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How to get T-Mobile's $30/month unlimited data smartphone plan
If you don’t talk on your mobile phone much, but like to use apps, navigation, or any other kind of data-absorbing functions, you know how important a good data plan is. What if we told you that you could pay about $30/month for unlimited data, with the first 5GB at top speeds? Now we’re talking!
The Consumerist recently highlighted the low-cost plan, so we thought it was a good opportunity to let everyone know how to get it. The monthly plan is for 100 minutes of talk, with unlimited data and text. This is great for data hogs who may not need to chat much. Data consumption with decreased talk minutes are increasingly the need of many users, which is why we see data sharing plans from carriers like Verizon.
Keep in mind, this is on the T-Mobile network, which may not be the best in your area. We suggest using Open Signal Maps before considering any new plan, as it will give you a detailed map of which carriers and what service works best in your area.
Finding the plan
On a personal note, this is the plan I have, and can say it is a really nice option for me. I make most calls at home, via Google Talk (I have kept Google talk alive in Gmail until Hangouts can make calls). I rarely make phone calls on my phone, so 100 minutes of talk per month is fine for me. I do use navigation quite a bit when out and about, and also subscribe to All Access on Play Music.
Finding the plan can be tricky, as T-Mobile doesn’t make it immediately noticeable. To find it, you’ll need to visit T-Mobile’s prepaid site, which is also not easy to locate from their main site. After you find the landing page, you’ll see a header of “Unlimited talk + text + web plans”. Tucked at the bottom of that little box, you’ll see a “Browse plans” link. Once you click that, you’re on your way.
After navigating to that page, you’ll see a listing for the plan. There is no way to select it, but if you navigate back towards the top of that page, you’ll see the header “Get Started”. Under that, there will be the option to shop for phones, or bring your own device. This is the turning point.
We have options
If you need a phone, the experience is fairly linear. You select a phone, then a plan, and it arrives in the mail shortly. If you already have a device, as I did with my Nexus 4, you’ll want to select “bring your own device”. Once you do that, you will be redirected to a page for ordering SIM cards. Once again, there is a fork in the road.
Keep in mind, this is a web special plan. You can’t go into a store and get this plan, and it is subject to disappear at any time. Knowing that, if you buy the SIM card, it takes about a week to arrive. You won’t be able to activate the plan before the SIM card arrives, so that’s a week of waiting. It’s also only available for new activations, so if you’re already a T-Mobile subscriber, you’re out of luck for the SIM card option. I’ve had my Nexus 4 since the first day it was available, and this plan has been there the entire time. While the plan is subject to disappear at any time, it hasn’t in quite a while, so the risk seems minimal.
The faster option takes more time
If, like me, you were worried it would go away, there is another option. This one is much quicker, but will cost you more. It requires a bit more leg work, and a phone call to T-Mobile customer service, but will immediately pay dividends.
Keep in mind that current T-Mobile subscribers may be subject to any plan termination fees if they switch plans.
First, you’ll want to head down to your local WalMart to grab a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go phone. You do not need a smartphone, so any device (like the one we linked to) will work. For this to work, T-Mobile customer service informed me that I would need a qualifying phone, as I was already a subscriber and this was only available for new activations.
Once you have the phone, simply give T-Mobile a call and activate with the $30/month plan. The T-Mobile WalMart phones operate on a regular sized SIM card, which your smartphone probably won’t accept. Now, I know what you’re thinking; you don’t want a dumb phone, you want that plan on your kick-ass smartphone! Not to worry, I’ve got a workaround for you.
Once you have the SIM card activated, simply go into your T-Mobile store and let them know you need a micro SIM card instead. They may not ever charge you, but if they do, it’s about a dollar for a new SIM card. Once they do their network magic, your new Micro SIM card will be activated, and you can just drop it into your phone. You’ve now got the $30/month plan on your smartphone!
Keep in mind that current T-Mobile subscribers may be subject to any plan termination fees if they switch plans. Hopefully, you’re already a prepaid customer and can simply let your old plan expire. Everything ports over to your new plan, so there is nothing to worry about in that respect.
You’re probably stuck with a dumb phone you simply don’t care to have at this point, if you chose option two. You have a few options on what to do with that device, and may end up paying it forward as a result.
First, you can hang onto the phone for emergencies. Keep it in your car in the instance you lose or break your smartphone. Keep a SIM card in it, and dial T-Mobile customer service to activate it as needed. You can also activate it with a different plan and use it as a home phone, depending on how the service is in your area.
What I did was donate my device to a local women’s shelter. Often times, those ladies have been abused, or are otherwise in desperate need of a place to stay while they get their lives rebooted. A cell phone can go a long way, and do a lot of good for them, perhaps even saving their life. You can also donate your device to charities which give them to soldiers overseas so they can talk with their families. Whatever charity you choose, it’s a simple, easy way to give someone a much needed help to those in need.
For what it’s worth
I am a huge proponent of prepaid service, and find this plan perfect for my needs. Another great option is to set up autopay, so you don’t have to worry about monthly calls or visits to a T-Mobile store to make payments. As it’s not a contracted plan, you won’t have any sticker shock month-to-month. T-Mobile will take $30 each month, and not a penny more.
If you happen to need more minutes in a given month, you can simply add money to your account. I wouldn’t suggest getting a different plan for a month and dropping the $30/month plan, as it can always go away, and you wouldn’t be able to get it back. You could always get an additional SIM with a different plan and switch them out as needed.
If this sounds like the plan for you, these are your best options for getting it. With the new Nexus Experience HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 coming soon, this is something to consider. Most of us will bring in our own device, and this is wildly popular among Nexus 4 owners. A $300 phone, and $30 per month for service? If you do the math, I bet you’ll end up saving a ton of money with that scheme.