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T-Mobile's TVision live TV hands-on: Worth $10 if you're already a customer

The TVision Vibe package offers a great mix of live channels for $10. But the more expensive tiers -- and the $50 Hub streamer -- are less compelling.

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- 06:24
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There's never been a better time to cut the cord. These days, more than ever, people are looking to save money on streaming, and the selection of robust, affordable live TV streaming services make cable TV totally unnecessary. T-Mobile is throwing its hat into the ring with its revamped TVision service. After spending some quality hands-on time with TVision, I can tell you that it offers one tier that promises particularly good value at just $10 per month. The more expensive options? It's complicated.

TVision began as a not-so-affordable cable replacement in 2019, but the service is now similar in concept to app-based services like Sling TV and Philo. At the moment it's available only to T-Mobile and Sprint wireless customers, while everyone else should be able to sign up in 2021, though likely for higher prices.

The entry-level tier, TVision Vibe, offers a grab bag of solid cable channels for $10 a month. There's nothing else that comes close to that pricing -- the next-cheapest option is Philo, which costs twice as much. Vibe is so cheap because its channel selection is very limited: no sports, news or local channels (ABC, Fox and NBC), and if that's OK with you, it's worth trying out.

In December, T-Mobile added the channels that were once exclusive to Vibe to the higher-end Live Packages, starting at $40 a month. While the company says the offer is only available for a "limited time" it is unable to say when it will end. A T-Mobile representative said that customers who subscribe for the "Live plus Vibe" deal will keep the new channels as long as they keep the account active.

Whichever package you choose the service does offer some excellent usability -- speedy channel surfing and voice search using the optional $50 TVision Hub -- but compared with other apps, its content discovery is lacking. Overall we prefer Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV or YouTube TV over any of the non-Vibe packages, either because the competitors' channel-for-the-money ratios make more sense and/or their apps are better.

What is it? 

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TVision is a live TV streaming service exclusive to T-Mobile customers, and it includes a live TV guide, on-demand content and up to 100 hours of DVR. There are four different tiers:

  • TVision Vibe: $10 a month, 30 channels
  • TVision Live TV: $40 a month, 35 channels (plus Vibe for a limited time)
  • TVision Live TV Plus: $50 a month, 65 channels (plus Vibe for a limited time)
  • TVision Live Zone: $60 a month, 78 channels (plus Vibe for a limited time)

Vibe includes channels such as AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, Comedy Central and the Discovery Channel, while the Live tiers add local channels including ABC, Fox and NBC (but not CBS) in select markets, as well as Cartoon Network, CNN, ESPN and Fox News. In addition, TVision offers Starz ($9), Showtime ($11) and Epix ($6) as add-ons or stand-alones. See the end of this article for a comparison with other services. With the addition of Vibe the Live packages are much more compelling than they were previously.

The service is compatible with Apple iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as TV streamers and smart TVs including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV/Google TV. But T-Mobile is hoping you'll opt for the TVision branded Hub.

The $40-plus Live plans include 100 hours of cloud DVR storage, while those on Vibe or the add-ons can add 100 hours of DVR for $5 per month. 

TVision Hub: Useful but not essential

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The TVision Hub is a $50 Android TV box with a separate Google Assistant-capable remote. Though you don't need the TVision Hub to use the service, the remote integrates TVision-specific functions. 

The TVision Hub is virtually indistinguishable from the TiVo Stream 4K and it's also very similar to the Chromecast. All of these products are priced at $50 and offer essentially the same functionality. Though there's very little reason to buy the Hub instead of the Google product if you don't use T-Mobile's TV service, the Hub does offer TVision-specific integration through the remote and voice search. 

The remote offers three new buttons -- Guide, DVR and TVision -- as well as incorporating a number pad for directly inputting a channel's number. 

The TVision app: Zippy but disorganized

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T-Mobile's new TVision app works on a variety of devices. 

T-Mobile

Having used AT&T Watch TV in the past, and being used to its general sluggishness, I was pleasantly surprised by how zippy the app was -- both when using the TVision Hub and on a (T-Mobile supplied) iPad Pro. Changing channels was quick, and skimming the guide was also very fast. Suffice to say, its general responsiveness is the best thing about the service. But being fast isn't the only thing people care about.

Content discovery is important to any streaming service -- for though you sometimes know what you want to watch, often you're just trying to find something interesting. This is one area where the TVision app does particularly poorly. Sure, it has a standard grid-style program guide like cable, but beyond that it's kind of a mess.

The app is broken up into five main sections: Home, Guide, Shows, DVR and Search. To get the menu onscreen, you need to press the TVision app button on your controller -- pressing the Enter button brings up the playback controls. Unfortunately, the Shows subsection is the worst of all. It's a jumble of random on-demand and recordable shows, but until you click on a title, there's no indication of which it is.

If you're using another device that isn't the Hub -- as most users of the service will be -- the interface is slightly different. For example, the iPad app keeps the options onscreen unless you're watching a show. The back button brings the menu up again, as it does on the TVision device.

Channel surfing is familiar on TVision: Press up or down while watching a program and it'll switch to the next channel. It's fast, taking only a couple of seconds. In comparison, AT&T TV Now could take up to 10 seconds to "flip."

Channel comparison

Below I've included a comparison between TVision and the competition spanning 100 of the top channels. Not every channel is included, but all the major ones are.

Philo subscribers should definitely take a look at Vibe. Though Philo has a DVR and more channels overall, they share a lot of lifestyle favorites like AMC, Comedy Central and HGTV.

The $40 TVision Live package is $10 more than Sling TV Blue but has ABC, Fox and NBC locals in some markets, and a lot more channels overall (at least as long as that limited-time offer remains good). If you're a T-Mobile customer it looks like a pretty good deal, and there are no other streaming services to really compete with that right now. Especially after Hulu hiked its prices to $65.

For more details TVision channel comparison.

Top 100 channels compared

Channel TVision Vibe ($10) Philo ($20) Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) TVision Live TV ($40) AT&T TV Now ($55) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu Plus Live TV ($65)
Total channels in Top 100 27 40 26 38 60 45 75 62
ABC No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS No No No No No Yes Yes Yes
Fox No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
NBC No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
PBS No No No No No No Yes No
CW No No No No No Yes Yes Yes
MyNetworkTV No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Channel TVision Vibe ($10) Philo ($20) Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) TVision Live TV ($40) AT&T TV Now ($55) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65)
A&E No Yes Yes Yes No $ No Yes
ACC Network No No $ No $ $ Yes Yes
AMC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes $ Yes No
Animal Planet Yes Yes No No Yes $ Yes Yes
BBC America Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes $ Yes No
BBC World News Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ Yes No
BET Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Big Ten Network No No No $ $ $ Yes Yes
Bloomberg TV No No Yes Yes No $ No Yes
Boomerang No No $ $ $ Yes No Yes
Bravo No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Channel TVision Vibe ($10) Philo ($20) Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) TVision Live TV ($40) AT&T TV Now ($55) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65)
Cartoon Network No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
CBS Sports Network No No No No No $ Yes Yes
Cheddar No Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Cinemax No No No No No $ $ $
CMT Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ Yes No
CNBC No No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
CNN No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Comedy Central Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Cooking Channel No Yes $ $ No $ No $
Destination America No Yes $ $ No $ No $
Discovery Channel Yes Yes No Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
Disney Channel No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney Junior No No $ No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Disney XD No No $ No Yes Yes Yes Yes
DIY Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ No $
E! No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
EPIX No $ $ $ No $ $ No
ESPN No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPN 2 No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
ESPNEWS No No $ No $ $ Yes Yes
ESPNU No No $ No $ $ Yes Yes
Channel TVision Vibe ($10) Philo ($20) Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) TVision Live TV ($40) AT&T TV Now ($55) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65)
Food Network Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
Fox Business No No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox News No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 1 No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fox Sports 2 No No No $ Yes $ Yes Yes
Freeform No No Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
FX Movies No No No $ $ Yes Yes Yes
FXX No No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
FYI No Yes $ $ No $ No Yes
Golf Channel No No No $ $ $ Yes Yes
Hallmark Yes Yes $ $ Yes Yes No No
HBO No No No No No $ $ $
HGTV Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
History No Yes Yes Yes No $ No Yes
HLN No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
IFC Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes $ Yes No
Investigation Discovery Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
Lifetime No Yes Yes Yes No $ No Yes
Lifetime Movie Network No Yes $ $ No $ No Yes
Channel TVision Vibe ($10) Philo ($20) Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) TVision Live TV ($40) AT&T TV Now ($55) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65)
MLB Network No No $ $ No $ Yes No
Motor Trend Yes Yes Yes No Yes $ Yes Yes
MSNBC No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
MTV Yes Yes $ $ Yes Yes Yes No
MTV2 Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ No No
National Geographic No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Nat Geo Wild No No No $ $ Yes Yes Yes
NBA TV No No $ $ No $ Yes No
NBC Sports Network No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Newsy No Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No
NFL Network No No No Yes $ No Yes No
NFL Red Zone No No No $ $ No $ No
NHL Network No No $ $ No $ No No
Nickelodeon Yes Yes No No Yes Yes Yes No
Nick Jr. Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Nicktoons No Yes $ $ Yes $ No No
OWN Yes Yes No No Yes $ Yes No
Oxygen No No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes
Paramount Network Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ Yes No
Channel TVision Vibe ($10) Philo ($20) Sling Orange ($30) Sling Blue ($30) TVision Live TV ($40) AT&T TV Now ($55) YouTube TV ($65) Hulu with Live TV ($65)
Science No Yes $ $ No $ No $
SEC Network No No $ No $ $ Yes Yes
Showtime No No $ $ No $ $ $
Smithsonian No No No No No $ Yes Yes
Starz No $ $ $ No $ $ $
Sundance TV Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ Yes No
Syfy No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tastemade No Yes $ $ No $ Yes No
TBS No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
TCM No No $ $ $ Yes Yes Yes
Telemundo No No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Tennis Channel No No $ $ No $ No No
TLC Yes Yes No Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
TNT No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Travel Channel Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes $ Yes Yes
TruTV No No $ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
TV Land Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ Yes No
USA Network No No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
VH1 Yes Yes $ $ Yes Yes Yes No
Viceland No Yes Yes Yes No $ No Yes
Weather Channel No No No No No $ No No
WE tv Yes Yes $ $ Yes $ Yes No