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purdnost

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 2, 2018
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I just switched from T-Mobile postpaid to prepaid 2.5 GB using an eSIM and I have some questions about the service. Hoping someone with experience can help me.

  1. Is the T-Mobile app only for postpaid customers? I need to access the prepaid web portal to manage my account?
  2. Is it recommended to set up a SIM pin?
  3. Does the Connect plan use 5G? I didn’t think it did, but I’m not sure.
  4. Does low data mode automatically disable background app refresh for stock iPhone apps?
  5. Is the high efficiency cellular streaming format for music automatically selected when low data mode is enabled?
 

ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
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  1. The app is only for postpaid customers. At one point, it supported the prior prepaid system's accounts (I think), but doesn't support anything on the current one (internally known as Rebellion if you see that around at all). The web page is going to be the easiest. Keep in mind that when you're signing up, pick a 6-digit PIN for the account, as it avoids a bug when you go to make your My T-Mobile login.
  2. A SIM pin (through the settings on your phone) is only if someone removes your SIM and tries to use it in another phone, it won't do anything for your account.
  3. Connect supports 5G. Unlike the other two US carriers, T-Mobile allows even the lowliest Connect and Mobile Internet plans (those are the data-only prepaid plans you can also use in your phone) access to 5G. If you're in an area with n41—Ultra Capacity 5G by their branding, you can get speeds of 400Mbps+. They got that spectrum from the Sprint purchase, so it's being slowly set up. The other flavor of 5G, n71 "Extended Range" will give you speeds in the 1-100Mbps range typically. If you use Ookla's Speedtest app, that traffic doesn't count against your cap.
  4. I'm not sure on this one, but I think so.
  5. It doesn't look like it changes automatically.
It's a pretty decent plan otherwise, especially as it gets the same priority as most postpaid plans (Simple Choice, One, Magenta) and ahead of Essentials, Metro, and other MVNOs.
 

purdnost

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 2, 2018
344
90
  1. The app is only for postpaid customers. At one point, it supported the prior prepaid system's accounts (I think), but doesn't support anything on the current one (internally known as Rebellion if you see that around at all). The web page is going to be the easiest. Keep in mind that when you're signing up, pick a 6-digit PIN for the account, as it avoids a bug when you go to make your My T-Mobile login.
  2. A SIM pin (through the settings on your phone) is only if someone removes your SIM and tries to use it in another phone, it won't do anything for your account.
  3. Connect supports 5G. Unlike the other two US carriers, T-Mobile allows even the lowliest Connect and Mobile Internet plans (those are the data-only prepaid plans you can also use in your phone) access to 5G. If you're in an area with n41—Ultra Capacity 5G by their branding, you can get speeds of 400Mbps+. They got that spectrum from the Sprint purchase, so it's being slowly set up. The other flavor of 5G, n71 "Extended Range" will give you speeds in the 1-100Mbps range typically. If you use Ookla's Speedtest app, that traffic doesn't count against your cap.
  4. I'm not sure on this one, but I think so.
  5. It doesn't look like it changes automatically.
It's a pretty decent plan otherwise, especially as it gets the same priority as most postpaid plans (Simple Choice, One, Magenta) and ahead of Essentials, Metro, and other MVNOs.
Thanks for the reply!

I’ve been happy with the prepaid plan thus far. Working from home, I was only ever using around 2-3 GB of data per month anyway. Now that my wife and I are on prepaid plans, we’re saving over $70 a month! Switching was pretty easy. I downloaded the T-Mobile eSIM app and used it to sign up for the plan. Pulled the postpaid SIM from my phone. The My T-Mobile website even has everything You need to port your postpaid plan number over. It’s also nice that they give you 500 MB increase in data cap every year for five years. All in all, a great value! I also plan on purchasing the refill cards through Target to skip the taxes and fees. I’m also getting cash back when purchasing them with my credit card.

Addressing your responses to my questions:

2. According to Apple’s website: ”Every time you restart your device or remove the SIM card, your SIM card will automatically lock and you'll see ’Locked SIM’ in the status bar.“ — So, this will also work with eSIMs. Just not sure if it’s really providing much protection though. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201529

3. Does 5G affect speed only and not data consumption? For example, if I enabled LTE only, it wouldn’t stretch my data use at all, would it?

4. According to Apple: “Music: Automatic downloads and high quality streaming are turned off.” https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210596

A couple more questions:

Most of my data seems to be stemming from Settings < Carrier < System Services < Messaging Services. I take it unlimited texts applies to just text and that photos and/or videos are what’s eating up my data?

I heard somewhere that Messages, and Maps work even when you’ve hit your data cap. Any idea if this is true?

i was on the Essentials plan before switching. So, you’re saying I’m getting higher prioritization now than when I was on the Essentials plan?
 

ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
1,360
293
Addressing your responses to my questions:

2. According to Apple’s website: ”Every time you restart your device or remove the SIM card, your SIM card will automatically lock and you'll see ’Locked SIM’ in the status bar.“ — So, this will also work with eSIMs. Just not sure if it’s really providing much protection though. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201529

3. Does 5G affect speed only and not data consumption? For example, if I enabled LTE only, it wouldn’t stretch my data use at all, would it?

4. According to Apple: “Music: Automatic downloads and high quality streaming are turned off.” https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT210596

A couple more questions:

Most of my data seems to be stemming from Settings < Carrier < System Services < Messaging Services. I take it unlimited texts applies to just text and that photos and/or videos are what’s eating up my data?

I heard somewhere that Messages, and Maps work even when you’ve hit your data cap. Any idea if this is true?

i was on the Essentials plan before switching. So, you’re saying I’m getting higher prioritization now than when I was on the Essentials plan?
Sounds like you're all up and running and the Target refill cards are a great idea! Let's see....

The SIM lock is exactly as you'd expect—if someone were to pop out a physical SIM and put it in another phone, you'd get the same PIN prompt (I used to have this on my Motorola RAZR way back when). The idea is to get around SIM/service theft, but it's only tied to that particular SIM card. I suspect eSIM is just along for the ride, but doesn't really help with much. What it won't protect against is if someone moves your service through social engineering/fraud/etc. to an entirely new SIM card, but that's probably beyond the scope of any of this.

5G only affects speeds/service (much like 3G->LTE), so keeping things LTE-only won't let you squeeze out a bit more data. The only time this would affect it is if you have "Allow More Data on 5G" turned on, which ups the quality of FaceTime videos and allows for "enhanced experiences" in other apps according to Apple: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211828 If you leave it on Standard, it's the same as when you're using LTE.

Unlimited texts applies to good ol' SMS and MMS messages, iMessage still counts against your data cap. I had heard that once you hit the cap, iMessages work, but only actual text (not pictures/videos/etc.) and the push notifications and Maps works. I wonder if one particular Apple server is allowed through (much like some airlines that allow free messaging over Wi-Fi.)

As far as prioritization goes, it's a bit of a guessing game because no carriers really explicitly say who falls where, but there are often clues such as an "after X data, speeds may slow" or other disclaimers. It's thought to be that any T-Mobile-branded prepaid plans get the same priority as postpaid with the exception of Essentials, but this only really comes into play if you're on a congested tower (and 5G also alleviates that a bit)—this is a pretty good write-up on it: https://coveragecritic.com/mobile-phone-service/t-mobiles-data-prioritization-and-deprioritization/
 

purdnost

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 2, 2018
344
90
Sounds like you're all up and running and the Target refill cards are a great idea! Let's see....

The SIM lock is exactly as you'd expect—if someone were to pop out a physical SIM and put it in another phone, you'd get the same PIN prompt (I used to have this on my Motorola RAZR way back when). The idea is to get around SIM/service theft, but it's only tied to that particular SIM card. I suspect eSIM is just along for the ride, but doesn't really help with much. What it won't protect against is if someone moves your service through social engineering/fraud/etc. to an entirely new SIM card, but that's probably beyond the scope of any of this.

5G only affects speeds/service (much like 3G->LTE), so keeping things LTE-only won't let you squeeze out a bit more data. The only time this would affect it is if you have "Allow More Data on 5G" turned on, which ups the quality of FaceTime videos and allows for "enhanced experiences" in other apps according to Apple: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT211828 If you leave it on Standard, it's the same as when you're using LTE.

Unlimited texts applies to good ol' SMS and MMS messages, iMessage still counts against your data cap. I had heard that once you hit the cap, iMessages work, but only actual text (not pictures/videos/etc.) and the push notifications and Maps works. I wonder if one particular Apple server is allowed through (much like some airlines that allow free messaging over Wi-Fi.)

As far as prioritization goes, it's a bit of a guessing game because no carriers really explicitly say who falls where, but there are often clues such as an "after X data, speeds may slow" or other disclaimers. It's thought to be that any T-Mobile-branded prepaid plans get the same priority as postpaid with the exception of Essentials, but this only really comes into play if you're on a congested tower (and 5G also alleviates that a bit)—this is a pretty good write-up on it: https://coveragecritic.com/mobile-phone-service/t-mobiles-data-prioritization-and-deprioritization/
Very helpful. Thank you for your informative responses.

I actually enjoy learning to be more self conscious about how I use my phone. I’ve found that a lot of things can wait until I’m on Wi-Fi.

I read on Reddit that after the data cap is reached, you can still send strictly text messages, use Maps, receive push notifications, run speed tests (I’m guessing the Speedtest app), and access the My T-Mobile account page.

I noticed when I go to “Profile information“ on the My T-Mobile profile menu that it lists primary phone number and other linked number (both are the same number). Wondering why it’s displaying like that…

I noticed the other day that one suspected spam call was blocked. Is there a way I can view any/all add-ons to my line? TheT-Mobile app used to show me all of the add-ons for my line. I think I enabled it when I signed up for prepaid. Just curious if there’s a way to access all of that online.
 

ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
1,360
293
I read on Reddit that after the data cap is reached, you can still send strictly text messages, use Maps, receive push notifications, run speed tests (I’m guessing the Speedtest app), and access the My T-Mobile account page.

I noticed when I go to “Profile information“ on the My T-Mobile profile menu that it lists primary phone number and other linked number (both are the same number). Wondering why it’s displaying like that…

I noticed the other day that one suspected spam call was blocked. Is there a way I can view any/all add-ons to my line? TheT-Mobile app used to show me all of the add-ons for my line. I think I enabled it when I signed up for prepaid. Just curious if there’s a way to access all of that online.
Yep, Reddit is where I saw people confirming that, too. Speed tests have to go through the Ookla servers/app to be allowed...any others (Google, Fast.com, etc.) will count.

The primary number/other linked number thing seems to be if you add multiple lines to your account. I don't think it actually works, although there's an option to add a line. When I tried with a hotspot line and my phone line at the time, it broke things and I had to set them up on separate logins anyway.

As for features, if you log in and go to Line Details and Change Plan & Services, it will show you your plan, and the services section has Call Protection Services. These will change based on the plan you have (i.e. if you upgrade to the $40 one, it will let you add on international services. Other than that, there's a few more in My Profile > Blocking Controls and Family Controls.
 

purdnost

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 2, 2018
344
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Yep, Reddit is where I saw people confirming that, too. Speed tests have to go through the Ookla servers/app to be allowed...any others (Google, Fast.com, etc.) will count.

The primary number/other linked number thing seems to be if you add multiple lines to your account. I don't think it actually works, although there's an option to add a line. When I tried with a hotspot line and my phone line at the time, it broke things and I had to set them up on separate logins anyway.

As for features, if you log in and go to Line Details and Change Plan & Services, it will show you your plan, and the services section has Call Protection Services. These will change based on the plan you have (i.e. if you upgrade to the $40 one, it will let you add on international services. Other than that, there's a few more in My Profile > Blocking Controls and Family Controls.
I’m not seeing call protection services here: https://prepaid.t-mobile.com/change-plans-services/rate-plans
 

ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
1,360
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purdnost

macrumors 6502
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Dec 2, 2018
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ecschwarz

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So, apparently these are services that are configured at the time of activating or extending a plan. Not seeing how these settings can be changed outside of that window.
If you keep the same plan on the first page (might need to click a different one and then click back on the 2.5GB one), then click "Continue to Services," you should be able to enable them.

You can also enable them with the short code in the phone dialer: #436# (I think does both)
 

purdnost

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 2, 2018
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If you keep the same plan on the first page (might need to click a different one and then click back on the 2.5GB one), then click "Continue to Services," you should be able to enable them.

You can also enable them with the short code in the phone dialer: #436# (I think does both)
Do you know if the My T-Mobile webpage uses data? For example, if I’m checking my line’s data usage while on the go.
 

purdnost

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 2, 2018
344
90
If you keep the same plan on the first page (might need to click a different one and then click back on the 2.5GB one), then click "Continue to Services," you should be able to enable them.

You can also enable them with the short code in the phone dialer: #436# (I think does both)
One more question — I purchased a $50 refill card on sale for $45 on Target.com. Can I split the refill amongst two different lines/devices, or do they all have to be applied/activated at once?
 

ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
1,360
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Do you know if the My T-Mobile webpage uses data? For example, if I’m checking my line’s data usage while on the go.
I don't think it does, but you can also do #WEB# from the dialer to get you current data usage, which might be quicker (I've added it to Favorites in the past.)

One more question — I purchased a $50 refill card on sale for $45 on Target.com. Can I split the refill amongst two different lines/devices, or do they all have to be applied/activated at once?
Nah, has to go on one account/line, so you're looking at 3 months of service and then a little bit of leftover.
 

purdnost

macrumors 6502
Original poster
Dec 2, 2018
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I don't think it does, but you can also do #WEB# from the dialer to get you current data usage, which might be quicker (I've added it to Favorites in the past.)


Nah, has to go on one account/line, so you're looking at 3 months of service and then a little bit of leftover.
So, I’ll need to wait to activate it on the day that my current cycle ends so that I get a full three months? And the $5 leftover will just disappear after three months are up?
 

ecschwarz

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Jun 28, 2010
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So, I’ll need to wait to activate it on the day that my current cycle ends so that I get a full three months? And the $5 leftover will just disappear after three months are up?
Nope, you can load on as much as you like at any time. It'll sit on your account and then be slowly depleted (think iTunes/App Store gift cards). If you have a credit/debit card on file for autopay, the refills get used first. Let's say your plan resets on the 22nd and you load a $50 on there today, here's what would happen:
  • 8/2: Load $50
  • 8/22: Billing cycle resets, -$15, $35 left
  • 9/22: Billing cycle resets, -$15, $20 left
  • 10/22: Billing cycle resets, -$15, $5 left
  • 11/22: Billing cycle resets, $5 is used and the remaining $10 would have to come from your credit/debit card on file or on another refill loaded before this date.
With the Target sales, if people aren't going anywhere, they may get a few gift cards and load up on service for a few months. I always caution against too much, just in case service degrades and you want to bail.
 

purdnost

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Dec 2, 2018
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Nope, you can load on as much as you like at any time. It'll sit on your account and then be slowly depleted (think iTunes/App Store gift cards). If you have a credit/debit card on file for autopay, the refills get used first. Let's say your plan resets on the 22nd and you load a $50 on there today, here's what would happen:
  • 8/2: Load $50
  • 8/22: Billing cycle resets, -$15, $35 left
  • 9/22: Billing cycle resets, -$15, $20 left
  • 10/22: Billing cycle resets, -$15, $5 left
  • 11/22: Billing cycle resets, $5 is used and the remaining $10 would have to come from your credit/debit card on file or on another refill loaded before this date.
With the Target sales, if people aren't going anywhere, they may get a few gift cards and load up on service for a few months. I always caution against too much, just in case service degrades and you want to bail.
Thanks for clarifying that. I called T-Mobile just to double-check and they said that the funds never expire, so after 3 months, I’ll still have $5 from my $50 refill card available for use. I was just confused because the Target product page says “Lasts up to: 1 Year” and “Active Timeframe: 3 Months”.

With the Target sales, it’s common to see $5 off refill cards $50 and over, and it will save me more money in the long run if I buy two $50 refill cards over time and save $10 than to buy one $100 refill card and save $5.
 

ecschwarz

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Jun 28, 2010
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Thanks for clarifying that. I called T-Mobile just to double-check and they said that the funds never expire, so after 3 months, I’ll still have $5 from my $50 refill card available for use. I was just confused because the Target product page says “Lasts up to: 1 Year” and “Active Timeframe: 3 Months”.

With the Target sales, it’s common to see $5 off refill cards $50 and over, and it will save me more money in the long run if I buy two $50 refill cards over time and save $10 than to buy one $100 refill card and save $5.
Yeah, I seem to recall not that long ago, there was a 1-year expiration on funds that would show up on the main account page and loading more would kick that down the road another year (i.e. you couldn't load $1000 and then expect to have years worth of service). They did away with that around the time the Connect plans were started, so now it's just a balance that you pull from.

I think some of the Target disclaimers are just generic ones, as different prepaid carriers have different rules—for example, AT&T has actual balance expiration dates based on the cost of the card and when it's loaded.

The Target sales usually happen about once a month and it's either the $5 off $50 or buy-one-get-one-10%-off. I've done both for myself and family members' accounts I manage on other prepaid carriers and it's worked out nicely.
 

WildSky

Contributor
Apr 16, 2020
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East of the sun, west of the moon
This is a very helpful thread, so thanks @purdnost and @ecschwarz! I'm considering the same switch, from T-Mobile postpaid to the 2.5GB prepaid. One question (and sorry if I missed it in your posts): did you port your postpaid number to prepaid, and if so, how did it go using the e-sim app, and do you have any tips? Did you do it within the e-sim app or the regular T-Mobile account app, and if so, did you do that first or after you did the e-sim bit?

Also do you need to take any steps to cancel the postpaid account?
 
Last edited:

ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
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This is a very helpful thread, so thanks @purdnost and @ecschwarz! I'm considering the same switch, from T-Mobile postpaid to the 2.5GB prepaid. One question (and sorry if I missed it in your posts): did you port your postpaid number to prepaid, and if so, how did it go using the e-sim app, and do you have any tips? Did you do it within the e-sim app or the regular T-Mobile account app, and if so, did you do that first or after you did the e-sim bit?

Also do you need to take any steps to cancel the postpaid account?
I never ported from T-Mobile postpaid to prepaid, but the eSIM app simply generates a random phone number for you. Once you create a My T-Mobile account for that line, there's an option to port a number by going to "Line details" on the home page, and selecting "Change a phone number" and "Transfer your number." It'll then props for a phone number, account number, and PIN. T-Mobile seems okay with "porting" from one of their billing systems to another, so you may be able to just move it that way. A store may be able to also make the change without needing to sign up through the eSIM app (i.e. they set up a new account, move the number over, then move to eSIM on your phone, but I'm not sure...@purdnost might be able to answer how that move went for them.)

Once you move the number over, that line on postpaid is canceled, so just keep an eye out for a final bill.

The T-Mobile app currently doesn't support prepaid accounts and the eSIM app is only for starting service...once generated, you can delete the app.

Another question: how does using a refill card (as you mentioned from Target) avoid the taxes and fees?

The way taxes and fees work with most prepaid carriers is that they're charged at the point of sale for the card (i.e. a $25 card may be $27.50 when you add in E911 and sales tax) and then not charged tax when redeemed (that example card would pay for $25 of service). For some reason, target.com and kroger.com in some areas don't charge sales tax or E911, so if you buy a $25 refill, it will be $25 out the door. In general, the taxes/fees are generally not as much as postpaid.

All-inclusive services like Cricket include taxes/E911, so those refills are always the flat rate. Best Buy got into some trouble because they were charging tax in stores for those, so people were being double-taxed (at the point of sale and then the included with service), so they had to mail checks out to people.
 
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WildSky

Contributor
Apr 16, 2020
5,199
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East of the sun, west of the moon
I never ported from T-Mobile postpaid to prepaid, but the eSIM app simply generates a random phone number for you. Once you create a My T-Mobile account for that line, there's an option to port a number by going to "Line details" on the home page, and selecting "Change a phone number" and "Transfer your number." It'll then props for a phone number, account number, and PIN. T-Mobile seems okay with "porting" from one of their billing systems to another, so you may be able to just move it that way. A store may be able to also make the change without needing to sign up through the eSIM app (i.e. they set up a new account, move the number over, then move to eSIM on your phone, but I'm not sure...@purdnost might be able to answer how that move went for them.)

Once you move the number over, that line on postpaid is canceled, so just keep an eye out for a final bill.

The T-Mobile app currently doesn't support prepaid accounts and the eSIM app is only for starting service...once generated, you can delete the app.



The way taxes and fees work with most prepaid carriers is that they're charged at the point of sale for the card (i.e. a $25 card may be $27.50 when you add in E911 and sales tax) and then not charged tax when redeemed (that example card would pay for $25 of service). For some reason, target.com and kroger.com in some areas don't charge sales tax or E911, so if you buy a $25 refill, it will be $25 out the door. In general, the taxes/fees are generally not as much as postpaid.

All-inclusive services like Cricket include taxes/E911, so those refills are always the flat rate. Best Buy got into some trouble because they were charging tax in stores for those, so people were being double-taxed (at the point of sale and then the included with service), so they had to mail checks out to people.
Wow, thanks very much for this excellent explanation! This helps tremendously. 😁
 

WildSky

Contributor
Apr 16, 2020
5,199
4,369
East of the sun, west of the moon
I never ported from T-Mobile postpaid to prepaid, but the eSIM app simply generates a random phone number for you. Once you create a My T-Mobile account for that line, there's an option to port a number by going to "Line details" on the home page, and selecting "Change a phone number" and "Transfer your number." It'll then props for a phone number, account number, and PIN. T-Mobile seems okay with "porting" from one of their billing systems to another, so you may be able to just move it that way. A store may be able to also make the change without needing to sign up through the eSIM app (i.e. they set up a new account, move the number over, then move to eSIM on your phone, but I'm not sure...@purdnost might be able to answer how that move went for them.)
@purdnost, hoping you'll have a moment to add your experience about porting your postpaid number to prepaid. I'd like to have your perspective before I jump into it. I don't want to get halfway through the process and find there's an issue.
 
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