Comparing data, to minutes, to cost, to perks, which carrier is right for your family?
When you're shopping between T-Mobile and Sprint it's important to know how much data you need, how many devices will be on your account, and how much data you expect to use when choosing a sharing plan.
- What sharing plans are available?
- How many devices are allowed on a shared plan?
- How does data work on a shared plan?
- How do talk and text work on a shared plan?
- What perks come with sharing plans?
- Which carrier's shared plan is right for my family?
What sharing plans are available from T-Mobile and Sprint?
Sharing plans allow you to purchase one big chunk of data and divvy it up between all the phones and devices on your account.
T-Mobile doesn't really offer a true sharing plan. Instead of sharing one big chunk of data, each person on your account is given a monthly allotment of data. Once they surpass their data limit, they can still use data on their phone or tablet, but their download speeds will be slower.
Sprint used to offer something called the Family Share Pack, but have now eliminated that program in favor of a more simplified plan for individuals and families called the Better Choice plans, which allow you to share data between multiple devices, just like a familiy plan.
How many devices are allowed on a shared plan?
With both T-Mobile and Sprint you are charged for each device on your plan. Adding smartphones to your plan costs more than adding tablets or wearables, so knowing how many devices you want to share data with will impact your total bill each month.
T-Mobile cost per device
With T-Mobile you can have up to 12 devices on one account. The more devices you add, the cheaper it is per device (until you eventually bottom out at $10 each). Adding a tablet to your T-Mobile plan is only $10/device if you also have a cell phone on your plan, otherwise it's $20.
- Phone 1, $50
- Phone 2, $30
- Phone 3, $10
- Each additional phone $10
- Each additional tablet $10 (or $20 if you don't have a phone)
Sprint cost per device
With Sprint, the price per device depends on whether you lease your phone or pay in monthly installments, or if you're on a two-year service agreement.
- $20/month/smartphone for non-discounted phones
- $40/month/smartphone on a two-year service agreement
- $10/month/tablet (at least one activated phone required)
- $10/month/mobile broadband device (at least one activated phone required)
Remember, if you're not bringing your own phone, your carrier will also charge you a monthly fee to purchase one of their phones. Costs vary, but if you want the most up-to-date phone, you'll be looking at about $25-$30 per month until the device is paid off.
How does data work on a shared plan with T-Mobile and Sprint?
This is where things get tricky. T-Mobile gives you a specific data allotment for each device, whereas Sprint gives you a big pool of data to share.
If you go over on T-Mobile your data speed slows down, but you won't have to pay more. If you go over on Sprint, you have to pay overage fees.
T-Mobile monthly data rates
- 2 GB (included with your monthly charge for each device on your account)
- 6 GB, $15/device
- 10 GB, $30/device
- Unlimited, $45/device
Overage Charges: If you go over your monthly data limit with T-Mobile your connection speed can be reduced (If you have a normal, 4G, LTE connection your speed can be reduce from between 6 and 20 Mbps to between 64 and 128 kbps which is less than a 2G network connection). Even on an unlimited plan, if you exceed 25 GB on a device in one bill cycle your speeds may be reduced. This may only happen during peak use times, or if you're lucky, not at all, but T-Mobile reserves the right to limit your speeds if you go over.
Rollover Data: T-Mobile offers a service called Data Stash which allows you to rollover any unused data in future months and will save this unused, high speed data for an entire year.
Sprint monthly data rates
- 1 GB $20
- 3 GB $30
- 6 GB $45
- 12 GB $60
- 24 GB $80
- 40 GB $100
Sprint also offers an unlimited plan but the pricing structure is a little different than other plans. You pay $75/month for unlimited data and a decreasing amount for each line you want to add bottoming out after your fifth linphone at $30 for each additional line added. Your data speed will be reduced after 23 GB are used in one month.
Overage Charges: All Sprint plans come with unlimited 2G data after you have used up your high speed allotment for the month. This means you will not be charged overage fees, but your data speed will slow way down if you go over your allotment.
Rollover Data: Sprint does not let you rollover your high speed data into the next billing cycle.
How do talk and text work on a shared plan on T-Mobile and Sprint?
Both T-Mobile and Sprint include unlimited talk and text with their shared plans.
T-Mobile includes unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada with any plan, no matter how much data you buy.
Sprint offers free calling to Mexico and Canada when you're in the U.S. Additionally, you can add the Open World plan to your account for free. This gives you unlimited calling and text while travelling in Mexico and Canada (as well as a few other countries) plus you get 1 GB of high-speed data while roaming.
What perks come with share plans from T-Mobile and Sprint?
Sometimes it's tough to decide between one carrier or another, so each provider will offer something to sweeten the pot and hopefully make you choose them over someone else.
T-Mobile's incentive package helps protect your high speed data, by making certain data-draining activities are exempt from your overall high speed data allotment. T-Mobile's Music Freedom allows you to stream music from popular services you already have an account with like Apple Music, Google Music, Pandora, without counting against your data. Binge On works the same way as Music Freedom, but for popular video services you have an account for like YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu.
Sprint doesn't have any perks comparable to T-Mobile, but if you have family living outside of the U.S. their above-mentioned Open World plan has some advantages.
Which carrier's shared plan is right for my family?
Both T-Mobile and Sprint have a lot of room to customize their services based on the needs and budget of your household. For comparison purposes, we will look at share plans that have two phones and two tablets on them.
If you want the absolute cheapest plan, that can be built with Sprint, but you would have a very small amount of data (1GB) to share between devices.
If you want the most high speed data you can get that with T-Mobile, but even though you're buying "unlimited" high speed data, it may start to slow down after you use 25 GB on one device. Sprint offers an unlimited plan as well, but they reserve the right to reduce speeds at 23 GB. Speed reductions could happen only during peak times or, if you're lucky, not at all!
If you want the best value for your data T-Mobile lets you buy the amount of data you think you'll need for each device and won't charge you overage fees.
If you have many devices (5 or more) consider the T-Mobile plan as it's per-device account fee bottoms out at $10 for three or more devices, which is less expensive than Verizon's rates. However, if you only have one smartphone on your account and the rest are tablets or wearables, then Verizon may be a better choice.
If you want to avoid overage fees then T-Mobile is a clear winner since they only slow down your data if you go over your limit instead of charging you per GB of data.
If you're primarily concerned with talk and text from your provider, T-Mobile and Sprint are pretty equal. The only difference is if you frequently travel to Mexico or Canada, Sprint includes unlimited calls and messages plus 1 GB of data while roaming if you upgrade to their free Open World plan
If you already pay for TV service in your home neither T-Mobile or Sprint offer any kind of TV bundling services, so this won't be a deciding factor.
Keep calm and carrier on!
Ultimately choosing a shared plan for your family comes down to how many people are in your home, what devices they use, and what they use them for. T-Mobile and Sprint have slight advantages between each other depending on what category you look at.
Overall T-Mobile's plan offers the most customization and flexibility and their low data prices and lack of overage charges make them a really appealing option for data-hungry households.