Mint Mobile’s Unlimited Plan Has Limits

Today, Mint Mobile launched an “unlimited” plan. Mint has officially joined the ranks of carriers like Google Fi, Altice, Total Wireless, Wing, Tello. What do all these carriers have in common? Each offers an allegedly “unlimited” plan that strictly limits how much data subscribers can use.

The rest of this post is a rant. To be clear, I think Mint’s new plan is great. I just hate seeing the cellular industry move towards a scenario where every carrier has to offer plans that are misleadingly labeled “unlimited” in order to remain competitive. If you’re looking for a level-headed overview of Mint’s new plan, see my previous post. If you’re looking for cynicism and entertainment, keep reading.

Limits

Mint’s unlimited plan has three major restrictions:

  • Subscribers can only use 35GB of full-speed data each month. After 35GB of data use, Mint throttles data to sluggish speeds.
  • Mint limits mobile hotspot use to 5GB per month.
  • Mint throttles video streaming to a maximum of 480p.

How slow are speeds after 35GB?

Mint screwed up its communications about the throttling it imposes after 35GB of data use. Pre-launch information I received said subscribers would be throttled to 128Kbps. The only specific speed I’ve found mentioned on Mint’s updated website is 64Kbps:

Mint Mobile’s ‘Unlimited Data’ plan comes with 35GB of high-speed data, which is slowed to 64 kbps thereafter and reset at the next billing cycle.

I expect Mint will clarify its policies by the end of the day. For the rest of this post, I’ll give Mint the benefit of the doubt and say the throttle is 128Kbps. In some sense, it doesn’t matter if the throttle is 128Kbps or 64Kbps. The internet will be almost unusable at either speed.

(Update: Mint clarified that users exceeding 35GB of data use will be throttled to 128Kbps)

Objections

But Chris! Mint lets you use unlimited data at 128Kbps! Sure, 128Kbps is slow as hell, but the plan is still unlimited!

No. At 128Kbps, a lot of things won’t work. Video won’t stream. Some web pages won’t load at all.

More importantly, a rate limit can’t coexist with unlimited data. If a full 128 kilobits is transferred every second for an entire month, only 41GB of data is used.1 There’s an absolute cap on Mint’s unlimited plan on data use of about 76GB (35GB + 41GB). Realistically, almost no subscribers will get much past 35GB of use in a month, since the internet will be so frustrating to use after the 35GB of full-speed data runs out.

But Chris! 35GB is practically unlimited! Almost everyone uses way less data than that!
Agreed! If you’re excited about the plan, this post probably shouldn’t dissuade you.

I don’t even fault Mint for calling the new plan “unlimited.” I’m impressed Mint managed to hold out so long while its competitors offered unlimited-but-not-really-unlimited plans.

My point is that consumers would be better off in the long run if carriers weren’t incentivized to mislabel plans.

Anyhow, if you’re interested in Mint’s new plan, go for it. It’s an awesome deal for $30 per month. Just realize it’s a 35GB plan.

Footnotes

  1. 31*(128/8)*60*60*24/1024^2 = 40.9ish

    • 31 days in a month
    • 8 bits in a byte
    • 60 seconds in a minute
    • 60 minutes in an hour
    • 24 hours in a day
    • 1024 kilobytes in a megabyte
    • 1024 megabytes in a gigabyte

    Perhaps 31 should be 30 given how Mint’s plans work.

17 thoughts to “Mint Mobile’s Unlimited Plan Has Limits”

  1. I agree with almost everything you said in the article. It is important to keep history in mind. The label ‘unlimited’ came at a time when companies would charge unreasonable data overage fees. The alternative was your data stopping at the cap – complete stop. These plans were unfriendly to consumers. Again, I agree that the ‘unlimited’ label is misleading. I have personally hit a data cap multiple times. I was still thankful to have some data so my WhatsApp messages, email, and other communications would continue to work.

  2. The problem with mint mobile is the d as ta does you no good if you have no service half the places you need it in.

  3. Mint Mobile is vile!
    I lost what little money I get per month from October 2019- mid January 2020; therefore, I had to give up my cell phone (and almost everything thing else I had.)
    I live 1000 miles away from the only people I have alive- both my teenage children, so I was unable to have any communication with them, or anyone for that matter.

    When I finally did receive my income plus the back pay on January 15, 2020 I was attending to be very frugal with the $1700 ( 3 months income.) So I tried shopping carriers and plans and Mint was clearly the cheapest option.
    Not realizing that even though I’m in the “middle of nowhere” Indiana, it’s STILL the 21st century America so I shouldn’t have much of a problem With service, RIGHT?
    WRONG! Not only is my Current area public transport FREE (not even Ubers or LYFTS,) it’s clearly a “dead zone” for many service providers!
    In an effort to plan proactively for the future, I paid for a full year of Mint Mobiles “unlimited” service on January 15 2020 so I would be sure to have some form of communication in the event that I lose my income again!
    Mint”s fine print only allows refunds for 7 days since the inception of service. Obviously since I don’t have/know many people, it took me several months to realize that the service was horrible and after my allotted 8 g (I game constantly,) the Service gets so slow that it won’t even register on my iPhone. It says “NO SERVICE.”
    In the beginning of August, my kids finally came to visit and offered to pay for a month of new service for me.
    When I called Mint to request a refund FOR THE REMAINING 4 months- that I had paid IN ADVANCE-not including my current month- they DENIED ME!!!
    They were unwilling to give me ANY money back- period. Was told “read the fine print. 7 days!” I was counting on that $300 to support myself through August.
    RYAN REYNOLD and his cohorts are EFFING THIEVES!!!

  4. I personally use Google Fi for the unlimited hotspot. It’s come in handy for myself and friends and family. But I do agree, unlimited should be unlimited, including hotspot.

  5. Mint Mobile’s data usage meter is rigged. I am at 16 days of service and the app is saying that I have used 31gb. I switched from t-mobile prepaid in which the most that I have used in a MONTH is 27gb. I have the same usage as with t-mobile. I am on WiFi at home and my main line is unlimited on Verizon. I am very disappointed.

    1. its easy to do a movie from Netflix is 1 GB at least. They are not starvin 35 gigs costs them between a $0.30 and $0..85 cents. I knew a Guy that Brother owned a Small Mobile Hotspot company and Offered me stock. I should bought it. He sold out to ATT a month Later.. These Companies offer much cheaper deals in 3rd world counties and still basically ripping People off. They be making over a 10000% Profit at 5 dollars a month True Unlimited.

  6. 35GB is practically unlimited!??? Nope. I watch Movies Not to mention my Rom updates weekly . (thats a 1.5 gig a week so 6 a month) 1GB a hour … 3 movies and my first week I be at Cap. Now Some will say that I am a data pig. Nope not apologizing for watching a service that some Providers Bundle with service. And we brain washed into saying is taking advantage do you know what service Providers paying for that 35 gigs? Less than a 80 cents in most cases…. Yep Even at 30 dollars a Month they are making 29 dollars Profit. So not giving us True unlimited is just cheap penny Pinching. This is 21st Century. If I want to Watch 40 hours in tv And Listen to online Music that not being a Data Hog as some Lawyers Data Providers Describe it. Thats being Reasonable. UNLIMITED NO DATA CAP THANK YOU! Making a even at 30 a month well over a 16000% Mark up PROFIT IS Not Starving there kids . THAT IS BEING A TRUE PIG! They can well Afford to give US REAL UNLIMITED! Even at MAX 5G Running 24 7 4 weeks solid they still make a 2000% PROFIT ! DATA bought in Bulk for these Companies is Just that CHEAP!

    1. Take off that 480p and go to 144 for videos and YouTube, yes its blurry thats why i just glance at and listen to videos, but it slows down the Gigabyte use drastically.

  7. 35GB is a lot! I’m a rather heavy user (although I drop resolution on videos a bit to get more bang for my buck). Unless you’re downloading lots of media, 35GB is pretty reasonable. (BTW .. you save lots of data if you use a good screen recorder .. no need to eat twice as much data. Try Logitech Capture.) Anyways .. so I’m with Q-Link .. which is part of the Mint network I think? I punch in Q-Link stuff and Google’s top result is Mint. Q-Link has a $30 Unlimited data plan. I couldn’t find anywhere on their site that says anything about throttling etc. I’ve been trying to find out if that is truly unlimited (I doubt it) or if not .. what the actual data cap or speed cap is etc. If anyone knows .. please let me know? Thank you. I’m thinking about getting a remote job and hitting the road. Tired of living like a rat, hiding from a virus.

  8. No, it doesn’t work after the derate. Google speed test put it at 0.1 to 0.25 Mbps up and download. Which is only good for reading a webpage. I can’t download a PDF viewer, but I can write this complaint about false advertising. Thx 4 getting the word out .

  9. You definitely sound like an old person expecting too much cause its not the normal cell phone company. A smart person would have paid for three months to give it a try, and that smart decision would have saved you alot of money. Sounds like its your problem.

  10. I know you made this comment a long time ago but I just wanted to say that Mint mobile didn’t really steal from you. Mint mobile is a pre-paid service meaning you pay for a year you get a year, if not then they would just have the regular monthly fees. You can’t buy a prepaid gift card for 500$ use 200$ decide you no longer need the rest of the 300$ and try to return it, in the same way you can’t return a pre-paid plan. The reason it is so cheap is because your buying it for an entire year, so being able to return it half-way would defeat the entire purpose. Secondly why the hell did you not check a coverage map is it really your first mobile provider, especially if you live in area with a small population. Mint mobile uses the same towers as T-Mobile a huge provider, so if you aren’t covered then you must really live in the middle of no where.

  11. When I signed up for the unlimited plan a year ago, when it was first offered, it stated 35gb and that the full 35gb could be used for hotspot. I even got a rep to verify the fact through a chat portal, yet a few months in, they lowered it to only 5gb, after I had paid for a whole year! I don’t have internet at home and was planning on watching my college lectures on my tablet through hotspot, plus all of the zoom meetings. Did anyone else experience this problem? I noticed unlimited caps the hotspot at 5gb no matter how much data you use regularly. Yet their lower plans claim all data paid for can be hotspot? Whichever is used first. So then, technically I could just pay for the 10gb plan and get 10gb of hotspot? (As long as I use no other data?) I need to renew but I’m not going with only 5gb of hotspot again…

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