Julie’s gadget diary – Test driving T-Mobile

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I was complaining to Dave Rees last Friday about my flaky LG G3 and telling him that I was torn between upgrading now to a Samsung Galaxy S6 or waiting to see what the LG G4 might be like. An upcoming vacation had me thinking about upgrading sooner rather than later in order to get a better camera. But I told him that the place we’re going to is supposed to have pretty poor coverage because it’s in a forest. He then started talking about the WiFi calling feature that he’s used with T-Mobile, which got us talking about their latest family plan deal that is $100 for two lines of unlimited data. That would be a savings over what I pay now with Verizon. But I told him that we don’t have T-Mobile coverage in Columbus, IN or even a T-Mobile store for that matter. Just for kicks, while we were chatting, I pulled up T-Mobile’s site and clicked on their coverage map. I typed in my home address and almost fainted when it showed as having full 4G LTE coverage. When the heck did that happen? I was completely shocked and told Dave who told me to go sign up for their Test Drive, which I immediately did. Dave wrote about his experiences last year when he made the switch. Now I’m checking into it.

I signed up for the T-Mobile Test Drive which consists of them sending an activated iPhone 5s to me use for seven days for free. Before the seven day period is done, I have to return the phone to an actual T-Mobile store. All I had to do was enter my address and give them a credit card number. The credit card info is used to charge me $350 if I fail to return the Test Drive phone at the end of the 7-day trial. They will also charge $100 if the returned phone is damaged. I was a little freaked out that as soon as I hit the submit button, I received a text message on my phone with a fraud alert message. T-Mobile goes ahead and adds a pending transaction for the phone and I had to approve it, which I did.

After I submitted the Test Drive request, I received an email saying that my estimated date to receive the phone would be Wednesday. But this morning I received a UPS notice that it’s actually arriving tomorrow. That’s fast service. Ordered Friday, receiving it Monday.  Nice!

The only very slight bummer is that I’ll have to make a special trip to return the phone, but the nearest T-Mobile store is only about 40 miles away, so it isn’t a huge deal.

I’m excited to see what their service will be like at my house compared to Verizon’s service where I usually only have 1-2 bars. Right now my LG G3 is only showing 1 bar. It will also be fun to use an iPhone for a few days since it’s been awhile.

I’ll be sure and post updates after I get the Test Drive phone tomorrow. This should be interesting!

10 thoughts on “Julie’s gadget diary – Test driving T-Mobile”

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  2. Interested in hearing your experience Julie. I have been with them since it was VoiceStream 15yrs ago. To be honest, a love-hate. Loved being able to unlock my phone and get a sim in europe, often frustrated with lack of signal penetration and low/dead zones. Each time I’ve almost thrown in the towel the service/coverage/cost improved to a point of keeping me as a customer. Now in that mode again wondering if the new LTE buildout and the low frequency bands will finally mean I can get a reasonable signal penetration. John Legere’s audacity is keeping my respect for underdog. So let us (and John Legere) know your experience.

    1. @Greg I was an AT&T (it was Cingular One when I first signed up) customer for several years before switching to Verizon in 2010. So I’ve been with Verizon for almost five years. In addition to coverage, not being locked into a contract and having unlimited data is a big deal to me. So we’ll see what happens once I get the test unit. If the coverage is as good as it looks on “paper”, I just might be switching.

  3. I’ve been a hardcore T-Mobile user since I dumped Sprint some 10+ years ago
    (due to horrible customer service after being with them some 10 or more years).

    I see a lot of ragging on big Magenta, but never had an issue worth mentioning, and their policies on BYOD, tethering, and generally “whatever” as long as you pay the bill, left me laughing at my friends with other carriers.

    Last July I went to Straight Talk with a T-Mob SIM and really have noticed zero difference. Couple this with Voice being my primary phone number, and as long as I have data of some kind, I’m getting calls (including Canada last year when no one else could use their phone).

    Are they Verizon coverage-wise? No, but frankly, even Verizon isn’t “Verizon” any more, and at least T-Mob won’t nickel and dime you for being an uneducated consumer.

    I won’t be changing again until Google opens up GFi to Apps users, in which case I won’t look back.

  4. I’d love to give T-Mo a spin but I travel 4 mid-atlantic eastern states by car and fly to major U.S. cities 3-4 times a year. I trust coverage maps like I trust Times Square watch salesmen. I know T-Mo customers who say if you’re relatively stationary in a good coverage city or town you’ll love it. The T-Mo network doesn’t appear to be designed for road warriors who need coverage on long drives in and out of rural areas.

    1. Lex, I hear you. Live in PA, work in NJ, drive to New England a few times a year, usually at least a flight or two somewhere yearly. My new car is connected with ATT so I will have something to compare it to for data at least. Question is what is rural? Interstates not a problem. Princeton, NJ work in general where others work (best places to take lunch from work are the places where no one’s phone has signal). Allentown, PA fine, Poconos…everything has dead spots in the mountains. Inside a mall or parking garage, big IF…if they added repeaters for TMO like they will have for V and ATT. Being able to hop on most GSM network or get a SIM in the UK, Europe, India has been handy though V LTE now closes that for users and ATT will unlock phones. I am interested if Julie will have a combination of areas to compare LTE as it appears the LTE roll out has really boosted coverage/performance.

      1. @Greg I live in a small town southern Indiana. I travel a couple of times a year outside the state and that’s about it. I’ll mainly be testing the Test Drive phone at my home and about 15 miles east at my day job.

  5. I joined T-Mobile after having a horrible experience with Sprint about 2 years ago now and while T-Mobile coverage can be frustrating at times outside of the bigger cities where I live in upstate South Carolina I have a hard time complaining because of how much cheaper my bill is. I have an iPhone 6 Plus 128GB paid off completely with a total of 9 people on my plan and we all have different configurations of data. I have unlimited data with 3GB hotspot and have an iPad Mini Retina with 5GB of data and I only pay $55. That’s pretty hard to beat. T-Mobile has impressed me a lot since I’ve joined, the LTE speeds are really fast, I’ve seen speeds up to 65mbps in a few places but I average speeds around 12-15mpbs and their coverage has begun to improve dramatically in the past year and and they even have low-band LTE coming which will add even better coverage in buildings and such. In fact it looks like Southern Indiana could be getting that 700mHz low-band coverage soon as there have been sightings of it in Indianapolis a few days ago and the new LG G4 and Galaxy S6 will be able to use that network so you could get really great coverage at the probably around the end of the year or so. When it comes to which phone to get I’d personally recommend waiting for the G4 as it still has expandable storage and removable battery plus a larger screen size while the S6 removed those features but either phone will be great. With each phone you’ll also get VoLTE (Voice over LTE) which will allow you to make a call over LTE which enables you to use the internet while on a call which can actually be a handy feature. Also if you join T-Mobile you can get a T-Mobile router from Asus that will prioritize the wifi calling feature and it will provide great wifi coverage in your home and it’s free after you pay a $25 deposit. The router alone is worth about $200 so that’s another plus. Hope it all works out for you.

    1. @Jason thanks for the comments and advice. I didn’t know about the Asus router. That would be nice to have. I’ve been using a older Apple time capsule that I’d like to upgrade. As for phones, the G4 does sound good to me for the reasons you stated, but my G3 is not even a year old and is having all kinds of problems that make me a little leary of going with LG again…

  6. @Lex, look at tmobilestmobile’s new coverage map, 100% user based now. No more tricky salesmen coverage maps, they come from real people using real phones on their network.

  7. I have always tried to use smaller businesses when possible, mom and pops etc, we were with SunCom for years here in North Carolina and coverage was OK at best but hung in with them. T-mobile ended up buying SunCom and have stayed with them going on 9 years now IIRC, coverage has gotten better, cost has remained well below what I find with the other major carriers, they carry a good selection of phones and I don’t travel often so for me, T-Mobile fits the bill pretty good, plus as mentioned they offer perks that others charge for. My Asus router is an example, they didn’t charge me anything for it because I have been a long term customer, performance is good and it supports WiFi calling out the box should I need it.

    If they have acceptable service in your area, it’s pretty much a no brainer, save some cash while not giving anything up in return.

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