Unlimited

T-Mobile

Pay for what you use

Google Fi

T-Mobile has moved to an all unlimited structure for its service with variations in the speed and extras to differentiate each plan. This is the better value plan for most smartphone users, as long as they live in an area with T-Mobile coverage.

From $30/mo. at T-Mobile

Pros

  • Unlimited plans
  • Unlimited 3G hotspot
  • More data on higher plans
  • Data in Canada and Mexico
  • 50GB until data is slowed

Cons

  • Plans only come unlimited
  • Video quality is lowered on some plans

Google Fi keeps things simple by treating usage equally and making it easy to track that usage. If you're a world traveler, this is one of the best plans you can get to stay connected. Three US networks keeps Fi coverage strong.

From $20/mo. at Google Fi

Pros

  • Pay only for what you use
  • Large combined network
  • International data at the same rate
  • No media slowdown
  • Wi-Fi Assistant

Cons

  • 2G speeds after 15GB
  • Expensive for heavy users
  • Hotspot uses data

T-Mobile really is the better service for most smartphone users with it's cheaper plans offering data speeds and video quality that will be good enough for most. While Google Fi's network has better coverage thanks to sharing service from Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular, and works internationally, if you use a lot of data the cost will balloon rather quickly.

You also need to make sure you have a phone that is enabled for network sharing. These phones are called Designed for Fi. You can check yours here.

Unlimited has its limits

I know it can be confusing to see the word "unlimited" written so often only to be followed by a paragraph describing limits. When it comes to cellphone plans, unlimited just refers to the amount of data you could potentially use measured in gigabytes per month. This rather raw number masks the things that truly cause a network stress, such as long HD streams and huge downloads during peak times.

Peak times are, unfortunately and unsurprisingly, when most people want to use data. Your data will be depriorized on T-Mobile after 50GB of usage during these peak times but really, that's a lot to hit for most people.

Essentials Magenta Plus Google Fi
Data Networks T-Mobile T-Mobile T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular
Extra data unlimited unlimited $10/GB
Talk and text unlimited unlimited unlimited
Travel Canada and Mexico Canada and Mexico 200+ countries
Video Quality SD HD No limit
Base Cost $30/month $50/month $20/month

There's a lot that you could do to reduce your data usage to keep Google Fi's pricing competitive, such as ensuring your apps only update on Wi-Fi or having automatic backups wait until you get home. This can also improve battery life too, so it's not such a sacrifice.

Not only that, most music and video streaming services offer download options so you can download once and keep the media on your phone for the future. Investing in an SD card or a phone with lots of storage can go a long way to reducing your data usage when utilized fully.

None of this will be a concern on T-Mobile plans thanks to its unlimited data. While the lower tiered plan will reduce your video quality, high definition will still be available on Wi-Fi and can sometimes be accessed by utilizing a VPN (although your mileage may vary).

How does it add up?

With T-Mobile you know your bill at the beginning of the month since there really isn't much that won't be served by the base package. International travel may lead to some extra fees but with service in Canada and Mexico, the travel plans for most Americans should be covered.

The Magenta and Magenta Plus plans also have unlimited texting and 2G speed data in 210+ countries which is enough speed to keep you connected. Calls are enabled for $0.25 per minute in most of these countries but the data speeds should be capable of voice chat on apps like Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger which won't use minutes.

Google Fi stops charging per gigabyte at $60 for data, or 6GB, which combines with a $20 service charge to reach $80 as a maximum cost for a data hungry user. This may seem like a good enough deal for that heavy user since that cost is competitive with other unrestricted, unlimited plans. However, Google Fi will throttle your connection at 15GB. At 256kbps, this will feel like going back in time as it won't be fast enough for any buffer free streaming.

I just want the best connection

For some people, having a connection is worth far more than the cost of service. For these people, Google Fi will likely be the better candidate. This is thanks to the large network available to it both in and out of the U.S. With more high speed data available at $10/GB after the 15GB data limit, if you're willing to spend the money, this network can keep you running.

For most of us, T-Mobile is the better value overall but if you still aren't convinced, Google's favored Designed for Fi phones will also work with T-Mobile's GSM network if they are unlocked. This makes it pretty easy to try out Fi and switch to T-Mobile later.

Magenta unlimited

T-Mobile Magenta unlimited plan

Designed for most people

T-Mobile's Magenta plans makes overages a thing of the past and offer the speeds and quality needed to make the most of a smartphone in 2019.

More than a project

Google Fi

Focused on coverage everywhere

Google Fi keeps things moving when you travel with a price that makes sense. With the right phone you get three networks in the US to stay fast.