T-Mobile: Excellent Coverage and Customer Service
Aug 24, 2003 (Updated Oct 18, 2003)
Review by mookiekong
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Recommend this product?
This is a review for both T-Mobile Customer Service and T-Mobile Service for the San Jose, CA area (Epinions still has not added T-Mobile to the San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland listings).
I am currently in my sixth month of service with T-Mobile. My previous service was from MetroPCS. Before that I had SprintPCS service. For work I am using Verizon. Late last year I signed up for the all-you-can-talk service from MetroPCS which ran for about $40 per month after voicemail and taxes were added. The service was OK, but I had my problems like days without service. And in April of this year I could not justify paying that much money for a service that I did not use that much since I used my work phone primarily during the days. I needed a phone that was cheap, worked, and could serve me during the nights and weekends when I did not want to carry around my work phone.
When I shopped around, I looked specifically for two things. First, if I could get a a free phone. I was tired of paying for phones since I have gone through so many in such a short period of time. Second, I wanted to find a place that gave me a good amount of minutes for a decent price. And since this was mainly just going to be a weekend phone (at the time), I did not really care for a lot of Anytime Minutes. I did though want to be able to move my plan around, just in case I did need to use my phone more at the time I was switching from MetroPCS, I was traveling a lot and was not in town much.
I found three places that gave me deals, AT&T Wireless, Cingular and T-Mobile. T-Mobile here in California runs on Cingular's network so I would be getting Cingular network access without the draconian two year contract! Out of the three providers only T-Mobile let me move around with the different plans without resetting my contract. That was a big factor in picking T-Mobile over AT&T Wireless. I have Verizon for work and though Verizon pushes that they have the best network, and they do, they charge more for their services than most companies. I did not want to pay extra for their extra coverage since, mostly, this phone would be a local phone and T-Mobile provided good coverage locally.
The first plan that I had, for the first four months of service was the Basic Plan which is $19.99 per month for 60 Anytime Minutes and 500 Weekend Minutes. This worked out great for me since I was out of time for so long. When my out of state project did end though, I was able to switch over to the Basic Plus plan which allowed me 300 Anytime Minutes and Unlimited Weekend Minutes a perfect plan for me.
T-Mobile seems to offer the most minutes for the dollar when compared to other providers. Their middle of the road plan is the Get More Plan which gives you 600 Anytime Minutes and Unlimited Nights and Weekends for $39.99. Like all other plans (including the cheaper ones) this plan includes free roaming all over their network, free long distance, voicemail, 50 incoming text messages (the voicemail alerts are sent as text messages), caller ID, call waiting, and all the other amenities that we have gotten used to. Comparable digital service from AT&T Wireless is $59.99 a month (50 minutes less than T-Mobile plan). Comparable Cingular plan is $39.99 a month (100 minutes less than T-Mobile plan).
In the San Jose, CA area the service for T-Mobile is great. I get great reception everywhere I go. I am currently using the Samsung SGH-R225m which is one of the free phones that T-Mobile offers. The Cingular coverage seems to be pretty good. Even in my house, which is an insulated box, I get decent reception when compared to my Verizon and previous MetroPCS. I have taken the phone to San Francisco and all around town here in San Jose and Santa Clara. I haven't experienced anything bad yet. I have also taken the phone to Las Vegas, NV and am happy to say that the coverage there is also excellent (Nevada coverage is also on the Cingular network).
Because T-Mobile is a PCS service and runs on the 1900Mhz spectrum, indoor penetration of the signal is weak to good at best. You'll get this sort of reception indoors with most 1900Mhz service (like Cingular, AT&T GSM, MetroPCS, and SprintPCS). Outdoors the reception is crystal clear.
I have used the phone inside the Great Mall in Milpitas, CA and it works great in there (even though the whole structure is one big steel box). I have taken the phone to Vallco Fashion Park in Cupertino, CA and am sad to say that there is little to no signal inside of there (more no signal than little signal). In Valley Fair Shopping Mall in Santa Clara, CA there is good reception also. In the Gift Center in San Francisco, CA there is decent reception on the first floor, but in the sub floor there is hardly any reception. In Fry's Electronics on Brokaw and in Sunnyvale the reception was good. Also good reception at the Best Buy and Borders in the McCarthy Shopping Center in Milpitas, CA.
Driving around town in Milpitas, San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale shows that there is pretty good coverage all through town when outdoors.
If you look on their coverage map for the nation, you'll see that like all other digital providers, there are lots of places without coverage. But if you are usually around a big metropolitan area, then you'll have coverage. The one thing that T-Mobile does not have and that PCS provider SprintPCS has is analog roaming. If you don't get service from a GSM network on your T-Mobile phone, you'll have no service at all. On SprintPCS, you'll be able to roam onto an analog network for service just in case (just in case because you will probably not want to since it will cost you an arm and a leg to roam into an analog service network).
One annoyance to me is that the clock on most T-Mobile phones will not set themselves. Unlike SprintPCS, MetroPCS, or Verizon my T-Mobile phone's clock needs to be set by hand. This would be more of an annoyance if I had to travel across timezones with the phone, but since it is really just a local phone for me (with the option to travel) all I have to worry about is keeping the time from slipping too far.
I had to call customer service twice so far and each time that I contacted them it has been a good experience. The customer service representatives have been very helpful on the phone and have taken care of everything that I called for. They were also knowledgeable in the plans and when I wanted to change my plan, they did not try to push any high price plan on me. The customer service representative asked politely if I wanted the next higher up plan. When I accepted they explained the plan minutes to me and answered my questions. I was really happy with my dealings with customer service. I noticed that there are a lot of negative reviews of VoiceStream's customer service, but I think those days are over now. T-Mobile is the new VoiceStream and they have revamped the customer service to be much better than before, so take those reviews of old VoiceStream customer service with a grain of salt.
Along with the human customer service, T-Mobile offers two other ways that you can interact with the company. First is their 611 service and second is their My T-Mobile service.
Their 611 service is just enough to get me by. When I call the number from my handset, I can get the minutes used and all these other statistics. I don't use it much because I can get more detailed information from the My T-Mobile site.
After I activated my phone I logged into www.T-Mobile.com and activated my online account, the so called My T-Mobile account. From this account I can get all the statistics this geek needs about my phone and service. I can get the basics like how many minutes I've used total, what my rate plan is, and see my last bill online. But it goes deeper. I can get statistics on everything (minutes, payments, taxes, overage) for the last three months (average) and six months (average). I can get a detailed look at my current activity. I can get a detailed look at my last billed activities (along with a similarly detailed printed version that is sent to me every month).
I can also pay my bill online with My T-Mobile. There is a way to EasyPay T-Mobile, but I choose not to do this because of a specific clause in their Service Agreement for the EasyPay service. The clause specifically states that the charge will go on your card and it is up to you, within 10 days to catch any errors. If not, that charge will stay. First, I don't like having something that is variable month to month charged to my card like that. I want to put the charge on myself. But, this whole clause just does not make me feel warm and fuzzy about the EasyPay, especially if I lose my phone or something and a hefty charge is put on my account.
Tips and Tricks
I found out from searching the web that if you want to retrieve your voicemail from a landline you can do it a different way than just calling your own phone number. Most cell phone services let you retrieve your voicemail from a landline by calling your own number T-Mobile lets you do it this way also. But, you'll have to wait through the phone ringing a few times before you can actually get to your voicemail. T-Mobile also lets you call 805-637-7243 (long distance) to get your voicemail from a landline. In specific areas, you can also call the first six digits of your phone number plus 9999 to get your voicemail from a local number. For instance if you're number is 408-555-1234, you can call 408-555-9999 to get your voicemail from a landline. And the benefit of this is that people can also leave you messages without ringing your phone, if they are trying to be sneaky or something!
Because T-Mobile is a GSM provider, they sell you phones that take SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards. These little cards hold all your subscriber information and phonebook entries. If later on you want to get a new phone, it is as easy as going to a T-Mobile store, picking up a phone, activating it and putting in your SIM card. Or you can simply buy an unlocked phone of your choice from eBay and put your SIM card in and start using the phone. And you can switch phones whenever you like. This is in stark comparison to something like SprintPCS or Verizon which force you to type everything back into your phone when you get a new upgraded phone and also making the previous phone just a nice paper weight.
If you are a new subscriber, get your My T-Mobile account right away. Then you can use their handy service for populating your phonebook via text messages. On My T-Mobile, there is an option to type in a phonebook entry on the webpage, then the website will send that entry to your phone as a text message. Bam, you have a new phonebook entry without all the key punching on the phone!
If you are thinking about Cingular's rollover plan (which lets you keep unused minutes from the previous month for up to a year), keep this in mind: Most people use the same amount of minutes per month each and every month. So, if you really think that rolling minutes over is a great idea, it's really not. Especially when you are locked into a two year contract with a company to get that benefit. For instance for me, I usually use 1,000 minutes on my phone a month. Of those 1,000 minutes only about 200 will be Anytime minutes. The rest are the Free Weekend Minutes. I haven't gone over 1,000 minutes ever, and haven't gone over my 300 Anytime Minutes ever. So why would rolling over the extra 100 minutes make a difference to me?
Whatever you do, if you want to sign up for service and you want one of the lower rate plans (the Basic or Basic Plus plans), sign up for service online. Because of the way that Authorized dealers are setup to sell phones and service, you will most likely not receive your phone free if you sign up for one of these lower cost rate plans. If you order the phone online through the T-Mobile store (on their website) then you will still receive the phone for free, even with the low price rate plans.
So, will I stick with T-Mobile after my one year contract is up with them? Unless their service deteriorates, most definitely I'll stick with T-Mobile. Not only are their plans very good, they have great customer service. And I really like the idea of being able to move around with the different pricing plans without resetting my contract. The coverage that they offer is excellent for metropolitan areas. I recommend T-Mobile for those of you in their coverage area. They have lots of services that they offer and many ways to get in touch with their excellent Customer Service. Their rate plans are very good when it comes to pricing and what they offer.
Update 10/10/2003: I found that in some markets, mine included, the clocks on the phones do sync up with the cell station. It just takes a phone that has the time sync function in order to take advantage of this. My Samsung R225m did not have the time sync functionality, but my new Nokia 6610 does. Now I don't have to set the time on my phone!
They also have good upgrade plans and sometimes they have spectacular upgrade specials. I got my Nokia 6610 through an upgrade special that T-Mobile was offering. The phone sells for $199 usually, but T-Mobile offered it to upgraders for $35. It is a great phone and well worth even the $199 price tag, but for $35, it was a steal! It is this kind of customer care that makes T-Mobile different and much better than other cellular carriers.
Update 10/18/2003My Nokia 6610 started to develop a electronic buzzing/clicking noise while I made calls and I called T-Mobile about it. They truly have some of the best customer service around. They are replacing my handset free of charge, no cost whatsoever (not even shipping). Check out the story in these threads:
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Amount Paid (US$): 39.99
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