T-Mobile Essentials Review

T-Mobile’s Essentials plan comes with unlimited minutes, texts, and data. While the plan comes at a lower price than T-Mobile’s other postpaid unlimited plans, it also lacks some of the features available on T-Mobile’s premium plans.

Key details

  • Unlimited minutes, texts, and data
  • Low-priority data (decreases speeds during congestion)
  • Mobile hotspot limited to 3G speeds
  • Taxes and fees extra
  • Video throttled to 480p

Speeds

When T-Mobile’s network is not congested, T-Mobile Essentials subscribers should experience speeds comparable to those experienced by other T-Mobile subscribers. Speeds were generally solid during tests I conducted in and around Boulder, CO:

Speed test results

T-Mobile Essentials subscribers have low-priority data.1 As a result, Essentials subscribers may experience slower speeds than other users on the network during periods of congestion.

Video throttling

While T-Mobile does not throttle regular traffic on the Essentials plan, most video traffic is throttled to about 480p (sometimes called standard definition).

Tests I ran with the app Wehe confirmed that T-Mobile throttles video on the Essentials plan:

Test results showing video throttling for Netflix and Hulu

Mobile hotspot

With the Essentials plan, T-Mobile throttles mobile hotspots to what it refers to as “3G speeds.” As far as I can tell, this means T-Mobile throttles hotspot speeds to a sluggish 600Kbps. While the internet may be usable at 600Kbps, browsing won’t be seamless. Demanding activities like video conferencing won’t be possible.

Here’s a screenshot from a speed test I ran with my laptop connected to a mobile hotspot:

Mobile hotspot speed test showing 520Kbps download speed

Pricing

The price per line for T-Mobile’s Essentials plan drops as more lines are added to an account. The table below lists plans costs after T-Mobile’s AutoPay discount. Prices for the Magenta and Magenta Plus plan are also shown.

LinesEssentialsMagentaMagenta Plus
1$60$70$85
2$45$60$70
3$30$40$47
4$26$35$43
5$24$32$40
6$23$30$38
7n/a$29$37
8n/a$28$36

Note that the Magenta and Magenta Plus plan includes taxes and fees while the Essentials plan does not. On my last bill, I paid about $5 in taxes and fees for a single line plan:

T-Mobile bill showing about $5 of taxes and fees

Footnotes

  1. As of 9/3/2020, T-Mobile’s website stated, “Essentials customers may notice speeds lower than other customers.” I also ran a test on 9/2/2020 that found a QCI of 7 for regular data use on an Essentials plan. A QCI of 7 is consistent with low-priority data given my understanding of prioritization on T-Mobile’s network.
    Test result showing a QCI of 7