The True Costs

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by Bryan Bowler, Sep 11, 2015.

  1. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Let me start out this thread by saying that in the complex world of different carriers, different plans, grandfathered plans that are no longer available to a new subscriber, plan discounts, and now the many ways you can purchase or lease your device, it is impossible to paint a "one picture fits all" approach to deciding which options people should go with when choosing their carrier and plan. It really is up to each person to carefully do their homework and decide which route is best for them. With that being said, here is my situation. What is yours?

    I'm about to make a big change. For 7 years, I've been holding onto my grandfathered $30 Unlimited Data Plan (UDP) with AT&T. I don't use enormous amounts of data (yet) and usually come in around 2-5 GBs a month. I also have a family plan and my wife has her own data package from AT&T, which is only 250mb a month for $15. You read that right: 250 mega-bytes. She is on wifi most of the time and does not use cell data that often, so she limps by with a meager allotment in an effort to save money.

    I've been fed-up with AT&T for years. Throttling threats, poor customer service, increasing fees to upgrade every year, you name it. I don't like cell phone companies and AT&T usually aggravates me more then they make me happy. But, I thought I was going to do my best to take my $30 UDP to the grave with me. You've heard it before: I might really need that plan one day! (I've been saying that for years.) Well, with the advent of Apple Music, my data needs will increase. I will also be switching from a 5S to a 6S Plus and I'm sure I'll have the propensity to use the phone even more with the bigger screen, and therefore use more data.

    Just yesterday, I had a revelation when watching John Legere's latest T-Mobile videos. He resonates with me (as I'm sure he does with many others) about the greed and poor customer service that's so rampant in the U.S. cell phone industry. I decided to dig deeper and see if it was time for a change.

    Here are the facts for my particular situation:

    $116.50 a month before taxes/fees.
    Two iPhones (5s) on 2-yr subsidized contract
    UDP for one phone w/ 1,000 text messages
    250 mb for other phone w/ 200 text messages
    700 mins, never talk that much
    No tethering
    $45 "upgrade fee" for each phone every 2 yrs when getting the subsidized price

    $100 a month for 2 phones
    10 GB LTE data for each phone
    Unlimited voice, text, and 2G data for both
    Can tether as much of my LTE data as I want
    Data Stash rolls unused data over
    My streaming music will never count against my allotment
    Can use my LTE data, voice and text in Canada or Mexico with no fees
    Unlimited text and 2G data in 120 other countries (no need for a SIM card and unlocked phone)
    Coverage in the U.S. has vastly improved over the last year and looks to be good in my region
    Lifetime coverage guarantee. If I'm not happy, they unlock my phone and I walk away at any time

    As you can see, T-Mobile offers drastically more than AT&T, and without the attitude. And when you measure out the savings of $16.50 a month, it adds up to a savings of $396 over the span of two years. (Which is what I would sign up for if I stayed with AT&T.)

    Ok, assuming reception is good and it should be, T-Mobile is the clear-cut winner in the monthly services department. But what about buying the phone itself? This comparison looks at the cost of a new device for myself. For brevity, I'll only examine the cost of my new phone and not the cost of my wife's new phone. However, I've run the figures for the model she will be getting and will include that figure in the final analysis at the bottom.


    128 GB 6s Plus $499 + $45 upgrade fee = $544. Sell it after 2 years for $175 (estimated) and that brings the two-year cost down to $369, or $184.50 per year

    T-Mobile JOD w/ Introductory Pricing:

    128 GB 6s Plus $199 + 12 mos at $22 = $463 if I turn it in and get a new phone at 12 mos

    128 GB 6s Plus $199 + 18*22 + $164 = $759 if I pay off everything at 12 mos. Then sell the phone for $475 (estimated) and upgrade to the next iPhone. Out of pocket cost: $284.

    128 GB 6s Plus $199 + 18*22 + $164 = $759 if I pay off everything at 18 mos and then wait until the 2-yr point and get the iPhone 7s. Then sell the phone for $175 (estimated) and upgrade to the next iPhone. Out of pocket cost is $584 over two years, or an equivalent of $266 a year.

    So in the cost of the phone analysis, AT&T comes out ahead, but it requires holding on to the phone for two years. If you want to upgrade after one year with T-Mobile, it is far more advantageous to pay of the phone at the 12 month point, sell the phone, and then upgrade. Turning it back in to T-Mobile, as one would reasonably expect, is a losing proposition if you don't mind selling your phone yourself.

    So when it comes down to the final analysis, here is what I get if I go with T-Mobile for the next 2 years:
    Way more tangible benefits.
    Way, way, more data for my wife.
    $396 in monthly plan savings versus AT&T.
    $100 lost on my phone for upgrading at 12 mos (versus 2-yrs with AT&T), but I get to upgrade as a benefit.
    $115 lost on my wife's phone for upgrading at 12 mos (versus 2-yrs with AT&T).
    Total saved after two years: $181

    The only risk is that I'm letting go of my AT&T UDP forever. But what was it really doing for me anyway? 10 GB a month should be plenty for me and if I ever needed more, T-Mobile's Unlimited LTE is only a few bucks more. And, I gain a tremendous amount of benefits with T-Mobile, to include but not limited to, upping my wife's data allotment from 250 mb to 10 GB. From what I can tell, it's T-Mobile for the win!

    I know this is a very long post, but hopefully it will help others think about their particular situation and what the true costs really are. I welcome feedback on my analysis and what I'm about to do (especially before midnight tonight and pre-orders begin!) and I also look forward to hearing about others and how they might be able to save money too.
  2. Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    I'd love some feedback. Does anyone feel like I'm making a bad move by giving up my AT&T UDP for the switch to T-Mobile?
  3. tgi macrumors 65816


    Aug 29, 2012
    Throttling threats? So are saying you've never been throttled? Why would complain about something that hasn't affected you? I've never paid an upgrade fee. Why are you fed up exactly?

    How are you estimating the T-mobile phone will be worth $300 more than the same exact AT&T phone LOL.

    If T-Mobile is a stronger carrier for you, then by all means it makes sense to switch. If your service with AT&T is good, I would suggest checking out their mobile share plans especially if you use <5 GB per month and have 2 lines, you can also tether that way too. I've had nothing but good experiences with AT&T and their customer service. If you're just looking to save money you could also check out an MVNO. I wouldn't give up my AT&T UDP to switch to T-Mobile, but T-Mobile sucks in my area (San Francisco), it may different you.,review-2827.html
  4. Kyotoma macrumors 68000


    Nov 11, 2010
    Carnegie and Ontario
    I would suggest using T-Mobile's test drive to get a feel of the differences between the two service providers. AT&T and T-Mobile both have excellent service here in the Greater Cleveland, Ohio area, but there are some noticeable differences where one carrier has better coverage over the other.

    And yes, there are places where T-Mobile is strong where AT&T is non-existent.
  5. Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Mostly the constant text alerts every time I hit 3.75 GB. I know, it's silly because I can just delete them, but I don't want to run the risk of being throttled just because I'm on a busy cell tower. But admittedly, it hasn't happened yet so perhaps I have no real reason to be bothered by it.

    The first figure is for keeping the AT&T phone for the required 2 years on contract and then selling it. The second figure is for paying off and selling the T-Mobile phone after 12 months. The iPhones are worth a heck of a lot more at the 11.8 month point then the 2.1 year point. That is what accounts for my estimated resell prices.

    Thank you for bringing up these questions -- I really appreciate it. I want people to punch holes in my thinking so I can see if I got it right.
  6. Staindsoul macrumors 6502


    Apr 13, 2010
    I was in the same boat as you. Was paying $153 (with employer discount) to AT&T for 2 lines with unlimited data for 6 years. I cannot stand AT&T but was reluctant to change.

    Changed to T-Mobile a few months ago when they were running the $100 for 2 unlimited lines. LOVE IT!!! The data is actually way faster. Only negative is somewhat poor reception in buildings... but that should change with Band 12 LTE and the new iPhone 6S. My bill now is $118 a month after tax and so happy to be giving money to a company I respect!

    Oh... and T-Mobile paid my ETF fees. No issues. My iPhone 6 was unlocked so I brought that over.
  7. SisterBlue22 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 29, 2015
    I reluctantly gave up my grandfathered AT&T UDP last year, and switched my three lines to a family share plan with 10GB. We've never come close to the 10GB, it turned out cheaper overall, and AT&T now does rollover data. I, too, gripped that UDP in my grubby hand as hard as I could, but once I finally let it go, I never looked back and didn't regret it for a moment.
  8. Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Thanks for the feedback on what it's like post-UDP! I've been guarding it for years too. Sounds like we ned to start a support group for those still gripping on! ;)
  9. Supermallet macrumors 65816


    Sep 19, 2014
    Definitely make sure that T-Mobile is as good or better than AT&T in the areas you need it. The test drive program is perfect for that. Also realize that if you travel a lot, T-Mobile is not good in rural areas and areas between cities. In fact, it's not even necessarily good in every major city. I was in New Orleans back in June and was talking to someone on T-Mo and he told me that there were lots of areas in the city where he had no service at all.

    So, with that caveat understood, T-Mobile is great. The only reason I switched off from them is because I got a Verizon UDP when the Apple bug was letting people create new unlimited accounts.
  10. supersalo macrumors 6502


    May 14, 2010
    You forgot to factor in the line charge per month. You're probably paying $40/month per line.

    On Mobile Share Plans, you can get it down to $15/month per line.

    The Next program is the full price of the phone divided by 30, 24, or 18 plus your line charge (which is either $25 or $15/month per line depending on how much data your mobile share plan has).

    Take that amount and add it to whatever data plan you pick and that's your monthly cost.
  11. jbame macrumors member

    Sep 26, 2012
    I am doing the same thing as you in two weeks. Switching from AT&T UDP to T-Mobile.
  12. gsmornot macrumors 68030


    Sep 29, 2014
    I tried for a long time to keep my unlimited plan but decided in the end to let it go. It was fine when it was just me on the plan but once I added kids, there was no way to beat the pricing of the family share plans. I currently have the 15GB for the price of 10GB plan and we use nearly the whole deal each month. We could use less but don't since we're away from the house quite a bit. Point is, I like my service and plan and its been fine without the unlimited data even though I wish there was a way to have it again and just keep it in the car for hotspot service. Something that never was a option but would be great to have.
  13. berylw macrumors member


    Sep 11, 2008
    New York, NY
    I had T-Mobile years ago and left them for AT&T when it was the only carrier with the iPhone. I just rejoined T-Mobile a couple weeks ago (after unlocking and bringing over my iPhone 6 from AT&T) and have been really pleased. My entire family lives in Canada and I can now call/text them and use my phone when visiting as if I'm just in another state. And the lower monthly cost can't be beat. I'll add that I live in NYC so service here is good. It was also good in Vancouver a couple weeks ago, so so far, no service issues.

    Looking forward to getting my iPhone 6S tonight and moving forward with T-Mobile! It seems like a no-brainer to me to switch, and I'm trying to convince everyone I know! :)
  14. bueller1 macrumors 6502

    Jun 13, 2012
    Had 2 lines on unlimited plans. Like you I held onto them. Until I was fed up with throttling and not being able to tether my iPad. I used to pay about $165 a month for 700 Shared min and unlimited texts. I currently pay around $145 for the same 2 lines, 20GB, unlimited talk and unlimited text. I have a 25% discount on the $100 20GB plan they offer, and both lines are on next. (Installment plans add another $110 or so to my bill). Sweet deal if you ask me
  15. Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    I didn't forget to factor it in because with AT&T I'm grandfathered in on their old plan, which doesn't charge you a monthly fee per smartphone. My monthly bill with AT&T with the services I described is exactly $116.50 a month before taxes/fees.
  16. danilko1 macrumors 6502a


    Jun 21, 2010
    T-Mobile on the West Coast is so spotty, it's laughable. We went up to Crater Lake, last weekend. Halfway there, my son's t-mobile MVNO, had no signal, and it stayed that way until we got back on i5 and the Central Valley. Where as on AT&T, we had signal at the crater's edge, but to be honest, no single for 50 miles around the mountain. My point is, AT&T coverage is better. Around my house, because I live in a big city, my son can survive on T-Mobile. But I wouldn't be able to do it.

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