Julie’s gadget diary – Test driving T-Mobile day 2

{ 19 comments }

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Yesterday was my first day testing a phone on T-Mobile’s network. I was very encouraged with the speedtest.net results at my house and even in my basement. Considering that I live in the middle of 12 wooded acres with no DSL, cable, etc., it’s surprising that they have LTE in my immediate area. But I just happen to live less than one mile from a cell tower which has Verizon equipment on it and I’m guessing it now has T-Mobile equipment on it as well. So last night I checked the box for acceptable home coverage and looked forward to test number two: coverage on my drive into work. 

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The Test Drive iPhone 5S had full bars as I was driving down my driveway and out to the main highway this morning. Signal strength continued to be great until I was past the cell tower. Then I saw the dreaded No Service message in the status bar. Crud! The total service blackout lasted for about five miles before it finally came back. When it did come back the status showed T-Mobile E instead of just T-Mobile or T-Mobile LTE. I’m guessing that E is the equivalent to 2G. The phone started showing LTE as I got closer to the city limits. My Verizon Wireless LG G3 had two or more signal bars for the entire drive and never drops out when I’m streaming music.

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T-Mobile’s coverage maps paint a rosier picture of their coverage area than what I experienced. If you click the image above for a larger view, you’ll see that according to T-Mobile, I should have full coverage from my house all the way into my office taking State Rd. 46 the whole way. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case.

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Once I got into the office at my desk, the T-Mobile iPhone consistently showed four bars with LTE all day and won the majority of speedtest.net tests compared to my LG G3 on the Verizon network.

I had planned to let Jeanne take the iPhone to try at her office tomorrow, but I don’t see a need to do that now that I know I won’t be making a switch. If I lived inside the city limits, T-Mobile would probably work just fine for my needs, but the fact that I have a five mile long dead spot on my drives to and from work is a deal breaker for me. Even though it’s only a few minutes without coverage, I stream music using Pandora or Spotify during my morning and afternoon drives. Not being able to do that would be a bummer. And of course, not being able to make and receive calls for that five mile stretch would be a safety concern. So I’m sticking with Verizon Wireless but will considering doing another test drive with T-Mobile at some point in the next six months or so.

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Mike T May 12, 2015, 6:48 pm

    Five miles on the road with no service == no go.

    Mike T

  • Ryan Chapman May 12, 2015, 7:46 pm

    Coverage is the #1 reason we stay with Verizon. I could go to T-Mobile and have great coverage here since Dave does, but when I go back to the Midwest… It’s a different story. I wish we could switch since we pay an arm and a leg for service, but what can we do? =/

    I’m also one of those suckers who still loves subsidized phones. Verizon’s Edge or T-Mobile’s Next plans don’t appeal to me. At least for now, Verizon still allows me to buy on contract. Since I can’t see T-Mobile expanding to podunk Missouri anytime soon, we’ll be (unhappily) sticking with Verizon for years anyway!

  • Julie Strietelmeier May 12, 2015, 8:07 pm

    I’m not unhappy with Verizon. They are the best carrier in my area for me. At least for now.

    • Ryan Chapman May 13, 2015, 3:17 am

      I should rephrase that my pocketbook is unhappily staying with Verizon. 😉 Service-wise, we are happy.

  • Martin May 12, 2015, 9:31 pm

    Little disappointed in your findings, been a T-mobile subscriber for years and wish it was right for everyone. Glad though you are willing to give them another shot in the near future, a 5 mile dead zone really isn’t that much to over come for them but you, as the one in the dead zone it’s absolutely unacceptable, especially when your current provider doesn’t have that issue.

  • Andrew May 12, 2015, 9:39 pm

    I would at least talk to T-Mobile about it being their own coverage map shows you should have plenty of service.

    • Julie Strietelmeier May 13, 2015, 7:22 am

      @Andrew I definitely will when I return the phone to a T-Mobile store this weekend. The same area was a deadzone for Verizon for years until they beefed up their coverage.

  • Rob Tillotson May 12, 2015, 10:07 pm

    I’m not sure if I should be surprised that they (or any carrier) would overestimate their coverage by so much that you’d get a five mile gap. At first I thought maybe they were using band 12 there (which that iPhone doesn’t support) but nope, Columbus appears to be inside the exclusion radius of a TV station in Louisville so that can’t be it.

    Just within the last few months their listed coverage where I live has gone from EDGE only to LTE too… I wonder if it’s accurate? Oh well, I have almost a full two years left with Sprint anyway so I don’t care 🙂

    • Martin May 12, 2015, 10:34 pm

      From what I gather, and could very well be mistaken, but I thought T-Mobile’s coverage maps are now populated by users.

  • David Carlson May 13, 2015, 9:24 am

    I was interested in this as we have been VW users for years and years and years. After reading numerous articles that said how much we are paying for the (hidden) phone subsidization we finally decided to bite that bullet and switch from VW to Tmobile, unlocked phones and no contract. I will say that I have noticed coverage is not as consistent as VW but not enough to make a difference or, so far at least (it’s only been about 3 months) for me to regret the decision. So far, so good. And I will say that our monthly wireless bill is now about half of what it was previously plus we have no limits on data.

  • Lynn Lopez May 13, 2015, 12:06 pm

    Bummer the test did not work out for you. I am on ATT and have been since they were Cingular way back when. While I am not really happy with their pricing I just cannot beat their coverage here in Texas. I ride a motorcycle often out in the middle of nowhere and I cannot count the number of times I have been the only person to have any coverage at all while my friends on Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile have not had any. I consider it a major safety factor to be able to call for help if an accident were to happen. I have had to use my phone on two different occasions when an accident has happened and I am the only person to have coverage. I think if you tend to stay in the highly populated areas most folks won’t have any issues with most providers. It is those of us that live and wander in the edges that have to be more picky.

  • p51d007 May 13, 2015, 10:14 pm

    I’ve been with at&t (cingular before that) since the mid 90’s and even though I switched to straight talk, I use the at&t sim. Never had an issue with coverage where I live (southwest Missouri). For me, at&t works, but t-mobile, Sprint suck. Verizon is pretty good down here, but at&t was pretty covered here long before Verizon bought out Altel.

  • Dave Wood May 14, 2015, 6:53 am

    Sorry to hear T-Mo didn’t work as well for you. I live in Louisville KY and T-Mo is fantastic. Only problem is occasional building penetration but coverage has improved exponentially since I joined in 2005. They do need to build out their network though to the suburbs and rural areas if they are to remain viable, however. John Legere talks a good game and has delivered in many aspects, but they still have a ways to go. I do think T-Mo advocates for the customer while AT&T and VZW try to rip customers off any way possible. Hopefully the pain points will be resolved reasonably soon and you’ll have a better experience with Magenta next time.

  • Dave Wood May 14, 2015, 7:24 am

    ..and I agree with a previous commenter who said you should definitely let T-Mo customer service know about your experience. They have a very dynamic presence on Twitter. I would also contact a site called T-Mo News and let them know as well. Only way service will improve is for folks to tell them about the gaps and the fact that their maps don’t necessarily reflect the reality of coverage.

    • Julie Strietelmeier May 14, 2015, 7:32 am

      @Dave Hi neighbor 🙂 Yes, I will definitely let them know about the problem with coverage on my drive to/from work. I have to return the phone over the weekend to a T-mobile store.

      • Dave Wood May 14, 2015, 11:57 am

        Good deal, Julie. Hope they listen to you. I’ve been to Columbus on different occasions. Very lovely. Neighbors indeed!..enjoy your posts and look forward to reading many more of them. Keep up the good work!

  • jhon May 15, 2015, 11:46 am

    I have straight talk with both an ATT and Tmobile sim and an unlocked iphone 5.

    Currently my t-mobile sim is active but if I’m going to an area where tmobile service is sketchy (say Big Sur) I call up straight talk and have them activate the ATT sim (takes about 5-10 mins for the “off” sim to activate in my experience). I keep the “off” sim stuffed in my iphone case.

    The DOWNSIDE is straight talk doesn’t ROAM. It’s a ‘downside’ I can accept. For under $45/mo I get unlimited data (5 GB/mo at LTE (was 3 GB/mo — they just changed it) then edge speed) and unlimited calls/text AND I can fairly easy swap networks easily and fast as needed.

    • jhon May 15, 2015, 11:48 am

      “AND I can fairly easy swap networks easily and fast as needed.”
      Ugh… need edit. Lets try that again..

      AND I can fairly easily and quickly swap networks as needed.

  • gobluetwo June 18, 2015, 5:21 pm

    Glad you posted this diary! I’ve been looking for anything more recent, as I’m on Day 1 of my test drive. I literally have zero service inside my house. Sure, there are a couple of rooms (master bedroom, kitchen) where I get a single bar, but the rest of the house is a no-go, even by windows.

    Outside is better, although my wife’s VZW iPhone 5 is faster than the TMO 5s in our driveway. I’m going into the office tomorrow, so will see how the reception is there. I’m cautiously optimistic. I’ll also be going to our downtown office Monday and then out of town next Tuesday, so that’s another opportunity to try it out (airports, parking garages, skyscraper, different city, train station, etc.).

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