AT&T and Cricket Drop $15 Plans

In March, T-Mobile began offering its $15 per month Connect plan with 2GB of data, unlimited minutes, and unlimited texts. AT&T and AT&T’s flanker brand, Cricket, quickly came out with similar plans for $15 per month. Both AT&T and Cricket have stopped offering the plans to new customers. It’s now come out that customers who purchased these plans will not be able to renew at the same price after 7/14/2020.

Here’s an excerpt from a text I received from Cricket the other day:

We hope the $15/2GB plan has helped you during this difficult time. Starting July 15, 2020, the plan will no longer be available. You can either select a different plan or we will move you to the $30/2GB plan when your bill cycle renews after July 14, 2020.

A credible-looking Reddit thread suggested AT&T Prepaid’s $15 plan would also become unavailable for existing customers after 7/14/2020.

Reflections

Shortly after the T-Mobile Connect plan launched, I began recommending it on Coverage Critic and on the list I maintain at MrMoneyMustache.com. My decision to recommend T-Mobile’s Connect plan rather than AT&T’s $15 plan drew some criticism on Reddit and raised questions from commenters on MrMoneyMustache. After all, AT&T’s network is more expansive than T-Mobile’s network.

I was worried AT&T’s plan wouldn’t stick around. Here’s a bit I wrote in March:

It’s not clear how long AT&T’s plan will be around. People who take advantage of AT&T’s offer today won’t necessarily get the same great deal each month for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, it looks like the T-Mobile Connect plans will continue to be available to new and existing subscribers for years.

About a month ago, I saw a screenshot from a chat conversation with a Cricket customer service representative. The representative suggested that Cricket subscribers on the $15 plan would be grandfathered. I remained skeptical. I wasn’t convinced the representative’s words were authoritative. I continued not to make a strong recommendation of Cricket or AT&T’s $15 plans. Today, I feel like my skepticism was validated.

AT&T Drops 5GE Ads & Keeps 5GE Icon

For a while now, AT&T has been misleadingly labeling some of its 4G services as “5GE.”

A self-regulatory body in the advertising industry recently concluded that AT&T should stop mentioning 5GE in advertisements:

A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that AT&T Services, Inc. discontinue its ‘5G Evolution’ and ‘5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G’ claims…the NARB panel determined that both claims will mislead reasonable consumers into believing that AT&T is offering a 5G network and recommended that the claims be discontinued.

AT&T agreed to cease advertising 5GE, but the carrier will continue to show the 5GE icon on phones. As a result, AT&T has been receiving well-deserved scorn from journalists.

AT&T’s actions aren’t surprising. I don’t think the National Advertising Review Board has much power to change business practices outside of advertising. Further, AT&T has tricked some subscribers into thinking their 5GE connections are actual 5G connections. If AT&T stopped showing the 5GE icon, the carrier would have to deal with complaints from frustrated customers thinking they lost 5G access.

Picture of a confused person looking at bills

Verizon Prepaid’s Confusing & Awesome Promotions

Verizon Prepaid is offering some great deals right now. Notably, a single-line plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 16GB of data is now available for as low as $35 per month.

Multiple promotions and discounts are stacking on top of each other. This has been baffling for some consumers. A price calculator on Verizon’s website that fails to take some of the promotions into account has contributed to the confusion.

To sort things out, I’m going to run through the promotions and discounts one by one.

Double data

For about a year, Verizon has been running a double data promotion. The prepaid plans regular allotments of data have been doubled at no extra charge:

  • The usual 500MB plan become a 1GB plan
  • The usual 3GB plan became a 6GB plan
  • The usual 8GB plan became a 16GB plan

Auto Pay discount

Customers who sign up for Auto Pay can get a $5 per month discount. This discount is only available (a) after the first month of service and (b) on lines of service with base prices of at least $40 per month.

Multi-line discounts

On multi-line plans, Verizon offers discounts on added lines. These discounts do not apply to the first line on a plan. The size of the discount depends on the data allotment subscribers opt for:

  • 1GB: No discount
  • 6GB: $10 per month discount
  • 16GB: $15 per month discount
  • Unlimited: $20 per month discount

$10 off first line

A recent, online-only promotion offers $10 per month off the first line of service on either a 16GB or unlimited plan. This discount only applies after the first month of service.

Examples

A single-line on the 16GB plan has a base price of $50. In the first month, no discounts apply. After the first month, the $5 Auto Pay discount and the $10 discount on the first line of service come into effect. As a result, the ongoing price (before taxes and fees) comes out to $35 per month.

Two-lines of service on the 16GB plan would cost $85 in the first month ($50 for the first line and $35 for the second line thanks to a $15 multi-line discount). After the first month, the ongoing rate would fall to $65 per month (the $10 discount on the first line would kick in along with two $5 Auto Pay discounts).

Commentary

$35 for a single-line with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 16GB of data on Verizon’s extensive network is a great deal. If Verizon wants to make its prepaid plans easier for consumers to understand, I see a few steps it could take:

  • Fix the price calculator to include a $10 discount on the first line of service if a 16GB or unlimited plan is selected.
  • Keep the current pricing and data allotments but drop all the complexity of double data. Forget having a 3GB plan that actually comes with a 6GB data allotment. Just call that a 6GB plan.
  • Let the Auto Pay discount kick in for the first month if customers set it up Auto Pay immediately.

Xfinity Mobile Updates: 5G, Pricing, and Prioritization

Today, Xfinity Mobile released a handful of changes.

5G Support

Xfinity Mobile now officially offers 5G powered by Verizon’s network. The carrier’s updated network webpage has a lot of content devoted to the wonders of 5G.

Pricing

The 1GB by-the-gig plan has increased from $12 per month to $15 per month. Data add-ons for by-the-gig customers have also increased in cost from $12 per GB to $15 per GB.

The 3GB by-the-gig plan for $30, the 10GB by-the-gig plan for $60, and the $45 per line unlimited plan are still available with unchanged prices.

Prioritization and video throttling

With the last generation of Xfinity Mobile plans, subscribers were typically subject to deprioritization during congestion. It looks like subscribers on the new by-the-gig plans will not be subject to deprioritization. Here’s a screenshot from my within my Xfinity online account:1

Screenshot suggesting Xfinity Mobile is offering better prioritization on by-the-gig plans

As far as I can tell, subscribers on Xfinity Mobile’s Unlimited plan will continue to be deprioritized during periods of congestion.

Optional opt-in

Existing subscribers are not being forced to switch over to Xfinity’s new plans. At the moment, it looks like subscribers who don’t switch over will continue to experience the old price structure while missing out on new perks like 5G access.

I’m unsure whether Xfinity Mobile will let subscribers stay grandfathered on the old plans indefinitely. It’s possible subscribers will eventually be forced to switch to new plans.

My take

As an Xfinity Mobile affiliate, I got a heads up that some changes were coming. It sounded like there would be a price increase on the 1GB plan, and I figured I wouldn’t be able to recommend Xfinity Mobile as strongly after the changes. I’m happy to say my expectation was wrong. The $3 increase in the 1GB plan isn’t too substantial, and the improved prioritization for by-the-gig customers is great.

I’m frustrated by how actively Xfinity Mobile is marketing the new 5G service without making it clear that (a) Verizon’s 5G coverage is extremely limited and (b) few consumers have devices compatible with Verizon’s 5G. That said, Xfinity Mobile’s marketing is less misleading than what we’re typically seeing from carriers offering 5G. While the new 5G access won’t have a meaningful effect on most subscribers today, it will become more important as Verizon expands its 5G coverage.


Considering Xfinity Mobile? Check coverage at your location with the carrier’s coverage tool.

T-Mobile’s Data Maximizer Can’t Be Turned Off On Connect Plans

Some of T-Mobile’s plans come with a setting called “Data Maximizer.” While Data Maximizer is turned on, most video traffic will be throttled to about 480p quality. Data Maximizer reduces the load on T-Mobile’s network and can help subscribers with limited data allowances to conserve their data.

T-Mobile’s Connect plans supposedly have Data Maximizer turned on by default. Subscribers can also supposedly turn off the feature. On portions of T-Mobile’s website related to the Connect plans, there are disclosures like this one:1

Video typically streams on your T-Mobile device at DVD quality (480p) with Data Maximizer. You may disable Data Maximizer at any time.

I’ve recently been testing a Connect plan. Sure enough, a test I ran with the app Wehe confirmed that some video traffic was being throttled:

Results from video throttling tests

When I tried to turn off Data Maximizer, I ran into trouble. I first tried to disable the setting from within my T-Mobile online account. While subscribers on some of T-Mobile’s other plans can turn off Data Maximizer through an online process, that didn’t seem possible with the Connect plan.

I went ahead and called T-Mobile to see if a support agent could turn off the setting. At first, the support agent looked into it and told me Data Maximizer didn’t seem to affect Connect plans. I explained that T-Mobile’s website suggested otherwise and that my video traffic appeared to be throttled. The agent seemed to agree something strange was going on. She said she’d put in a ticket to have someone at T-Mobile look into the issue.

I don’t think it would be a big deal if Connect subscribers couldn’t turn off Data Maximizer. 480p video is, in my opinion, very watchable. Conserving data while streaming can be really beneficial on plans that don’t have large data allotments. Still, the fact that I ran into this issue surprised me. The Connect plans will probably be popular. I’m surprised some sort of quality review didn’t catch this issue before the plans were released.

Mint Mobile Extends Unlimited Data Again

Mint Mobile has extended its COVID-19-related unlimited data offer. Subscribers that joined Mint prior to April 14 can continue to receive data add-ons in 3GB increments at no charge.

Mint first said this offer would be available from mid-March through mid-April, but ended up extending the offer through mid-May. The company has now extended the offer for another month.

Image showing that Mint's unlimited data offer has been extended

I don’t know if we’ll see further extensions of the offer. More information can be found on Mint’s website.