My Recent Experience with T-Mobile vs AT&T

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Tmobile vs AT&T

I’ve recently had to update my cell phone situation due to work and a change in the cell phone policy.  What I thought would be something quite easy, to move the phone number to my personal account, turned out to be something more complicated and ended up giving me an excuse to try T-Mobile.  Some people may read this account and think that I’m being harsh with AT&T, but I couldn’t receive what I wanted as an end result, and now AT&T opened up the door for an existing customer to move to a competitor.

I’ve been intrigued by the moves that John Legere has made at T-Mobile and their bid to grow their subscriber base by attacking the big two U.S. wireless carriers, AT&T and Verizon.  Smartly, T-Mobile has listened to the largest customer complaints and have provided a service solution that alleviates a lot of these frustrating rules, limitations, and costs associated with being a subscriber at other wireless providers.  As you can see in the stock price, T-Mobile ($TMUS) has had a very large return over the past year.  Subscribers are moving to T-Mobile, but why?
TMUS 1 Year Total Returns Chart

TMUS 1 Year Total Returns data by YCharts

 T-Mobile listened to complaints of users, and constructed wireless plans that are much more friendly, and do not cost as much money.  First, T-Mobile does not have contracts, so no more two-year contract lock-in! Secondly, No international roaming charges. Thirdly, Cheaper service plans including unlimited text and talk.  Even better, T-Mobile will pay the fee to end the two-year contract with your current provider, and even pay you money for your existing phone.  Basically the company has come up with a great service plan and made it extremely easy to switch.  I recommend watching the interview with John Legere at CES – David Pogue with John Legere of T-Mobile

I’ve been a AT&T subscriber for many, many years (back when it was Cingular).  I have an existing personal cell phone with service and pay for 3G for my iPad on my account.  My employer cell phone is also on the AT&T network, but the service account is with my employer.  Because of a change in our cell phone policy at work – to a BYOD plan, we have move our phone number to a personal account (any provider) and will get reimbursed up to $99 per month for the wireless service.  I’m using an iPhone 4S with my company plan currently.  In the end, I wanted the result to be:

  • Eliminate my existing personal phone number.  It was not under contract, and available for an upgrade, but I do not use this phone number much at all anymore
  • Keep my personal iPad 3G service
  • Move the company phone number (which has been released to me by the company) to my personal plan, get a new service plan, and receive an upgraded phone.  I want to move up to the iPhone 5s.

The complication occurs because I wanted to get an upgraded phone.  The company will reimburse up to $199 for an upgrade phone, which mimics the subsidized model that the carriers use (except T-Mobile).  My existing company plan two-year contract has about 6-7 months left until I can receive a new upgrade with signing a new two-year contract.  I do not want to take responsibility for the existing contract, but just want the phone number ported to my account, and begin a new two-year contract where I can get an upgraded phone for $199 for which my company will reimburse me.  I found out that this is impossible.  Even though my company will pay the Early Termination Fee of the existing plan, it is impossible under AT&T’s rules to carry out what I want.  I have to assume financial responsibility of the current contract, and wait the 6-7 months to upgrade my phone.  To me this does not make sense because I can just go to Verizon, have the phone number ported to $VZ, and sign up on a new service plan with a two-year contract and get a new phone.  I can’t do this with AT&T.  I spoke with someone in an AT&T store, and was a little shocked.  So I turned to twitter to complain, which I have never done before but thought it was a good time to see how companies responding to twitter complaints handle these situations.




In about 3-5 minutes I had a response by both companies


So, I had a Direct Message conversation with Phillisa from AT&T for a few minutes, but I basically got the same answer as I did when I was in the store.  Since I have been interested in T-Mobile, but I already had AT&T accounts, I wasn’t going to mess around with trying out a new service provider at this time, but this pushed me in that direction.  The only issue with T-Mobile is their current coverage, but in the major areas of the U.S. they have 4G service and they know this is a problem and looking to expand their spectrum.  I have two international trips coming up in the next two months, so with the no international roaming charges, and $0.20 per minute talk time it would be smart of me to take a look at T-Mobile.  This whole episode gave me a reason to switch.  Some may think that I was trying to be greedy in wanting to upgrade my iPhone, but the 4S is becoming slow running the latest iOS and it is time to upgrade.  Again, I can move to a different provider and meet what I wanted, so why couldn’t I do it with AT&T?

I decided to go with T-Mobile for a couple of reasons.  I’ve got some international travel and the lack of international roaming charges is a big plus for texting and data, and if I need to make or receive a voice call it is $.20 per minute.  It is much more reasonable than the other wireless service providers.  I walked into a local T-Mobile store, and had my new device and service plan in 15 minutes.  I went with the unlimited talk and voice with 2.5GB data plan for $60 per month.  After taxes the total is about $67 per month.  I bought the iPhone 5s which was $699 plus tax.  Out of pocket cost me $165 for the phone and the full tax on the phone.  I am paying $25 per month for 2 years at 0% interest for the rest of the $600 for the phone.  My monthly cost is under $100.  In the end T-mobile was able to give me what I wanted and it was a very easy process.  My phone number is ported over to T-Mobile now.  So far so good with coverage in my area (Dallas), but we will see as I travel around the U.S. and the world.

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