Wireless carriers’ efforts to pick up new customers are built on deals that sometimes sound good but don’t always add up for consumers. Still, those offers keep coming.
Right now Verizon, the largest carrier, with reportedly 153 million customers, and T-Mobile, the third largest, with half that number, are again inviting consumers to compare, contrast and (possibly) make a change.
On Wednesday, Verizon slashed the price of its prepaid plans to $65 (from $75) for unlimited use, and offered some other new prices for a variety of plans.
But right after the Verizon deal became known, T-Mobile unveiled its unlimited prepaid plan, for just $50 a month, down from an unlimited plan that previously cost $70.
That deal is, yes, cheaper than Verizon’s. The prepaid crowd is the most price-sensitive part of the business, so that discount could look pretty attractive.
It’s also available for only a limited time, though, and T-Mobile is not saying when it ends. And it comes with some restrictions.
For example, T-Mobile notes in small print that the unlimited plan only applies to domestic use, and warns that a “small fraction” of consumers who use more than 500 GB a month “may notice reduced speeds” during periods of “congestion.” Video typically streams at 480p.
Verizon’s plan comes with fewer restrictions, and is not a limited-time deal.
Because it tries to be so different, T-Mobile calls itself the "Un-Carrier" and prides itself on a loose corporate style. A Fortune magazine piece on the Top 100 Places To Work earlier this year noted the company's disrupter attitude: "T-Mobile was far ahead of AT&T and Verizon in 2016 in scrapping monthly data limits and the annoying overage charges they generated—forcing its bigger rivals to follow suit."
Its recently announced T-Mobile One plan, for example, offers unlimited talk, text and data, unlimited streaming, a deal for texting on flights, mobile hotspot data, and free Netflix, among other features, at a price the Strategy Analytics research firm said last week provides $1,550.71 a year in savings per line over competitors.
Deals like that keep T-Mobile attractive, especially for heavy users. It usually works well in urban areas, but it is dogged by a reputation for spotty service in New York City and out in the hinterlands, though the carrier has been working to improve on this perception.