Mobile

T-Mobile's confusing 'One' unlimited plan, explained

All the limits on T-Mobile's multiple "single" data plans.

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T-Mobile is "doubling down" on its single, unlimited data plan -- T-Mobile One -- by making it super confusing.

Let me explain: On August 18, T-Mobile announced that it was killing all of its current data plans in favor of a "single, unlimited data plan" called T-Mobile One. Of course, by "single," T-Mobile meant '"with multiple add-ons" (for things like LTE tethering and HD video), and by "unlimited," T-Mobile meant "limited to 128kbps tethering speeds" and "limited to 480p video quality." Like I said: confusing.

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T-Mobile's "One" plan might seem a bit confusing at first.

This announcement rubbed many T-Mobile customers the wrong way, especially those who have been paying less -- $50 per month for 2GB of data, instead of the new $70 per month for "unlimited" data -- so T-Mobile has "listened to customers" and come up with more plans and more limitations. Perfect. Here are the plans, which will take effect for new customers on September 1.

By the way, existing T-Mobile users are not required to switch over to the new plans and may keep their current plan for the time being.

T-Mobile One

The base unlimited plan (which is actually full of limits) starts at $70 per month for the first line. The price drops to $50 per month for the second line and $20 per month (with AutoPay turned on) for each additional line, for up to eight lines. It offers unlimited text, talk and data -- but here are the limitations:

Limits:

  • All video streaming quality is limited to 480p, unless you purchase an HD Day Pass (see below)
  • Tethering is limited to 512 kbps (3G speeds)
  • Smartphone and tablet usage is prioritized over mobile hotspot usage, so you may notice slower speeds if you are tethering
  • If you go over 26GB of data in a month, your data speeds may be throttled when you are in congested areas

T-Mobile One HD Day Pass

If you have the base unlimited plan and you would like to view video -- like Netflix, YouTube and so on -- in 1080p HD instead of 480p, you can purchase a 24-hour HD Day Pass for $3. Or sign up for T-Mobile One Plus.

T-Mobile One Plus

Because T-Mobile's base unlimited plan is not actually unlimited, you can purchase the T-Mobile One Plus unlimited plan (which is... more unlimited, I guess) for an additional $25 per month per line. The total for the base line would then be $95 per month.

The T-Mobile One Plus plan gives you unlimited HD Day Passes, unlimited 4G LTE tethering speeds and faster speeds abroad ("twice the speed," or up to 3G where available). The HD Day Passes are cumbersome, though: They last 24 hours and must be reactivated each time you want to use them.

Limits:

  • HD Day Passes must be reactivated every 24 hours; if you do not activate an HD Day Pass, video will be in 480p resolution
  • Smartphone and tablet usage is prioritized over mobile hotspot usage, so even though you get 4G LTE mobile hotspot speeds... you may not get 4G LTE mobile hotspot speeds on your laptop
  • If you go over 26GB of data in a month, your data speeds may be throttled when you are in congested areas

Woohoo! No limits!

Editors' note: An earlier version of this story reported that the T-Mobile One plans would go into effect on September 6, which is when the original T-Mobile One plan was slated to drop, but the new T-Mobile One plans are now planned for September 1 (new customers only -- existing customers may keep their current plans).