Best Value Smartphone Plan For Multiple Lines? T-Mobile Simple Choice Family Plan

A few months ago there was a flurry of newspaper articles about families with huge $300+ cell phone bills. I don’t have to deal with this yet, but here is a value option for those of you paying for multiple lines for parents, grandparents, kids, or just roommates sharing.

The T-Mobile Simple Choice Family plan offers a smartphone plan with unlimited talk, text, and data starting at just $100 for 4 lines with no contract ($50 for the first person, $30 for the second, and $10 for each additional person). That’s just $25 per line before any discounts, taxes, and fees.

How can this unlimited plan possibly be so cheap?!

#1. “Unlimited web” is broken down into 4G “high-speed” HSPA+/LTE data and their slower 2G data networks. The base plan includes 500 MB of high-speed data for each line (not shared). After that, you get punted to slower 2G speeds (~100 kbps reportedly) unless you pay for more. I actually think this is a good compromise. If you have kids that “need” the ability to check the web for “homework” (aka Facebook or Instagram) all the time, 2G speeds may be enough. Otherwise, just tell them to use the WiFi at home. If you want more high-speed data for your line, you can pony up $10 more for 2.5 GB of 4G data or $20 for unlimited.


#2. T-Mobile doesn’t provide any upfront subsidies for new phones. You can either bring your own phone (BYOP) and use a $10 SIM card, or buy a new phone from them on a payment plan of $20 a month or so. This works out for those that are willing to do a little searching and buy a cheap unlocked iPhone or Galaxy Nexus 4 or Samsung Galaxy S3 which are all solid phones with many available for under $300. Unlocked GSM phones also retain their value better if you switch out.

#3. Coverage. It is widely-advertised that T-Mobile has a smaller nationwide coverage footprint than AT&T or Verizon. However, in practice it’s all about how the coverage is where you are. I tried T-Mobile’s prepaid plan using a SIM card for a month and didn’t have any problems with coverage, but I didn’t stray from major metro areas.

Don’t forget discounts! The T-Mobile Advantage program has a lot of agreements with various providers to provide 10-15% off their plans.

  • For corporate and government discounts, check your eligibility here with just your e-mail address. More details here.
  • AAA club members can get 10% off monthly plans by visiting aaa.com/tmobile. Reportedly this also works in T-Mobile stores. Check with your local AAA office.
  • Students can get 10% off monthly plans by registering for free at StudentRate.com. Note: I was able to see the discount by just clicking on the black box with promo code 13997TMOFAV.

I found that my affiliation discount was 15%, which gave me 4 lines for just $85. Keep in mind that this a normal postpaid plan so there will be the usual monthly taxes and fees of ~$5 per line. If I had to pay for multiple lines, I’d definitely consider this plan. Any T-Mobile users out there that have switched to this plan? How is the 4G coverage and how is the 2G EDGE speeds after that?

Comments

  1. Nice. How many minutes come in this package?

    Anyone know if there’s a way to apply the StudentRate discount to an already existing contract?

  2. We don’t have this particular plan, but I can say we’ve saved hundreds by switching to T-Mobile. Their coverage is equivalent to AT&T/Verizon and with LTE being rolled out in metro areas their speed is the same too. I’ve only been in two extremely remote places in the US where Verizon or AT&T had coverage and T-Mobile didn’t.

    We pay $85/per month for two lines after taxes, fees, and military discount for 1000 minutes (we never used more than 500), unlimited text, and 2GB of 4G data per line. Our phones cost an additional $30 per month for a Galaxy S4 and another Android smartphone. $115 versus the $150 we had on AT&T and the $160 we had with Verizon for similar plans.

    I’ve had all three providers (AT&T/Verizon/T-Mobile) in the past 3 years and I would say subjectively T-Mobile’s customer support is lightyears ahead of the other two.

    Additionally, T-Mobile allows you to unlock the phones you purchase through them, which is great because we travel internationally so often. We just pop in a local sim card and get data/text/minutes for only a few euros/dollars/pounds wherever we go.

    In conclusion: ditch your current cell phone provider, pay the early termination fee, and start saving money and headaches with T-Mobile.

  3. Cost is not the same thing as value. Their coverage is terrible. I live in SF and I basically can’t use my phone to..uh..make calls(!) because they drop every minute or so. And that’s assuming I can get a dial through. I travel extensively for work and its the same story in basically every other metro area I’ve visited. Outside a metro…lol…forget about it.

    I won’t switch to ATT because they’ve been actively participating in domestic spying for decades (this Snowden thing…not a secret in tech circles…confirmed years ago) and Verizon’s coverage is good but can’t take their phones overseas.

    Mobile is so f-ed in this country. It’s embarrassing really. Friends from Europe and Asia just roll their eyes and laugh.

  4. @Mike – Unlimited minutes, unlimited text. Studentrate discount should work on new lines. Go to the page and run a page search (Ctrl-F or Command-F) for keyword “existing” to get the details.

    @Spencer – Thanks for sharing.

  5. @Nathan – Thanks for sharing as well. I’m confused though – so you are sticking with T-Mobile despite not being able to make calls?

  6. How does this compare to Straight Talk? Price/performance? Is Straight Talk better where ATT has better coverage, and Tmobile where Verizon is better?

  7. I have been a Tmobile customer for 7 years. No issues. Live in Major city and its alright in remote areas. Never really had an issue thats worth switching to another carrier.

    Was on prepaid for about 1 year for $50 a month, then 4 of us got together and switched to $100 for 4 lines. We got the AAA discount and after taxes and all, it is $116. Even though I was already a tmobile customer, they had to prevision new sim cards again and charged us $12 each. no biggie.

  8. Not bad if you need all the bells and whistles. I like my $10 Airvoice Wireless (ATT) + Free 1GB hotspot from FreedomPop + Google Voice + cordless phone for the house.

  9. Have to agree with Nathan. I have this plan and it’s great from a cost perspective. However, it’s not so great from a coverage perspective. We are also in the Bay Area and we get dropped calls and poor coverage all the time. I heard from a TMO engineer once that because their band frequencies are higher (1700 and 1900) it has trouble penetrating buildings. Hence the Tmobile Wifi calling product. However, if you have an unlocked phone like the Nexus 4 you can’t get wifi calling (apparently you may be able to with some elaborate maneuvering). In summary: yes, it’s cheap, but in some markets may not be the best value.

  10. I tested a Nexus 4 with T-mobile for a week.

    1. Call quality was great.
    2. Coverage in San Diego for HSPA was awesome and faster than my VZW phone’s 4G LTE.
    3. The phone felt like a cheap toy. Swapped out for an Iphone5… better quality phone but that OS with its limited keyboard…yeah didn’t work for me either. Seems an HTC One is in my future.

    So after doing the testing we did the math. For 2 of us with smart phones, unlimited calling, unlimited text and a third regular phone using a corporate discount we’d be looking at around $85 a month. We currently pay VZW $105 a month for 1 smart phone, 2 reg phones, 250 text messages and 750 minutes.

    The win for us would be easy.

    Just gotta wait out the VZW contracts.

  11. I actually picked up the Nexus 4 and switched to this plan. 3 lines, 2 with internet, unlimited everything (with the data throttle at 500 MB) and a 10% affiliation discount costs about $95/month.

    My data gets throttled most months even though I use all wifi at home and it’s mostly fine. Not great for working at that speed but it’ll still do in a pinch.

    The coverage is average I suppose. I’m also in the Bay Area and there are places we simply don’t get reception but also in a lot of places that we didn’t before to switch from Verizon and Att to T-Mobile. I like the phone alright but it does have some weird bugs on occasion. Still, saving 55% per month is great and eventually we’ll recoup the cost of the phones… Until we find a cheaper provider for the services we need! :)

  12. Looks like the StudentRate discount works on existing lines too. StudentRate instructed me to fill out the corporate discount form along with a screen shot of my StudentRate profile page with member ID. Got a reply by email from T-Mobile last night saying that the 10% discount had been applied. I won’t know for another 60 days exactly how much I save, but it’s worth a try for anyone who has an existing contract in place.

  13. Sounds like TMobile is a good option to upgrade from a dumb phone also. I recently swtiched from Sprint talk only plan ($70/two lines) to Republic Wireless $40/two lines) unlimited everything plan. Coverage is same as Sprint and l live in a metro are so the ceverage is not bad. Data is little slow.

    But now I’ve a smart phone to pretend like I’m doing some serious business browsing my smart phone while walking in the hallways :-) and we are saving $30/month.

    I got to say we are happy for now. BTW I was introduced to Republic Wireless on this blog. Thanks Jonathan!

  14. MoneyReviewer says:

    3G coverage is terrible in Dallas/Fort Worth. Switches to EDGE all the time. I had AT&T before and switched because the T-Mobile price was better. Driving on I-45 between here and Houston (a major corridor, and not exactly what I’d consider a “remote area”) there are complete 3G dead zones.

    Kind of useless if you use your phone primarily for streaming audio.

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