With the excitement surrounding all that’s new with T-Mobile today, there was a slight move in prepaid handset pricing that took many by surprise today. To say that it was a slight move is actually a horrible understatement. On average, the prices for most of the prepaid handsets has increased 50-70% over this weekend’s prices. For example, the ZTE Concord was priced at a sub $100 level at $99.99 this weekend, but today the price at www.tmobile.com has increased to $155.99. While the new plans may be Simple, we’re not so sure that T-Mobile is going to be that great of deal for many, or at least not as good as it was.
Taking the new Simple Choice Plans at face value, the $50 plan includes Unlimited Talk, Text and 500MB of data. This is a better offering than their previous Monthly4G plan that offered the same unlimited plan with a lowly 100MB of data at $49.99, but without the added taxes and fees. Let’s take last weekend’s pricing for example here. The 24 month non-contract Monthly4G with that ZTE Concord was a simple $1299.75. With the new pricing on prepaid handsets you would add a quick $55 to that bringing it to a total of $1354.75. Using the cellular tax rate in Seattle, the new Simple Choice Plan the $50 plan will run users $60.50 after taxes and $1607.99. The $10 a month savings will not hurt most people, but the extra 400MB for that $10 is quite a deal. Of course, by jumping up to $59.99 a month in the Monthly4G plans, you increase your data to 2GB a month and still save about $.50 a month.
One can take it a step further and look at other MVNO’s that run off the T-Mobile network and see even bigger savings than the Simple Choice and Monthly4G offerings. Take a quick look at providers like Solavei or Simple Mobile for savings over the standard T-Mobile plans while still offering great coverage. Solavei offers users 4GB of 4G data and unlimited 2G thereafter. Simple Mobile has two plans available, one with 250MB for $40 and the other with “unlimited 4G” for $50. As always, users complain of Simple Mobile putting a soft cap on the data around the 2GB mark, but even figuring that price for a 2GB plan, it’s still a major deal.
If T-Mobile’s answer to dropping their monthly rates is to increase their handset prices from affordable to not-quite-so-much a good deal, we can’t love the move. The LG Optimus L9 was another great deal at their $199.99 street price, but with the new $290.99 price tag, it comes far too close to the Google Nexus 4 to be considered a decent deal. For now, it seems like T-Mobile is dropping themselves to an MVNO by ditching contracts, stretching overpriced phones over 20-24 payments and giving users a $90-100 a month unlimited everything plan depending on that device financing. They have pretty much dropped in line with Sprint’s pricing and as long as the family is happy with low end devices, T-Mobile will be a better deal for most users. But, if everyone wants that new Samsung GS4, you’ll be financing an extra $100-150 a month in phone payments in addition to that lower bill.