Why and How I Switched from AT&T to T-Mobile

I recently switched from AT&T to T-Mobile. Here’s a quick post that goes through why and how I made the swtich.

2/22/2017 Update: T-Mobile just introduced the 2 lines for $100 plan, so T-Mobile is now $480/year less expensive than AT&T.

Why I Switched from AT&T to T-Mobile

I’ve been an AT&T customer for 14 years and have been relatively happy with their phone service and their customer service has been fine for me. But I’ve been recently traveling outside of the US a lot and could have really used data and phone during those trips. AT&T international plans are ridiculously expensive, so I could never bring myself to do that. I’ve heard horror stories of people being charged thousands of dollars just because they turned on their phone in a different country. So, I just kept my phone in Airplane mode anytime I was out of the US.

I was hestitant to switch because everyone says the T-Mobile coverage isn’t as good as AT&T and I didn’t want to lose my AT&T grandfathered unlimited data plan. But AT&T recently informed me that my plan was going to go up by $5 a line. I have two lines, so that’s an additional $120 a year. I reached out to AT&T and they said there’s nothing they can do and they would understand if I switched to T-Mobile.

The base T-Mobile plan is $120 for two lines and that includes unlimited everything. After the AT&T price increase I would be paying $140 with AT&T. So, that’s $240 more a year to stay with AT&T with less features. If I were to try to get an equivalent AT&T plan it would be at least $200 a month - and that would require me to signup for DirectTV, which I don’t want.

I recently took a trip to Japan, so I figured it would be the perfect time to try out T-Mobile and see if the coverage and international data plan worked well. T-Mobile gives you a try out period of 15 days. If you cancel service before 15 days, they will refund you the sign-up fee of $20 per line.

T-Mobile was also running a promo that gives me a $150 pre-paid credit card per line. So, that’s an extra $300.

Here’s what I like about the T-Mobile plan:
1. Unlimited data, voice and text. While I had unlimited data with AT&T, I was still only at 200 texts a month and 500 voice minutes a month.
2. Personal hotspot - This allows me to use my phone as a mobile hotspot, so I can have internet on my laptop. I have already used this a bunch.
3. Simple pricing - $120/month includes all taxes and fees. It’s basically a set price for unlimited everything and then you pay more if you want faster international speeds. Given that I’m only going to use international data to book Ubers, Maps and Yelp, etc. I don’t really need faster than 2G for that.

Here’s what I don’t like about T-Mobile:
1. Data speeds: They are about half of what AT&T is. From my house AT&T is about 60mbps and T-Mobile about 25mbps. It is a noticeable difference when using the phone, but I’m on WiFi most of the time at home and work and I haven’t had any streaming issues on my commute, so I’m able to deal with the speed difference. And it’s not a big enough difference for me to stay with AT&T.
2. Coverage: I noticed that T-Mobile has a lot fewer bars than AT&T. In my home it is about 1-2 bars, while AT&T is 4-5. I knew going into this decision that I would have to give up some coverage, but it hasn’t been a serious issue for me yet.

How I Signed up for T-Mobile

1. Make sure your phone is unlocked. AT&T will do this for you without any repercussions. You can request that your phone be unlocked via the AT&T website’s Device Unlock Page. It took about 24 hours for mine to be unlocked and I got an email notification when it was complete. They recommend allowing 24-48 hours.

2. Stop by a local T-Mobile shop. They will test your phone to make sure it is unlocked and sign you up for a plan. I was in and out of the store in 20 minutes.

Make sure you sign up for temporary numbers. Don’t port your numbers until you have tried out the service for a few weeks to make sure it works for you.

How I Ported My Numbers from AT&T to T-Mobile

After trying out T-Mobile for a few weeks I decided to make the switch. I was really hard to pass up unlimited everything, including international data for $20 less a month than what I was paying with AT&T.

From my phone I just dialed 611 and told them I want to port my numbers. I gave them my AT&T numbers and they ported them in a few minutes. I restarted my phones and everything was working just fine.

Hope this helps you think through whether or not you should make the switch and how to do so.