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.

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.

5 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. 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!!!

  3. 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.

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