The way I use cell phones is almost comical compared to most people. In the smartphone area I’ve done AT&T back when it was still Cingular, and then switched to Verizon. I didn’t like either. Shifting contracts, shady legal wrangling, and ballooning costs. Then I just went to an iPod Touch and a mix of Skype and Google Voice. That was an interesting time. Then I found Ting, and have used them as my provider of choice riding on Sprint for the last few years.
A few weeks ago, however, I found that despite having a newer iPhone 5S, Sprint’s LTE coverage was still reminiscent of what I was always told: “It’s getting better! It’ll be better soon!” Ask Sprint why coverage is weak and they’ll tell you there’s a guy screwing in a new radio on the antenna in your backyard that very second. So after several years of Ting, I switched to T-Mobile. I like Ting’s business model, honest pricing, and support. Their downfall is out of their control, though, with Sprint. I wrote about Ting before, and most of my opinions are still valid, but service has not kept up here in Indy like it should have.
T-Mobile, however, is kinda fun. Their CEO, Jon Legere is like everyone’s favorite dad who bad mouths the neighbors and kinda makes you wish more people were like him. He’s in a classic spot as America’s fourth and relatively obscure network provider, but they’re about to surpass Sprint in membership, and I think it’s all part of his personality and T-Mobile’s emphasis on data rather than phone and text buckets. If you care about data and you live in an urban metro area, you should look at T-Mobile.
T-Mobile in Indianapolis is shockingly good. I’ve traveled all over the metro area to as far north as rural Hamilton County/Madison County, to southeast Marion/Shelby County, to west of Avon and all points around and in between. The signal has always been LTE, it’s always 3+ bars, and it’s fast. It’s faster than Sprint and even if it had to degrade to 4G-level service, it’s still faster than Sprint and faster than Verizon. Whatever pre-conceived notions you have about T-Mobile’s service, they should be forgotten at least in terms of service here in Indianapolis. Granted, service dwindles off in rural Indiana, but you can still talk and text (unlimited, might I add, no catches there), on what is effectively AT&T.
I’ll say this: I never used my phone much out and about because I always assumed it wouldn’t work anyway on Sprint. I use my iPhone a lot more now, particularly because the new iPhone 6 Plus is a pleasure to use. Music Freedom, T-Mobile’s perk to not count music streaming against your data cap, is surprisingly fun, too. I never figured I’d use it much, but because I can, I do. All the time. It sadly doesn’t include iTunes Match streaming, but does include iTunes Radio, my player of choice since it’s already built-in.
T-Mobile does use higher frequency channels for their cell network, which means they have lesser reception quality inside buildings. This is also true of Sprint. But T-Mobile’s WiFi Calling works seamlessly and ensures I have full signal all the time at home. Problem solved.
iPhone 6 Plus has replaced my iPad
On top of my new service with T-Mobile, I’ve sold my iPad Air and consolidated everything into one device. This is where I’ve wanted to be for years.
The math breaks down in such a way that I have always spent about $300-$350 a year on a new phone. I’ve always bought used because Ting never has the newest phones. Even when I carried just an iPod Touch it was still about $325. Additionally I usually upgraded my iPad every year to the tune of $500. Even when selling my old devices and taking the trade-in value, I was spending $400 dollars a year “out of pocket” on two devices. If I waited to upgrade either device, I’d lose more money from lower trade-in-value.
With T-Mobile I just joined JUMP, their “Just Upgrade My Phone” plan that costs $10 a month. After adding $50 for service, $10 for JUMP, and another $25ish for the phone, I pay $90 a month to T-Mobile. Annually it costs me $300 for the phone, plus $120 for JUMP. At which point I can upgrade to the next iPhone. That’s $420 a year, making the old way and the new way a statistical wash for me, except now I don’t have to sell stuff or deal with crazy eBay people. Granted, I spent less on Ting than I do T-Mobile, by about $10 a month. But $120 a year for service I can actually use and really do like is worth the upgrade. Plus, JUMP is an insurance program that covers more than Apple Care. No other carrier does that. I traditionally don’t go in for insurance plans and warranties, but you’re not wrong to think of it as $8 insurance and $2 “upgradeability” all in one.
The iPhone 6 Plus gets a little less awkward and a little better each day
The iPhone 6 Plus has been reviewed endlessly by all kinds of people. As a guy who wears ordinary clothes and sometimes carries a bag and sometimes uses his phone one-handed (with small hands), and sometimes plays a game but generally “works” on his phone, I quite like it. Many have said it can’t replace an iPad, and I agree on only one point: I can’t type as quickly on my iPhone — with any keyboard or orientation — as well as I could with my iPad.
But, there’s immense value in having just one device. There’s freedom in having one thing to grab. I was never without my iPhone when I had my iPad. Now it’s just one device and I’m finding that consolidating apps (meaning, apps without universal iPhone/iPad compatibility) has some value. No more buying iPhone version and iPad version of this and that.
It’s the right size for using on the bus or on a park bench or crowded table or walking in a crowd. You could never use your iPad while moving, and I could never use mine on the bus, no matter how many times I said I would. It’s too crowded sometimes, and hard to keep your laps up and closed long enough to support it.
iPhone 6 Plus fixes that for me. I used to use an iPad Mini, but found it kinda useless for my needs and typing was still a chore. I only used it in places where I would have used the larger iPad, so eventually I just went back to the full-size iPad. Now I use my iPhone absolutely everywhere and it’s great for meetings and note taking. I find myself using my MacBook Pro a little bit more, which is also fine, for longer form typing and “hard work”. Which I never did on my iPad anyway. At the end of the day it’s a net gain for my productivity, happiness, and my bank account.
I have no trouble with my iPhone 6 Plus fitting in my pockets (I’m a guy, I wear 32/32 size jeans), and even with my small hands I can use my phone one-handed 75% of the time. Typing anything longer than two words requires two hands. But that’s okay, it’s still a little awkward but I’m adapting and finding myself happier with the decision.
If you’re in Indianapolis (or any city, really), you should check out T-Mobile. They offer a free 7 day test-drive and will ship you an iPhone for testing. They have a 14 day return policy on everything and even if in 4 months you don’t want it anymore, they’re contract free. As someone who loathes contracts and “long term debts”, this I like.
You can use this handy referral code and we both get a little kickback credit if you signup a T-Mobile. I think you will.
You can also read my past thoughts and get a referral code for Ting, too.