A real love fest went down in the strip mall off the highway in Santa Cruz. We stopped for lunch, at Chipotle of course, and I saw a T-Mobile store. One of my todo items for the following (overloaded) Monday, was to go to T-Mobile and enable wifi calling. But, hey, it's not often you just happen to find yourself in the same parking lot as an open T-Mobile, so may as well get it done early.
As we took care of my business, Justine asked them if she had wifi calling on her plan, too. She didn't, but they could easily upgrade her plan. And that's when I started getting really excited for her, because she was about to get The Greatest Phone Plan Ever.
If you are a traveler who lives in the US, you pretty much need to be on T-Mobile. It's not like Android vs. Apple where there are pros and cons to each-- T-Mobile is just that much better that there's really no comparison. A few reasons why:
1. Free International Data
T-Mobile has free international data in over 120 countries. Other phone companies have it in few or none. This doesn't seem like such a big deal, because you can always go get a SIM card, but it's amazing in practice. When the plane lands, you're getting your emails. If you're somewhere for a day or two, where it's not really practical to get a SIM, you still have internet.
Sure, it's slow, but it's fast enough for email, maps, and looking stuff up online. Rumor has it that certain VoIP programs work well with it. That's against terms and conditions, though, so I can't confirm.
2. Free International Texting
Remember when that one friend from London would text you, and all of a sudden you have to pay fifty cents? And if you wrote him back and had a conversation, all of a sudden you've paid $20 for the privilege. Not with T-Mobile. All texts to and from any country are free. Even on cruise ships, where connectivity is crazy expensive, you can receive (but not send) texts for free.
3. Cheap Calls Back to the US
Most people wouldn't even dare use their phone to call back to the US. How much does that cost? A dollar a minute or something like that? With T-Mobile, it's always 20 cents a minute. Not free or dirt cheap, but cheap enough that if you need to make an important call, you just do it without really thinking about it.
4. WiFi Calling and Texting
It's a tiny bit finicky, but if you have an Apple phone or any T-Mobile branded Android phone, T-Mobile will connect to their network over any wifi connection. I originally said that you could call for free over wifi in other countries, but I've been corrected. They charge the same 20 cents a minute over wifi.
5. Free Texting on Planes
If you're on a plane that has Gogo inflight wifi, you can connect to it and text for free. You don't get free internet, but the texts work. This is most major US carriers on domestic flights.
6. Unlimited Everything Domestically
People actually argue with me because they don't believe that you can get unlimited LTE data. But you can. You get unlimited gigabytes of extremely fast LTE service. Some months I use 2, but others I've used 20. You don't get throttled or anything like that.
7. Free Tethering
You also get 5gb of tethering, which is great for when you're traveling around the US and can't find a good wifi. Most other carriers charge you for this.
8. Service Is Just Really Cheap
All of this would be a moot point if the monthly charge was $500 or something, but it's $100 a month for two lines. Additional lines are $40. This makes it cheaper than pretty much every other decent plan on the market, and it's a really amazing plan.
Of all of the tools and services that help me travel so easily, this has got to be one of the best. It's especially nice that many of my friends have T-Mobile as well, so we just text and email as usual while traveling, with no hassle of hopping around to find wifi.
With all this lavish praise for T-Mobile, you might guess that I've been paid by them or something to write this, but unfortunately it's not true. I'm just really grateful to have such an awesome phone plan, and I know how happy fellow travelers are when they switch.
Photo is a picture of Prague through a stained glass window that happens to be similar to T-Mobile's signature color.
If you know how to program, you can make a gateway from IMAP to SMS to get mail blurbs on planes and cruise ships where you get free incoming texts. I would open source mine, but I copied some IMAP code online and I don't know what the license was on it.
(For those RSS readers who didn't check out the comments on yesterday's post,yes, it was an April Fools day hoax.)
As you probably know, when I get into anything I take it to an extreme and often unreasonable level. Now my phone is no exception.
I already had a pretty cool phone setup. I ported my cell phone number to callcentric.com, a VOIP provider, who then forwarded it to my local cell phone. There were three problems with this, though:
If you’re an iOS or Mac user, chances are good you’ve used or regularly use FaceTime — enabling video calls between Apple devices. With the release of iOS 7 Apple added a FaceTime feature that hasn’t received much fanfare. It’s called FaceTime audio. Rather than saying to Siri “FaceTime my lovely wife” to have a face to face video session including audio, you can instead enjoy a voice only call over FaceTime. You would instead say to Siri “FaceTime audio (insert friend’s name here)”.
A FaceTime Audio call a enables a voice over IP session without using your minutes if your on WiFi or uses your data plan if your on 3G or 4G mobile networks. Using this feature provides high bandwidth audio which delivers voice quality that is much better than traditional cellular carriers provide. I notice this most when talking with AT&T cellular customers where the audio quality sounds very thin and compressed. When you then try a FaceTime Audio call on its heals you’ll immediately notice it sounds 3-4 times better.
Its not all smooth sailing as much depends on the data networks involved for both parties, but if they are solid, you’ll have a far better experience. You can also bump it up to a full FaceTime session with video anytime you choose. Also like FaceTime itself, you can’t conference or do other handy tricks like calling other phone numbers. Only iOS or Mac users can play along, but there are enough of those to make this solution a contender to meet a portion of your voice needs.
In your contacts, when you open a contact entry you’ll see a FaceTime section that now not only includes a camera icon but a handy phone icon too. Siri voice commands also will do the trick.
Talk it up… It’s free or next to it. Give it a spin and reply back with your thoughts.