Remember the old T-Mobile network, when the plans were complicated and your iPhone wouldn't even work on the T-Mobile LTE network?
Those days are over.
The T-Mobile Bring Your Own Phone program was considered to be a little behind the pack just a few years ago, but since then the company has practically reinvented itself. T-Mobile service isn't what it used to be - in fact, the old T-Mobile is now merely a memory.
Here's the question: is the T-Mobile BYOP plan right for you? In this guide, I'll detail the features and perks T-Mobile offers, and guide you through the process in making the switch.
Why Bring Your Own Device?
T-Mobile's BYOP program is expansive. Compatible phones can be paired with a myriad of plans. But it's also important to highlight the reasons behind bringing your own device to T-Mobile: you can keep your existing phone number, use your device with the prepaid or postpaid no-contract plan that fits your needs, and save money by sticking with your preferred device.
Additionally, you're actually able to bring your own device to any of T-Mobile's cell phone plans. Yes, any of them.
T-Mobile BYOP Plans
According to Forbes, T-Mobile - which happens to be the third-largest U.S. wireless carrier - had an incredibly strong 2016, having added a total of 2.37 million subscribers over the first nine months of 2016. Furthermore, it has been improving its network: at the end of Q3 2016, the carrier covered 313 million people, which happens to be roughly 99.7% of the population that the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network covers.
But what makes T-Mobile so enticing? What are its bring your own device plans?
Well, there are two main types of plans that are compatible with a bring your own phone plan: prepaid and T-Mobile One. There were originally other postpaid plans that participated in T-Mobile's BYOP program, but according to Android Headlines, those plans have been replaced with T-Mobile One. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, as the T-Mobile One plan offers a lot of neat bonuses you won't find from the other providers.
Let's begin with T-Mobile's prepaid plans.
Pro Tip: One thing to keep in mind - if you do bring your own device when you switch to T-Mobile, the carrier will not pay your early termination fee for your old provider. If you're interested in signing up for a T-Mobile account because of their early termination fee offer, you'll have to trade in your phone.
T-Mobile Prepaid Plans
If you prefer to use a prepay plan, you're in luck. There are four types of T-Mobile prepaid plans: individual monthly plans, pay as you go plans, mobile internet plans, and the international tourist plan.
1. Individual Monthly Plans
There are three Simply Prepaid plans available, ranging from 3GB to 10GB of high-speed 4G LTE data. You'll receive unlimited talk and text, as well as the option to tack on international services. There are two types of international services you can apply to your plan: Mexico and Canada Unlimited, which grants you with unlimited talk, text, and data in all three countries, and Stateside International Talk, which allows you to call and text from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to countries overseas.
With these plans, you'll also be able to stream as much music as you'd like with Music Unlimited.
If you don't need a T-Mobile unlimited plan, you can opt for the Basic Monthly Plans, which grant you unlimited text and the internet but only 100 minutes of talk. The Basic Monthly Plan isn't suitable for those who spend a lot of time actually talking on the phone, however it may be a great senior cell phone plan option.
More options in the individual monthly plan category include Simple Choice Prepaid plans (which are tricky to find). These plans come complete with Music Freedom and the Binge On service, which allows you to stream music and video without using your data. However, these features are only available with the 6GB plans and up.
There are three types of plans to choose from, ranging from 2GB of 4G LTE Data to 10GB of 4G LTE Data. You can also add Stateside International Talk to these plans.
2. Pay As You Go
There are three types of Pay As You Go plans. The first one, which is only $3 per month, grants you with any combination of 30 minutes of talk or 30 texts. If you want more, you can always add additional talk and text at a low flat rate of 10 cents per minute or per message.
However, if you want high-speed data, you can always purchase one of two high-speed data passes. There are a daily pass and a weekly pass. The daily pass provides you with up to 500MB of 4G LTE data, and the weekly pass grants you with up to 1GB of 4G LTE data.
3. Mobile Internet Plans
T-Mobile's mobile internet plans allow you use your high-speed data in Canada and Mexico at no extra charge, provides you with unlimited music streaming on the network without using up your data, and features no overage fees or annual service contracts. Plans auto renew after 30 days and range between 2GB of 4G LTE data and 22GB of 4G LTE data.
You can also purchase day, week, or month passes. Day passes provide you with up to 500MB of data, weekly passes with up to 1GB of T-Mobile LTE data, and 30-day passes with up to 3GB of high-speed data.
Read More: Need a hotspot? No worries, we have you covered with buyer's guide to hotspot plans.
4. T-Mobile Tourist Plan
For only a certain fee for three weeks, you can connect like a local with the T-Mobile Tourist Plan. You'll receive unlimited data, but with up to 2GB at 4G LTE speed, unlimited domestic and international texting to over 140 countries and destinations, 1,000 minutes of domestic talk within the U.S., and a free T-Mobile SIM card for your unlocked phone. To use this plan, you need to:
- Bring an unlocked phone with you to the U.S.
- Order your Tourist Kit online or pick it up at a T-Mobile store.
- Sign up, pay, and activate the plan either online or in the store.
Ever since late January of 2017, T-Mobile has scrubbed away most of its postpaid plans in favor of the T-Mobile One postpay plan. Beginning February 2017, taxes and fees are automatically included in the T-Mobile One plans, so what you see as advertised is what you get.
T-Mobile One sports nothing but unlimited text, talk, and high-speed data. However, it's not 100 percent truly unlimited data. The top 3 percent of data users may face slow speeds during congestion periods until the next billing cycle. Furthermore, the basic T-Mobile One plan only lets you stream videos at 480p and tether at Max 3G speeds.
You can always upgrade T-Mobile One, however, to either T-Mobile ONE Plus or T-Mobile ONE Plus International.
T-Mobile ONE Plus provides you with the added benefits of Gogo Full Flight Unlimited Wi-Fi, the ability to travel abroad with 2x the data speed, voicemail to text, Name ID and unlimited HD day passes for video streaming.
T-Mobile ONE Plus International, on the other hand, provides you with:
- Gogo Full Flight Unlimited Wi-Fi
- The ability to travel abroad with 2x the data speeds
- Voicemail to text
- Name ID
- Unlimited HD passes for video streaming
- Unlimited international calling to landlines in over 70 countries and mobile phone numbers in over 30 countries
- Unlimited hotspot use at LTE speeds
As an incentive, T-Mobile recently introduced KickBack. If you don't use much data, you'll receive up to $10 back in bill credits every month for each T-Mobile ONE line that uses less than 2GB. Furthermore, you can also skip the credit check with T-Mobile ONE.
Though it is advertised that you'll receive four lines, you can always add more lines to the plan. In fact, you can add more than nine lines to the plan.
Read More: Ready to make the switch to T-Mobile? Find out everything you need to know here.
Sim Card Activation Kit
T-Mobile offers two types of SIM card activation kits: a phone SIM card or a tablet SIM card. The Prepaid (and Non-prepaid) 3-in-1 Sim Starter Kits are some of the most expensive kits around, but these are compatible with unlocked phones designed for the GSM network. If you're unsure of what a GSM network is, you can refer to our guide on "CDMA vs. GSM: What's the Difference?"
The other kit is the T-Mobile Prepaid Mobile Internet 3-in-1 SIM Kit, which fits all LTE and GSM tablets and hotspots. The kit includes a nano SIM card with micro and standard SIM adapters. For more information about SIM cards, go here.
Pro Tip: Some newer CDMA phones are compatible with T-Mobile service. These are called global or dual-SIM devices. If you have an older iPhone or Android phone, you'll have to verify compatibility before you switch to T-Mobile.
How to Activate Your Device
To activate your device, your device must be unlocked. T-Mobile, unfortunately, cannot assist customers otherwise. You can find out how to unlock iPhone or Android devices using our guide: how to unlock phones.
Next, you use T-Mobile's online compatibility checker to verify compatibility. The device must support the frequencies used by T-Mobile.
Then, you need to select the right T-Mobile SIM card. Otherwise, if you ordered a SIM card through T-Mobile.com or 1-800-TMOBILE you may begin service by slipping your SIM card into your device. You should be ready to go from there.
However, if you are bringing your own tablet or hotspot, you may choose your data plan and open your T-Mobile account by calling 1-844-575-9402 or go through the manual activation process step-by-step online.
Furthermore, if you did not purchase your phone or SIM cards from T-Mobile.com or 1-800-TMOBILE, you can also go through the manual activation process online.
Are T-Mobile BYOP Plans Right for You?
T-Mobile plans offer flexibility along with plenty of incentives. It also holds the crown for best customer service among the four major wireless carriers. All of the carrier's offerings, including T-Mobile unlimited plans, prepay plans, and international plans, are also plenty affordable. Even better: the company is continually expanding T-Mobile coverage into rural areas, one of its weak points in the past.
Overall, you should ensure that the T-Mobile network covers your area, but it definitely earns a strong recommendation from me.
You check out our BYOP plan comparison guide to see how T-Mobile compares to Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint. You can hear our thoughts about who we believe has the best cell phone plan by checking out our buyer's guide to cell phone plans.