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Should you upgrade to T-Mobile’s One or One Plus plans? We break it down

T-Mobile introduced a single plan to choose from called “T-Mobile One” in August — a plan with unlimited data, talk, and text. The first line costs $70, and the second adds an extra $50. Any additional line thereafter will cost $20 each. So a family of four, for example, will see a total cost of $160 in return for unlimited data on each line.

There are a few catches, though. First, and perhaps most importantly, all video playback on the One plan will be limited to a 480-pixel resolution. The un-carrier will offer $3 HD Video Day passes in October that let you stream videos at 1080p and higher for 24 hours. Secondly, tethering will only operate on 3G networks.

Finally, to get the listed price for the T-Mobile One plan, you have to sign up for Auto Pay, which automatically pays your bill each month. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay $5 more a month per device than what’s listed — so technically a family of four would pay $180 for unlimited data without Auto Pay. Yes, we agree that this is a stupid charge.

T-Mobile later introduced another option — the One Plus plan. For $25 more per line per month from the One plan, you can get 4G LTE unlimited tethering, and will be able to stream HD videos. Unfortunately, there’s a catch for the latter feature — you have to turn on the ability to watch HD videos every day.

How T-Mobile’s One plan affects you

It’s unfortunate T-Mobile’s One plan doesn’t offer HD video streaming and some 4G LTE tethering by default. Still, at least you have an option to have it all with the One Plus plan, albeit at $25 more per line and per month. The good news is if you like the Simple Choice plan you have now, you will not be forced to upgrade.

A T-Mobile spokesperson told Digital Trends that “there will always be a Simple Choice option; Simple Choice Unlimited will go away after Sept. 6.” Simple Choice unlimited was the old plan that offered a 14GB data bucket for tethering, and didn’t restrict HD video playback. The new T-Mobile One plan replaced it.

The Simple Choice fixed data options are still available, though they are less advertised on T-Mobile’s website. When you go to the checkout page, the website says to call a T-Mobile representative to “find out about your other options, including our Simple Choice Plans.”

“The best way to think about this is to remember the days of talk-time phone minutes,” the spokesperson said. “Customers used to have to pay for the number of talk minutes they wanted every month, until those plans went away and unlimited talk and text became standard. When those unlimited talk/text plans were first introduced, the ‘talk time’ minute plans didn’t immediately go away. It took customers some time to adjust.”

The fixed data Simple Choice plans will be phased out at some point, in favor of the T-Mobile One and One Plus plans. To recap, current subscribers can stay on their current plans, or upgrade to T-Mobile One or One Plus. New subscribers can opt for the latter newer plans, and will be able to choose from Simple Choice fixed data plans over the phone or at the store.

Related: T-Mobile is giving unlimited data to every customer, but there’s a catch

While the new plan may seem pricier for people on a fixed data rate, it does offer slashed prices across the board for some current subscribers on the unlimited data plan. Let’s take a look at T-Mobile One and Plus, how it compares with the Simple Choice plan, and whether you should upgrade.

Fixed Simple Choice vs. T-Mobile One vs. T-Mobile One Plus

Lines Simple Choice data rates T-Mobile One unlimited data plan T-Mobile One Plus unlimited data plan
1 $50 2GB 4G LTE $70 unlimited data $95 unlimited data
$65 w/6GB 4G LTE
2 $80 4GB 4G LTE $120 unlimited data $170 unlimited data
$110 w/12GB 4G LTE
3 $90 6GB 4G LTE $140 unlimited data $215 unlimited data
 $135 w/18GB 4G LTE
4 $100 8GB 4G LTE $160 unlimited data $260 unlimited data
 $160 w/24GB 4G LTE
5 $110 10GB 4G LTE $180 unlimited data $280 unlimited data
 $185 w/30GB 4G LTE

*With the One plan, you can only tether on 3G networks, and you will be restricted to 480p video playback. You must sign up for Auto Pay for these prices.

The table above shows the options you can choose from now on T-Mobile.

Of course, you can’t really compare the three plans because the latter two offer an unlimited data allotment, while the other is a fixed data cap. For now, T-Mobile is still giving consumers a choice — whether or not they want to cough up more dough for an unlimited plan or stay on a more affordable plan for less data.

“We will eventually stop offering Simple Choice because we don’t believe customers are going to want to buy data buckets once they experience the value of having unlimited data with T‑Mobile One,” according to the un-carrier’s website.

Related: The best smartphones you can buy

You will not be able to turn off Binge On on T-Mobile One.

There are no changes to the fixed data options in Simple Choice, but keep in mind that with the 2GB option, you get a barebones version of Binge On that’s available on all the other plans. It’s T-Mobile’s controversial feature that lets certain apps and detectable videos stream at a lower, 480p resolution to save data. You get the option of toggling Binge On off to watch high-quality videos on 4G LTE in Simple Choice — but on a 2GB plan, the service will only use high-speed data three times less than normal video playback on participating apps like Netflix and HBO Now.

If you opt for the 6GB plan or higher, streaming these 480p videos won’t cut into any of your high-speed data at all if you use a participating app, and you’ll also unlock Music Freedom — this lets you stream music from participating apps without cutting into your 4G LTE data allotment as well.

The option to turn Binge On off with Simple Choice is great — it offers more control for the subscriber on when they want to stream a video at 720p or higher. You will not be able to turn off Binge On on T-Mobile One. You’re stuck with videos playing at 480p on 4G LTE — but you can still watch videos on the highest quality possible on Wi-Fi.

t-mobile-app

Why would this matter on an unlimited plan in the first place? Because T-Mobile throttles your data when you hit 26GB. That sounds like a lot, but according to Netflix, streaming a movie in high quality can use up to 3GB per hour. So two episodes of Game of Thrones on LTE could potentially use up 6GB of your “unlimited” 26GB allotment. After you hit 26GB, your network speeds will automatically slow down.

HD videos aside, tethering is also limited on the One plan. Tethering is when you turn your smartphone into a hotspot so that other devices, like a laptop or another smartphone, can connect and use its 4G LTE to connect to the internet. It’s useful when you need to get some work done on your laptop but do not have access to Wi-Fi.

The old Simple Choice unlimited plan offered a 14GB data bucket for tethering, but One plan subscribers can only tether on 3G networks. T-Mobile will offer Unlimited HD Video Day Passes in October for those on the regular T-Mobile One plan, and those will cost $3 for 24 hours.

For fixed data rate plans, nothing will change — if you are on an 8GB plan, that’s all you get to use and to tether.

Related: Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom nets you unlimited talk, text, data on 2 lines for $100

If you want to watch HD videos and tether on 4G LTE speeds with unlimited data, opt for T-Mobile’s One Plus plan. You’ll have to cough up $25 per device per month — that may sound like a lot, but you’re paying less money than those on the Simple Choice Unlimited data plan. The downside is that you have to activate HD video playback via the T-Mobile app everyday.

If you’re satisfied with your fixed data plan right now, you should stay on it. If you’ve been itching for more data, it may be cheaper to look at a higher fixed rate data plan than upgrading to T-Mobile One. Keep in mind that we do not know when Simple Choice plans will go away.

Simple Choice Unlimited data vs. T-Mobile One unlimited data vs. T-Mobile One Plus unlimited data

Lines Simple Choice w/ unlimited data plan T-Mobile One unlimited data plan T-Mobile One Plus unlimited data plan
1 $95 $70 $95 unlimited data
2 $170 $120 $170 unlimited data
3 $225 $140 $215 unlimited data
4 $280 $160 $260 unlimited data
5 $335 $180 $280 unlimited data

*Cheapest plans are in bold. All prices above are for unlimited data plans. With the One plan, you do not get 14GB of tethering data, or the option to turn off 480p video playback on 4G LTE.

Existing Simple Choice Unlimited subscribers will be able to choose if they want to upgrade to the new plans, or keep their current one. As you can see in the table above, T-Mobile One Plus offers more for the same, and sometimes lower cost.

The main difference between the old plan and the Plus is that you’re getting unlimited 4G LTE data for tethering on the latter — you’re not restricted to a 14GB data bucket.

The only downside is that to watch HD videos, you have to toggle it on in the T-Mobile app everyday. Also keep in mind that since the Plus plan is a per device option, you can always spend less than what’s listed above if a particular family member didn’t care for tethering or streaming high-quality videos on 4G LTE.

And that’s really where the regular One plan comes in — if you’re not interested in high-quality video streaming on 4G LTE and tethering, the One plan offers unlimited data at low prices.

Related: Sprint vs. AT&T vs. Verizon vs. T-Mobile: Who has the best family plan? (Updated)

Regardless of what you want, it’s clear that you should definitely upgrade to T-Mobile One or T-Mobile One Plus if you’re on the Simple Choice Unlimited plan. Otherwise you’re paying extra for less. The Plus is more comparable, so we recommend swapping for that. Thankfully, the upgrades are per device, so not everyone in the family plan needs to spend $25 to get the Plus.

Why you may not want to upgrade

If you’re on a Simple Choice fixed data plan right now, you won’t see much of a reason to upgrade to T-Mobile One. Some of the One plan’s unlimited prices aren’t too much more expensive, so you may want to take a look if you have been considering upping your monthly data allotment. Still, you will be better off upgrading to a higher fixed data rate on Simple Choice rather than jumping to T-Mobile One. You shouldn’t upgrade if you cherish streaming YouTube videos in Full HD quality when you’re on the go, or if you tether.

To clarify, moving to T-Mobile One also means the carrier is actively throttling your video streams by default. It did this in the Simple Choice unlimited plan, but you could turn it off. There’s no choice here, but to pay up for the Plus plan. The cost, though, isn’t as high as the old unlimited plan.

Remember, the new plan will cost an additional (annoying) $5 per device unless you sign up for Auto Pay.

The bigger picture here is that T-Mobile wants to eventually phase out data plans (again) for unlimited plans. We do not know when Simple Choice data plans are going away, but if they do it’s likely that the carrier will offer some type of lower postpaid tier — otherwise its entry postpaid prices would be among the most expensive of the big four carriers.

If you’re a current Simple Choice Unlimited subscriber, you should definitely think about upgrading to T-Mobile One, or better yet, to T-Mobile One Plus. The latter is the same cost, if not lower, and gives you unlimited 4G LTE data for tethering.

Sprint’s new Unlimited Freedom unlimited data plan would cost a family of five $190, compared to T-Mobile’s $180. But the first three lines would end up costing $10 less than T-Mobile’s One plan. However, Sprint limits not just your video to 480p, but music will stream at 500kbps or less, and games will be limited to 2mbps. The company has no option to pay more for higher quality content, and you’ll also have to deal with the carrier’s poor availability.

See more at T-Mobile

Article originally published in August. Updated on 9-26-2016 by Julian Chokkattu: Added new information about T-Mobile One Plus, and changed T-Mobile One’s tethering speeds from 2G to 3G.