in Rhinebeck, NY I get terrible service. But, the free wifi-calling and texting makes it pretty easy to still use the phone if you want to and are near wifi.
posted by Grither at 8:39 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


One caveat, though... the service outside of the city isn't great.

There are even some spotty places in NYC, for instance the basement of my in law's house on Staten Island was no good, while Verizon works fine there.
posted by Jahaza at 8:42 AM on September 12, 2014


T mobile works great in Manhattan and Brooklyn (no idea re Queens/Bx/SI). There are pockets of the financial district where you won't get service, especially if in a building (whereas an ATT phone in the same spot has service). Other than that, I haven't noticed any service issues w/ voice or data.

However, the second you leave the city, your phone will cease to work for both voice and data (except wifi obviously). Hudson Valley, Central and Western NY, parts of CT and VT = no service whatsoever.
posted by melissasaurus at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2014


I switched from Verizon earlier this year; no regrets at all. Pittsburgh PA, not NY, FWIW.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:43 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you are concerned about the service part of it, T-mobile is doing a free test drive. I live in the burbs of NYC and had zero service for most of the test, so I am not switching. (Which was a bummer, because I've heard great things about their customer service, if not their cell service.)

They put a hold on your CC when you get the phone, but as long as you return it within the time frame, it comes off quickly.
posted by firei at 8:45 AM on September 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love my T-Mobile but on two trips to NYC I found the reception/speed noticeably worse than what I have in seattle. Ymmv
posted by k8t at 8:47 AM on September 12, 2014


I switched from AT&T to T-Mobile a little over a year ago and while it was all right at first, overall it's been a pretty terrible experience.

The Wi-Fi Calling was great for me because my house is in a more rural area that's a "dead zone" for cell signals. However in the past few months it's gotten very unreliable (texts are delayed or not delivered, calls drop multiple times, calls won't even dial sometimes, bad quality like echoes and static). This is with multiple routers and ISPs.

I've also never been able to send or receive MMS messages, some of which is a Wi-Fi Calling thing (as in this is something you can't do with it) and some which seems to be a bug somewhere down the line as I can't do it through regular cell signal either.

I travel a lot and the coverage varies quite a bit but is generally poor, at least in my region. It's almost non-existent in some places, while higher population areas tend to be covered so you'll probably be all right in NYC. Roaming seems to be an issue as I can't connect to signals in out-of-state places where I had no problem with AT&T even though the phone detects them in the settings. There have been many times when I've had no service in the middle of towns and on crowded interstates (so not in the middle of nowhere).

The customer service is generally better than what I've experienced elsewhere, so I will give them that at least.
posted by Kimmalah at 8:49 AM on September 12, 2014


I use TMO and have for years. The coverage in rural areas is not as good as VZ and has unfortunately fallen behind ATT, but is fine in urban areas and along major Interstate corridors.

They have a pretty good coverage map, which in my experience is accurate.

The only recent issue I've had with them is that as a result of some changes to the network, EDGE/2G data seems to be completely screwed in some areas. (As in, the phone connects to EDGE but nothing gets through.) I think this is related to their 2G-to-4G transition.

Their customer service is very good, and the international data roaming is pretty awesome. I took my SGS2 to Spain last year and it Just Worked, without having to screw around with getting a new SIM or anything overseas. Note that voice minutes still cost substantially extra, due to the carrier agreements in other countries, but data and texts are included in a lot of plans now. (Meaning I could tell people not to call but to text/email/Skype instead and it cost me nothing.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:59 AM on September 12, 2014


I don't know, I've had many times on I-75 where I've had absolutely no service. These were not rural places either, but running near major cities in the area.
posted by Kimmalah at 9:05 AM on September 12, 2014


I switched from Verizon to T-mo a year ago and while the coverage isn't as great, the fact that I can use wifi for calling and texts means I can actually use my phone at home, which I couldn't before (I live in a cell dead zone). Seriously, if your home and work have wifi, it doesn't matter how good or bad the coverage is. I love that.

My spouse and I are on the $30/mo unlimited data/texts +100 minutes plan, so we're paying $60/mo for 2 lines, which is less than half what we were paying before. It is awesome.

The one time I had to call customer support, they were smart and friendly and the problem was solved fast.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:07 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


We switched a few months ago. Like everybody else said, service is great around town but very sparse when you get past the suburbs. I learned the hard way that there is absolutely no T-Mobile coverage in West Virginia.
posted by COD at 9:12 AM on September 12, 2014


Try it for a month! Just keep your AT&T plan active. I live in Boston and love T-Mobile but I do lose service as soon as I get anywhere semi-rural.
posted by mskyle at 9:15 AM on September 12, 2014


@rabbitrabbit Bad coverage is still a concern, although I don't think in NYC it will be an issue. I switched to T-Mobile primarily because I live in a dead zone too and wanted the wifi calling. But since the coverage turned out to be so bad in my area my phone is basically useless for calls/texts unless I'm at home or stop somewhere that offers free public wifi.

And like I said lately even that has been getting extremely unreliable for me quality-wise no matter where I am.
posted by Kimmalah at 9:17 AM on September 12, 2014


Apologies if this is an ignorant question but does wifi calling include inbound calls too? If I am in a cell dead zone and have wifi will an inbound call ring my phone?
posted by 724A at 9:23 AM on September 12, 2014


When the iPhone 5S came out, I really wanted to switch to T-Mobile because I loved what they were doing. I bought the unlocked 5S and signed up for a T-Mobile prepaid plan to compare it to the AT&T service I already had.

Swapping sims in my office in SoHo, my apartment in the East Village, and a few places around the city, the results were pretty consistent. T-Mobile would get great reception and faster download speeds when I was on the sidewalk. The moment I walked into a building, AT&T would still have a solid signal, but T-Mobile would often drop to no service.

This was pretty unacceptable to me, so I cancelled the prepaid plan and stuck with AT&T. I really, really love what T-Mobile is doing and wanted it to work, but it wasn't tenable for me.

My friends with Android phones seem to have better luck.
posted by AaRdVarK at 9:32 AM on September 12, 2014


724A: yes, inbound calls too. The phone behaves exactly the same as it would with regular cell coverage.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 10:00 AM on September 12, 2014


Tmobile somehow doesn't interface with the phone app as well as AT&T and there are serious no signal areas if you go into small towns or country at all. However, paying three dollars a month for phone and text is really nice if you're around Wifi a lot, as I am.
posted by michaelh at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2014


Bad coverage on T-Mobile is a concern of mine but I've learned to live with it. I am not running mission critical applications, you can pick up milk yourself or wait five min till I'm out of a deadzone/grocery store/mall/department store.

My hardest switch issue from ATT to T-Mobile is the complete inability to surf the web or do any "cellular data use" while using the phone to speak to someone. So if I have to look something up, I have to hang up on the person, look "it"up. Take a picture of "it" or commit "it" to memory, and call them back or text the information to them. Find the email and forward it while I'm not on the phone. Hang up to receive the picture they just sent me on imessage or email. PAIN IN THE ASS.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


However, the second you leave the city, your phone will cease to work for both voice and data (except wifi obviously). Hudson Valley, Central and Western NY, parts of CT and VT = no service whatsoever.

This has not been my experience. I have family in western NY and Long Island. I have service both places.
posted by kat518 at 11:04 AM on September 12, 2014


I have to admit I'm pretty mystified at all of these claims of absolutely abysmal service outside of NYC. I'm on LI and in the HV a bunch and while its not great in the HV its fine, and even on the part of the South Fork we go to which is isolated for that area I get service.
posted by JPD at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2014


Thank you all for your very informative responses. The general consensus makes me more comfortable switching.
posted by beisny at 11:48 AM on September 12, 2014


My hardest switch issue from ATT to T-Mobile is the complete inability to surf the web or do any "cellular data use" while using the phone to speak to someone.

It's important to note that this is phone specific, not carrier-specific.

Some phones support data while on a call, others don't. It has to do with the capabilities of the radio in the phone as well as the network.

You can do simultaneous voice and data on TMO, on both 3G and 4G networks, with some phones. My SGS2 did fine, and my current Moto X also does. (Just tested it on 4G LTE a moment ago, it definitely works; the call doesn't seem to even slow down page loading perceptibly.)

It won't work on EDGE, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:29 PM on September 12, 2014


My inlaws have TMobile. They tend to lose service even in the decidedly not-rural neighborhoods we frequent (West Village and UWS).
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:57 PM on September 12, 2014


My hardest switch issue from ATT to T-Mobile is the complete inability to surf the web or do any "cellular data use" while using the phone to speak to someone.

No problem doing this with my Galaxy S4.
posted by Jahaza at 2:43 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Good point on my surf while talk problem being somewhat phone specific. I have a iPhone. Did this all the time on ATT.

Same phone moved to TMobile. Cannot do this any more.
posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 3:53 PM on September 12, 2014


My inlaws have TMobile. They tend to lose service even in the decidedly not-rural neighborhoods we frequent (West Village and UWS).

I live in the west village.
posted by JPD at 3:54 PM on September 12, 2014


While i haven't been to NYC, so take this with a grain of salt, i did travel around when i had tmobile.

I was utterly infuriated by the fact that you could have five bars, walk into a building and have no service. This included places like my office, and friends houses i regularly visited.

I'm not saying i don't have this experience on verizon, but the places it doesn't work are usually along the lines of "concrete windowless underground bunker-room". And even then, a few months later suddenly i had service down there(wtf, how?!?!). The places tmobile would flop were like, rickety thin houses with lots of windows where every phone on every other carrier worked. They always just made no logical sense, were right in the middle of town, and everyone elses phone would be fine.

Data was fast when it worked though, and the customer service was amazing. I had a long discussion with them about how to get my home-unlocked iphone working on their network and they were totally willing to dick around on the phone with me for like 35-40 minutes to get it going, and super knowledgeable and nice.

Their plans seem nice, and so does their general cost structure for things... but i absolutely wouldn't use their service again without doing the "test drive" thing. Even sprint was better in my experience, at least coverage wise... and sprint sucks.
posted by emptythought at 5:08 PM on September 12, 2014


I guess I can't really add anything that hasn't been said, but count me as yet another example of awful reception indoors with T-Mobile. You might have better luck of course, as I'm sure it has a lot to do with the building materials and construction of whatever structure you happen to be within. I also remember reading somewhere when I first switched to T-Mobile that the frequencies they use meant that their signals couldn't penetrate walls and other solid objects as easy as other carriers operating on different frequencies, but I don't know how true that is. Also, yea, you'll have pretty terrible reception as soon as you leave NYC. I spend a lot of time in CT and PA and that was always an issue, especially when I needed to use the phone for navigation. What finally got me to switch back to AT&T though was that I had equally bad service here at home on Staten Island, as well as other places in pretty urban areas that just didn't make sense. WiFi calling doesn't help me as I have a Nexus 5, but even when with the two Samsung phones I had, WiFi calling only works with the stock ROM or custom ROMs based on it. This, of course, might not mean anything to you, but I figured it's worth mentioning.

Oh, and the other thing that got me to switch? AT&T's $60 prepaid plan. That's $65 after tax, significantly less than what I was paying with T-Mobile and I can actually rely on my phone to work when I need it. I have nothing against T-Mobile at all, but unless you'd be looking into a shared or family plan, I'd definitely suggest taking a look at AT&T's prepaid options.
posted by Venadium at 7:40 PM on September 12, 2014


I'm a huge fan of T-Mobile. I don't want my post to come across as advertising; just trying to raise awareness about an alternative that most people don't know about.

If you decide to go with T-Mo, instead of buying through them directly you can get a much better deal going through what's called a value-added reseller (VAR). VARs lease time on the big networks' towers and then resell the service to consumers at a much cheaper rate.

Google or memail me for some specific companies, but the VAR I use gives me all this for just $35/month:

- unlimited talk
- unlimited text
- unlimited data (first 1GB at LTE speed)

All taxes included, no contract required, bring your own device. They even allow tethering to a laptop over USB or wifi hotspot. I think they also allow wifi calling but I haven't tried it.

Pros
- way cheaper than any of the Big Four
- still uses T-Mo's network, which is great in urban areas
- great customer service (they usually respond to my email within minutes)
- T-Mo's LTE is faster than my home cable connection

Cons
- customer service is open less than 24/7
- the VAR may decide to stop operating, but you can easily switch to another (and retain your phone number) or go back to full-fledged T-Mo, etc.

Anyone can memail me if they want more details about the $35 plan. I'm happy to answer any questions.
posted by homer2k1 at 10:06 PM on September 12, 2014


Fwiw, I am in the lower HV, northern Westchester, and even my Verizon service sucks a lot. I get nothing on my street. The towns fight the cell tower installation and there are enough peaks and valleys that unless you are in an actual town with shops and stores or on the train lines, service can suck regardless of carrier. That is why I asked about wifi calling inbound or outbound. I have a better chance of finding free wifi than 4G service.
posted by 724A at 10:32 PM on September 12, 2014


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