The T-Mobile iPhone: How to Do the Math

Here's how to run the numbers to see if you can get a good monthly deal on the T-Mobile iPhone.

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T-Mobile is now taking pre-orders on the iPhone 5, and hoping to lure people over from larger carriers with the promise of cheap wireless service.

While there’s no shortage of articles and charts comparing T-Mobile’s new plans to other carriers, I’ve come to realize that it’s hard to make those comparisons in a general way. Every user is different, so doing the math based on hypothetical situations might not help you.

So rather than trying to figure out whether the T-Mobile iPhone is a good deal for you, I’ve put together some steps to figuring it out on your own. Teach a man to fish, and all that:

  1. Start with the base cost of T-Mobile service. For individuals, that’s $50 per month for 500 MB, $60 per month for 2 GB and $70 per month for unlimited data. All plans include unlimited voice and text, and there are no overage fees if you go over your data limit–just slower speeds.
  2. Families: For a second line, add another $30 per month for 500-MB plans, $40 for 2 GB, and $50 for unlimited data. For each line after that (up to five lines total), add another $10 per month for 500 MB, $20 for 2 GB and $30 for unlimited data.
  3. Add another $20 per month, per iPhone, which goes toward paying off the device in monthly installments over two years.
  4. Compare the total to your current monthly wireless bill.

Now you know how T-Mobile compares with your current carrier for the first two years of service. After two years, your bill on T-Mobile will be $20 per month cheaper, at least until you buy a new phone.

But you should also consider that the up-front cost of the iPhone is $100 cheaper on T-Mobile than it is everywhere else. This can make a big difference on the total, two-year cost of ownership, especially for families with multiple iPhones. Therefore:

  1. Multiply your current monthly bill by 24. Do the same for what your monthly bill would be on T-Mobile.
  2. Add $200 per iPhone to the total for your current carrier. Add $100 per iPhone for T-Mobile.

Now you have the total, two-year cost of ownership of the iPhone 5, both on your current carrier and on T-Mobile.

Besides money, there are other factors to consider. Right now, not all of T-Mobile’s network provides faster 3G and 4G speeds on the iPhone. Check out this map to find out if those speeds are supported in your area. You’ll get slower 2G speeds everywhere else. (Correction: T-Mobile’s iPhone is a tweaked model that supports the carrier’s AWS spectrum. That means it’ll get the same 4G coverage as any other T-Mobile phone. T-Mobile’s website has a map that shows all 3G and 4G coverage.)

As for 4G LTE, T-Mobile only has it in seven markets for now: Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose and Washington, D.C. Other carriers have much broader 4G LTE support, especially AT&T and Verizon.

On the plus side for T-Mobile, every plan includes 500 MB of mobile hotspot use for free, and 2-GB plans get an extra 2 GB of mobile hotspot use–although both count toward your monthly data limit. That means you can get online with your tablets or laptops by using your phone as a wireless hotspot. Some carriers, such as Sprint and Verizon, charge extra for hotspot use if you have unlimited data, and AT&T doesn’t allow hotspot use without a 5 GB plan or shared data plan.

In most cases, if saving money is the goal, odds are T-Mobile will be cheaper, or will at least give you more service for roughly the same price.  But by doing the math, you can figure out how much you’ll save, and whether that’s worth the risk of dealing with T-Mobile’s smaller network.

11 comments
eagle11772
eagle11772

I was with T-Mobile for about 2 years on Long Island and I HATED them.  I could not make a reliable call from inside my home in Patchogue to Smithtown, just 17 miles away.  I finally ditched them and went with Virgin Mobile with a no-contract flat rate of $25 a month for my Samsung Intercept smartfone.  That is what I am STILL paying now, 3 years later.  If there is a better rate than that, I have not heard of it.  And that INCLUDES UNLIMITED texts and web access. Does anyone know of a better deal ?

Earley
Earley

Good luck getting the IPhone through T-Mobile for 100.00 down per phone.  Complete SCAM.  I've been with T-Mobile for 10years and I only qualify for 275.00 down per phone.  10 years.  I've never missed a payment or been late with a payment and they say this is the best they can do for me.  SCAM.

Chase
Chase

I've been with T-Mobile for 10 years and don't plan on switching anytime soon. I would have if the ATT merger would have happened. There customer service is the best I have ever dealt with, every other business should take notes because they know how it's done. Never have any problems with service and Where I live I'm getting 22 Mb.

Chase
Chase

I've been with T-Mobile for 10 years and don't plan on switching anytime soon. I would have. If the ATT merger would have happened. There customer service is the best out

bellaluna
bellaluna

I like T-Mobile just fine.  I only lose coverage on the mountain, and since I live in a 2G world, I never pay more than $50 a month.

arthisoftseo
arthisoftseo

I don't like that kinds of things. If I at that place then purchase everything on cash. That's good things in USA that T-Mobile gives iPhone on EMI but in Many under development country it doesn't available on Emi. this post is seems good to read.

skinnyblonde4
skinnyblonde4 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Tmobile forgot to mention that the $99 downpayment on the iphone is only for new customers. But for loyal customers of 10 years like myself, you have to pay $279 upfront then $12.50 a month. It's the same $ in the end but kind of annoying that they don't ever mention that...oh, and $100 migration fee! I guess that's the kind of deal you get for being a customer for years on end...lame.

MarisolLopez
MarisolLopez

@skinnyblonde4 Get it right. I've been with T-mobile for 3 years and I just ordered my 16GB Iphone for only $99 down plus tax. Then $20 a month thereafter for two years. So quit making up lame ish, and stop blaming T-mobile for your misunderstanding. 

ThomasJohnson1
ThomasJohnson1 like.author.displayName 1 Like

@skinnyblonde4You are wrong, I just bought an iPhone from T-Mobile and have been a customer for over 6 years. Guess what I paid? $99.00 plus tax (tax on the entire cost of the phone) which was like $53.00. Please know your facts before you spew bologna around. Plus, if you stick with your current plan(which I did) there is no migration fee at all.

guitarpetri
guitarpetri

You forgot to mention that T-Mobile's purchase of MetroPCS will expand their network big time in the very near future. I for one am only waiting for Apple to release the next iPhones to jump on this deal, it fits us with 2 phones perfectly! And the new phones will be at least somewhat better and make the 5 a bit cheaper. Just can't lose by waiting until June!