T-Mobile rate hikes & finding a better cellular provider in the US

Like some others in this thread, I was on Ting, an MVNO that used T-Mobile for a number of years. Last year I upgraded from an iPhone 12 to iPhone 14, and Ting didn’t support the eSIM (also, turned out, they had changed ownership, and seemed the new owners stopped investing). I did some research and selected USMobile, on top of Verizon. My wife and I don’t use much data, so chose their 6GB/month shared plan. Cost is USD $26/month for unlimited voice/text and 6GB of data. We have yet to use more than 3.5GB/month. I haven’t had a need to use any international calling. I’m very happy with USMobile so far. https://www.usmobile.com

https://www.mintmobile.com/help/how-do-i-travel-internationally-with-mint-mobile/

https://www.reddit.com/r/mintmobile/comments/1cw1n3l/international_pass_worth_it/

My daughter and son both have cheap Mint accounts. Reasonably happy given overall US rates. They both have Irish phones kept on our family account here so they swap over when back. These include EU full roaming. I use an eSIM when the States.

I remember when the iPhone first came out, there was something about some services not having the complete access to Apple features, voice mail was an example. Do any of these less expensive services leave out features from the Apple phone? I was always hesitant about switching to these minimal networks because they may not have everything I need or is that all in the past?

Thank you. I’m aware of that page. I posed my question to Mint users here because that page doesn’t answer it.

You’re welcome, Simon. If the Reddit link doesn’t clear it up for you (I think one post describes using it throughout Europe), you could try contacting the Ting help desk directly. I’ve always had good luck with that.

A US Mobile rep was able to tell me. You get 1 GB, 150 min, and 150 texts for intl roaming every month included in the “Unlimited Starter” plan, but only if you choose “GSM 5G” (T-Mobile network), there’s no intl roaming included with the “Warp 5G” plan (Verizon). If you hit that data cap (or min/text cap) you pay an extra $15 to add 1GB/150min/150texts.

[edit] Mint help desk, sorry

What features do you want that might not be available?
Ting was always very cheap. It always had voicemail.
It is still cheap, but it won’t support iPhones that have only eSIMs. As John said, the new owner is not keeping Ting service up to date.
The prepaid plan I now have on ATT supports voicemail.
Check with the carrier about the specific plan. Some plans may not support a particular feature you want. For example, hot spot data may be included, it may be an add-on, or it may not be supported at all.

It’s not so much voicemail but visual voicemail. When I first started using Ting, it had just started supporting visual voicemail on iPhones.

I don’t think Ting is actually that inexpensive anymore compared to what you can find elsewhere, particularly when it comes to data.

Previously T-Mobile but now I use AT&T prepaid: you pay $25 per month for 15Gb data when you prepay $300. For International travel outside North America I use Airalo e-sims for 5G data that cost less than $20 for 10 Gb/30 days: you buy them and load as e-sims into your iphone before departure.** When you land they auto-activate and can be “topped up” if you need more data. For voice calls I use What’s app and Google voice while roaming; AT&T wifi calling when in hotel or apartment. Cut my phone bill in half. You can install eight or more eSIMs on an iPhone and use two phone numbers at the same time but iphone must be UNLOCKED - good reason to buy directly from Apple.

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I was hoping to use this switch to also see if coverage at work gets better where my current T-Mobile plan is poor, but it appears the only serious contenders for me are Mint and US Mobile. The latter offers a Verizon-based plan (what they call “Warp 5G”), but that plan—at least right now—doesn’t offer a workable solution for international voice/texts. Their other plan (“GSM 5G”) as well as Mint are both T-Mobile. Oh well. I’ll just have to remind myself that several of my colleagues on AT&T or Verizon also complain about coverage at campus. :wink:

For my use US Mobile clearly trumps Mint. The fact that I have international call/text/data included right off the bat without having to prepare or do anything, is a strong argument if you spend a lot of time overseas. I’m aware of services like Airolo and that’s all fine for a longer trip when what I primarily need is data. But on a very brief business trip I want something that just works without fuss. And my wife is even worse in that department — if she has to sign up for something ahead of time or send texts to activate some service, they’ve already lost her. US Mobile has a plan for us that will just work (and if we need more/better data Airolo’s app is sitting there ready) and we’ll be saving 50% compared to our current T-Mobile plan. I’ll be trying it out and report back if anything noteworthy shows up.

Thanks to everybody who offered their advice and experiences.

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While testing the new carrier and their excellent customer web interface [app.usmobile.com], I learned something quite interesting. US Mobile in fact allows customers on their Unlimited plans to switch the network at any time. You can do it up to 4 times during a billing cycle but no earlier than 3 hrs after your last switch.

I had initially settled for US Mobile’s T-Mobile-based service (“GSM 5G”) because of the international roaming perks that comes with, but I still would have liked to test their Verizon-based service while staying here at home in the States. So I made use of this nice on-the-fly switching feature to switch to their Verizon-based service (“Warp 5G”) just to check things out.

Thanks to eSIM this all takes place within minutes and can be done entirely on their website (in the past I’ve been skeptical of eSIM, but this is an excellent example of something you can do much better than with a conventional hardware SIM). I couldn’t do it from within their app, perhaps they’re worried about people locking themselves out if the phone isn’t on wifi. But once I had initiated the switch from their web page using my MBP it took about 5 min for my iPhone to tell me that a new eSIM was ready. Two taps later and I was on the Verizon network.

At home inside (wifi turned off) no big difference. This week at work I’ll see how Verizon coverage compares to T-Mobile. I did have one big surprise though. Standing on my driveway (and with wifi still turned off) I noticed my iPhone was showing 5G UW. On T-Mobile in my experience that meant almost nothing. Perhaps 5 Mbps instead of the ~2 Mbps I would see for 5G or 5G UC. The very best 5G UW I had ever seen on T-Mobile was ~30 Mbps. But now on Verizon my iPhone was showing me 450 Mbps for 5G UW. That’s almost as much as my iPhone gets on my home wifi (802.11ac AirPort Extreme hooked up to gigabit fiber). I have never before seen such a data rate over a cellular network. Neat. :slight_smile:

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That pricing surprises me, but my recent attempt to switch to T-Mobile was a disappointment for other reasons. I’m on Spectrum, which uses Verizon’s cell network. I use Spectrum as well for separate (2 separate bills on same account) Gigabit internet service (I don’t know whether it’s fiber or cable, but I do get excellent service. However, it’s a bit above $100/month for the internet service. I own my own Wi Fi 6 router and internet access point.

At my house, I cannot get a 5G cell signal. T-Mobile has been advertising home internet service over 5G for about $50/month AND considerably lower cell service pricing as well. I went to the closest T-Mobile retail store, where the sales staff showed me a coverage map claiming I should get good 5G signals at my house outside Bozeman, MT. I asked what that meant as far as download rates using their 5G internet service box, and they ran a SpeedTest from an iPhone 15 Pro through the box in the store. They said the box was connected to a rooftop antenna but that there was no signal amplification. From the phone, they demonstrated Ookla numbers of > 700 mbits/sec DL, > 25 mbits/sec UL. I took the box home for a “free trial,” used their app to place it in front of a window, saw a 5G cell indicator but only 2 stripes on the Chevron, and the DL/UL rates were AWFUL (<20 mbits/sec and basically so low as to be unmeasurable). I brought the device back to the store, where the staff told me they had no explanation for that. They gave me a corporate number to call, and the corporate people told me there were ongoing problems with their closest tower, so that my connection was oscillating between two and the overhead for that was what was causing the miserable performance.

I check periodically now with their “service availability phone bot,” and each time the answer is “not yet available in your network,” which suggests that whatever the “problem” is, they’re in no hurry to correct it.

I’ll be interested in your results. For comparison, here in my house in Boston’s inner suburbs Mint 4G (no 5G at my address, but I reliably get it when I go around the corner) Speedtest is showing 236 Mbps download (stopped test there because I used to blow through my data cap all the time while doing this kind of thing). Wifi at exactly the same location (to the Synology 6600ax on my Verizon Fios 300/300 service) gives me 156 Mbps down. In practice, I have no need for even that on a phone, but I’m sure others do.

My brother tried Xfinity. He found out that they are lower priority and that if the Verizon network is busy, calls on the MVNO may not go through. He said he missed calls and now has switched to Verizon direct.

Word of warning to T-Mobile customers.

One more thing I learned on the way: if you have an online account set up with T-Mobile, they’ll delete that account the moment you transfer your number from T-Mobile to another carrier. You will no longer be able to log on to your T-Mobile account.

This is obviously quite silly considering you might have multiple lines left with them on that plan that you can then no longer access. Even without a line left, you might still want to check your invoices or organize for any remaining billing even after you have moved your number to another carrier. But no dice. :man_facepalming: :roll_eyes:

The only workaround I’ve so far been able to come up with relies on you having at least one other phone number still active with them. You’ll then have to set up a brand new online account from scratch using that phone number. Once all the authentication mumbo jumbo has been settled, you’ll then once again have access to your remaining T-Mobile lines. :crossed_fingers:

If you have no other phone number with them, I have no idea if/how you’ll ever be able to regain online account access. Perhaps from then on it’s back to exclusively enjoying that lovely hold with their super spiffy and ever so competent* customer service phone rep. :wink: It’s almost like it’s 1982 again. :laughing:

*) To remove the number transfer block I had installed years ago (this you can do with just 2 clicks online :+1: ), I had to not only call a customer service rep, no, he also had to put me on a 20 min hold just to do it. No security questions, no other verification, no nothing. Just good old hold as if to click that option he first needed to solve an extensive set of PDEs with pen and paper. When he finally did come back and claimed success, I noticed he had done it for the wrong line. :rofl:

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Here is a new development regarding T-Mobile acquiring U.S. Cellular:

Wow on the UK pricing.

Unfortunately, antitrust laws not well enforced here in the US and of course most businesses don’t want the free market.

I switched to US Mobile about 2 years ago and have been happy. They have many plans and options so spend some time on there website. The plans I have now I think are just grandfathered in now and I haven’t looked recently to see what I would pick now. They are resellers and with network you pick can change the plan also. They are soon to release a new package that lets you change between 3 networks, easily, multiple times per month, to find the best coverage. I have 2 iPads with unlimited data and 3 iPhones one unlimited everything and 2 sharing 1Gb of data and unlimited text and voice. I pay $95.74/month total all fees/taxes include with auto pay. I seldom go over the 1Gb shared by the two lines but it is easy to buy extra data when I need it.