So I got all excited about the $10 offer for the T-Mobile Simple Plan last month. It is a 'data only' offer from T-Mobile that gives you 1GB of data on their LTE network in the US and unlimited international roaming.
I thought that this would be a perfect tool for simple and cheap international roaming. While in some countries, getting a local SIM card with a 3G connection is quick and easy (notably Malaysia), it can be expensive (Singapore) or seriously eat into your vacation time (Peru, Colombia, Argentina) – like I highlighted with my struggles to purchase a SIM card in Peru.
I mainly use my iPhone abroad for Google Maps, Foursquare (to find food and sights) and texting. So I do not need lightning-fast internet but an EDGE connection is what I want at least.
I went to the nearest T-Mobile store at Market Street in San Francisco and the store attendant had no idea what I was talking about. He'd never heard about it and 'data plans without a voice package do not exist'.
On to the next store and the person manning the counter knew immediately what I was talking about. He told me that my social security number was required for a credit check. He told me that would be a 'soft check' but as we know it's a hard inquiry. He also confirmed the $10 cost for the monthly plan.
However, just after he was done with the credit check he told me the monthly cost was now $20. I should have known better when he made those false statements about the credit check. Anyways the manager came over and literally said sorry but there is nothing she can do (not even adjusting the purchase).
T-Mobile plans can be cancelled at any time and carry no early cancellation charges but I at least wanted to try the card.
I plugged the card into my unlocked iPhone 5 and had a connection immediately. While T-Mobile's 3G network is spotty and data speed is low (unless you are really close to a cell tower) the LTE network is very fast and has a much better coverage. It's not AT&T or Verizon but it works in many locations.
Note that you can't tether it to your laptop with that simple plan. Also texting seems included (at least in the US) even as the plan comes without voice and texting.
LTE speeds easily came up to 10Mbit and ping times were under 40ms. That's fast even for a WiFi connection! That's as fast as AT&T.
Now T-Mobile plans come with unlimited roaming in 100+ countries. AT&T charges quite a premium for that (depending on data usage up to 1GB per month).
T-Mobile promises EDGE speeds in all these 115 countries and it's for free. That's awesome!
I'm currently testing the roaming in Vancouver, Canada and while the connection is roaming at Rogers with LTE or 4G, the speeds are throttled. Just 0.1 Mbit in the speed test. However, I'm not sure if that is the whole story since some apps (Google Maps, Foursquare, Instagram) load just a bit slower than normal while others (notably browsing) are extremely slow. So it seems T-Mobile is throttling data speeds irrespective of your connection. The company promises 128kbps and that's exactly what you get (at least, if not more).
While I wish things would be a little faster when roaming, this is a great tool when traveling. Buying a local SIM card can be a big hassle and when you hop from country to country in a couple of days, a roaming phone can be a life saver!