Mobile phone carriers typically compete in three key areas: price, coverage and network speed. T-Mobile does as well, but adds a fourth area to the list: freebies.
The self-proclaimed "Uncarrier" offers a wealth of extra goodies to subscribers -- so many, in fact, that I thought it might be worthwhile to gather them in a list.
Full disclosure: I'm not a T-Mobile subscriber, shareholder, fanboy, paid shill or anything like that. I'm a cheapskate (also: The Cheapskate), and I frequently find myself wondering if all these goodies add up to a reason to switch.
See, right now I'm with Cricket, which I think offers a virtually unbeatable 5-line Basic plan for $100. But I sometimes run into issues or limitations that a T-Mobile subscription might solve. And, of course, I love free stuff -- even if I know it's not really "free."
So here's a list of what's included with a T-Mobile One or One Plus subscription (in addition to unlimited calls, texts and 4G LTE data -- those are a given):
Freebies and discounts
This is where the rational part of my brain shuts down, because free donuts?! Sometimes, yes: Every Tuesday, T-Mobile serves up a small helping of freebies and discounts. For example, a few weeks back, every subscriber scored a free $2 Dunkin' Donuts gift card, a $2 movie ticket (via Fandango) and 30 percent off Groupon Local deals (though such Groupon discounts are hardly rare).
Other T-Mobile Tuesdays have awarded discounts on Papa John's and Chipotle, a free month of ad-free Slacker Radio, free ebooks, free movie rentals and so on. These are, admittedly, some small-potato items, but sometimes the giveaways get good -- like, really good. Last week, you could sign up for a free year of baseball-streaming service MLB.TV Premium, which has a value of $112.99.
And part of the fun is not knowing what's coming up next, though you can get a preview of the upcoming week if you don't want to wait. (Spoiler alert: Tomorrow's prizes include a one-year subscription to your choice of 13 magazines, a free Redbox rental and -- wait for it -- a $2 Dunkin' Donuts promo card!)
I love in-flight Wi-Fi, but I hate paying for it. A T-Mo subscription includes one free hour of the service on all flights that offer it. (One Plus subscribers get it for the entire flight.) All subscribers get free in-flight texting. Of course, all this is limited to your phone. If you want Wi-Fi for your laptop, you'll have to buy it, same as always.
Free international action
T-Mo greatly simplifies traveling abroad, as your subscription includes unlimited data and texting in over 140 countries. (Calls cost 20 cents per minute.) However, don't expect to stream any video: The average data speed is 128Kbps. Fortunately, if your destination is Canada or Mexico, you'll enjoy pretty much the same plan you get in the US: unlimited calls, text messages and 4G LTE data.
This is arguably T-Mo's biggest claim to fame: unlimited music and video streaming that doesn't count against your data plan (which is unlimited anyway, but gets throttled after a certain amount of usage). That feels particularly generous given that without music and video, most of us could probably get by on 1-2GB per month.
If you happen to live in or near Las Vegas (or you're visiting, natch), you're entitled to various T-Mobile Arena perks, including fast-track entry for any event, seat upgrades at select events and various pre-sale and discount opportunities.
What price free?
As I said previously, these freebies may be tantalizing, but they aren't really free -- they're built into the cost of your subscription. So it's wise to take them out of the equation as you consider which carrier to choose. CNET recently compared the unlimited data plans from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, and it's no spoiler to say T-Mo was not the cheapest option.
However, it does have the highest cap on high-speed data -- 30GB, versus 22-23GB from the others -- and it's one of the cheaper options if you choose a four-line plan. What's more, there are no taxes or fees included with your monthly bill; they're built into the plan pricing.
All else being equal, here's my question: Are T-Mobile's extras enough to warrant a switch from your current carrier? If you've made the switch (or are already a customer), do you find the freebies valuable? Inquiring cheapskates want to know.