“Truly Unlimited”Data Plan From T-Mobile and Sprint

Today was a busy day for T-Mobile and Sprint. Both carriers officially announced new plans that would see customers adopting “truly unlimited” data plans. Those unlimited banners also cover text and minutes, for what it’s worth, but obviously the biggest focus here is unlimited data. And while Sprint and T-Mobile are doing everything they can to keep the new plans in a positive light, I can’t help but look at all the caveats.

So Sprint is optimizing almost all of the most important aspects of consuming content on a mobile device, and while T-Mobile might not be going to that extreme, they’re going to another extreme by potentially nickel-and-diming customers into features that were, to some extent, already available to them in a Simple Choice plan.

I won’t sacrifice HD content in video just to be able to watch more of it.That’s okay, thanks, I’ll just stick with my data bucket that lets me use the data I have in the way that I want. I haven’t gone over my monthly data allotment yet, and I don’t have any reason to expect that I will.

First, let’s get this out of the way: The plans do offer unlimited data per month, so that is, at surface level, a good thing! In the case of T-Mobile, the Un-carrier, it’s worth noting that if you use 26GB of data per month or more you’ll probably get throttled down to 2G speeds, but that’s a lot of data to use in a month, so that probably won’t be a concern for most people.

And then there’s music, which is capped at 500Kbps (which is, admittedly, quite high). And finally, games. Playing a game is capped at 2Mbps.Let’s start with Sprint. For example, streaming video is optimized to only stream at up to 480p resolution. To reach this level of unlimited accessibility for customers, Sprint has to “optimize” some incoming content. The Now Network’s “Unlimited Freedom” says it will offer unlimited LTE data for most anything, but there are important exceptions here. And, for me, it’s the most important content in general.

You only get to watch 480p content on that great screen, unless you pay more money to walk through the gate into HD Land for the Un-carrier.It would be pretty silly to get a Galaxy Note7, which has a ridiculously great screen, on T-Mobile or Sprint at this point.

Then again, the idea that someone has an unlimited amount of data on tap might sway them to keep using it, which could rack up pretty quickly.

Unlike T-Mobile, Sprint doesn’t appear to be offering a means to hike up those limitations in any way. So if you sign up for Unlimited Freedom, the content you probably consume the most – games, music, and video – will be optimized and crippled when compared to alternatives from other carriers.

Which is where the caveats come in.

However! If you want to stream unfettered high definition content on the LTE network, you just need to pay T-Mobile $25 per month – per line. And if you want to use a mobile hotspot, T-Mobile will give you unlimited data – but only at 2G speeds.And then there’s T-Mobile. The carrier is offering unlimited data, too, and it’s also optimizing video in the same way it did for Binge On. If you want 5GB of LTE mobile hotspot action, you’ll need to fork over an additional $15 per month, per device. That means video streamed over the LTE network will be capped at, you guessed it, 480p resolution.