eSIM abstract

Mint Mobile Officially Launches eSIM

In November, Mint Mobile started offering eSIMs to a small subset of its customers. Earlier this week, Mint opened its eSIM product to all customers with eSIM-compatible iPhones.

Compatible Phones

Mint eSIMs work with all recent iPhone models:

  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE (second generation)
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

Mint doesn’t support eSIMs for any Android phones yet. Here’s what Mint’s cofounder, Rizwan Kassim, said when asked about eSIMs for Android devices:

There are relatively few Android devices in our base that support eSIM. OS support, app support and documentation are all better starting grounds for iOS as well.

Supporting Android is on the roadmap (Mid-2021), but it’ll be specific per device model and a slower rollout.

Getting an eSIM

Here’s how Kassim explains the process for switching to an eSIM:

Physical SIM to eSIM –

First, make sure you have the most recent update of the app.

Login to the app > tap on “Account” > select “Order Replacement SIM.” You’ll be asked to provide a form of payment for your replacement SIM; but you won’t be charged anything at completion.

Select “Get an eSIM” as your option (please note that this option will only be visible on an eligible device)

Select “This is my new device” and make sure that you are using the device that you want to install eSIM on.

Tap “Checkout”

Once it’s processed, you will be prompted to install your eSIM. Please follow the steps carefully to set your eSIM.

Once it’s installed, you’re done.

Kassim suggested new customers who want an eSIM should select eSIM as a shipping method during checkout. In my testing, I didn’t see an eSIM option. I expect the issue will be resolved soon.


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Mint Mobile Testing Premium “Treatmint” Support Program

A user on Reddit recently shared a glowing review of a premium support program Mint Mobile is testing. Here’s an excerpt:

Just participated in Mint Mobile’s white glove support program called Treatmint.

Totally rocks! live human support seven days a week…Best tech support I have ever received from any carrier. Totally knowledgeable about carriers, devices, LTE bands, settings.

It’s great to see Mint experimenting with potential improvements to the customer support experience. I’d love to have more carriers buck the norms of lousy support, convoluted phone trees, and long hold times.

As best as I can tell, Mint is considering using Treatmint as an add-on service or a perk on premium plans. The idea of allowing subscribers to pay for better support is interesting. There’s an argument that charging for good support is both fair and efficient. Some people rarely call customer support and try their hardest to resolve issues without help. Does it really make sense for these people to subsidize the costs of subscribers that call customer support regularly?

On the flip side, I worry that a premium support program could create perverse incentives. Carriers charging for premium support might let the quality of their regular support decline so that more people pay for premium service.

eSIM concept photo

Mint Mobile’s eSIM Rollout

Mint Mobile is starting to rollout eSIM plans. Yesterday, a Reddit user posted a screenshot of a text conversation with a Mint Mobile support agent. In the discussion, the agent stated, “We will be offering eSIM soon, for iPhone X and above.”

The information the chat representative shared can’t be entirely accurate since the iPhone X doesn’t support eSIMs. I’m guessing Mint will initially support eSIMs on all iPhones released after the iPhone X.

Rizwan Kassim, a co-founder of Mint, eventually commented on the Reddit thread. Kassim confirmed that eSIM was coming and attempted to temper people’s expectations:

Before everyone goes ballistic … let the thing actually come out and I’ll share more then. =)

Whatever happens, it’ll be a phased rollout and won’t be available in all places to all people immediately. but soon thereafter.

Today, another Reddit user shared that he or she successfully ordered eSIM-based service. While the rollout of eSIM has started, Kassim’s point about the phased rollout looks accurate. My attempts to order eSIM service (or even find an eSIM option) were unsuccessful.

Mint Mobile’s Pre-Black Friday Promo

Today, Mint Mobile launched a promotion where new customers can purchase a three-month plan and get three extra months of service at no cost. The latest promotion stacks with Mint’s existing introductory offer allowing new subscribers to buy three months of service at the monthly rate normally reserved for subscribers that purchase twelve months of service upfront.

Mint Mobile promotional image for the pre-Black Friday deal

With the combined offers, Mint’s plan with 3GB of data, unlimited minutes, and unlimited texts costs only $45 for six months (or $7.50 per month). While I haven’t seen an official end date for the latest promotion, I expect it’ll run until at least Black Friday (November 27).

Pricing

Total prices for six months of service (before taxes and fees):

  • 3GB plan – $45
  • 8GB plan – $60
  • 12GB plan – $75
  • Unlimited plan – $90

Effective monthly prices for the first six months (before taxes and fees):

  • 3GB plan – $7.50
  • 8GB plan – $10
  • 12GB plan – $12.50
  • Unlimited plan – $15

The final price of Mint’s services will typically be about 10% higher after taxes and fees. You can find additional details or subscribe on Mint’s website.

Man holding a ruler

Mint Mobile Pushes Back On Charging For Data Subscribers Don’t Use

In September, Mint Mobile launched an unlimited plan. The plan is a good deal with a price as low as $30 per month, but I’ve been critical of Mint using the word “unlimited” to describe a plan that actually includes 35GB of data each month.

Yesterday, one of Mint’s owners, Ryan Reynolds, shared a video about an upcoming feature on Mint’s unlimited plan. Soon, Mint will begin recommending that light and moderate data users on the unlimited plan renew to cheaper plans with smaller data allotments. Here’s how Mint explains it:

What if you don’t really need unlimited? Seriously, if you don’t, we can help you save even more money with Mint…we’re gonna be sending you monthly updates showing you exactly how much data you’re using. You can also check your data usage in the app. Then, when it’s time to renew your plan, we’ll recommend the perfect plan for you so you can save as much money as possible. And if that means you should downgrade into something that isn’t unlimited, then we’re gonna suggest you do so. BTW, the average person only uses about 6GB per month.

But wait, don’t most big wireless companies try to upsell me even if I don’t need it? Yes, they certainly do…but luckily, we’re not them. Our whole thing is to make sure you get premium wireless for less. Because if you’re only using 5, 6 or even 9 GBs a month, you shouldn’t be paying more for an unlimited plan you don’t need.

I’m glad to see Mint pushing against the industry’s trend towards unlimited plans for everyone. You can see Ryan Reynolds full announcement below:

Data Outage Affecting Some Mint Mobile Subscribers

A data outage has been affecting some Mint Mobile subscribers throughout the day. One of Mint’s co-founders, Rizwan Kassim, posted about the issue on Reddit:

An upstream error seems to have caused data provisioning errors for a number of subscribers.

It’s being worked, they don’t have a root cause yet, but I know this has been escalated. Down Detector showing issues on our carrier as well; not sure if it’s related or not.

I strongly think, but do not know, that this has nothing to do with the iOS 14 upgrade many of you installed today.

Based on reports I’ve read from Mint subscribers, the issue appears widespread geographically. I don’t know what proportion of Mint’s subscriber base is affected.

Kassim’s Reddit post suggests the issue may also be affecting T-Mobile. While Downdetector shows a slightly unusual level of issues associated with T-Mobile, I don’t think Downdetector’s data is consistent with a large-scale problem for T-Mobile subscribers.

I did a bit of my own digging for T-Mobile subscribers’ complaints about the networks’ performance today. I didn’t run into anything out of the ordinary.

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.

Mint Mobile Launches An Unlimited Plan

Mint Mobile launched an unlimited plan this morning. It’s available for as little as $30 per month.

Plan terms

Like many unlimited plans offered by mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), the plan isn’t actually “unlimited” in the mainstream sense of the word:

  • Subscribers can use 35GB of regular, full-speed data each month. After 35GB of data use, Mint throttles speeds to a sluggish 128Kbps.1
  • Mint caps mobile hotspot use at 5GB per month.

I’ll save my complaints about Mint misusing the word “unlimited” for a second post. 35GB of data and 5GB of mobile hotspot access will be sufficient for the vast majority of people.2

Like Mint’s old plans, the new plan includes unlimited minutes and texts. Calling to Canada and Mexico is also included at no charge.

Subscribers with 5G-capable devices will get access to 5G coverage from T-Mobile’s network. While T-Mobile’s 5G network is lackluster in terms of speeds, it leads the nation in 5G availability. You can check coverage at your location with Mint’s interactive map.

Pricing

With the new unlimited plan, Mint is continuing to price service based on how many months of service customers pay for upfront.

  • $30 per month – 12 months of service
  • $35 per month – 6 months of service
  • $40 per month – 3 months of service

The unlimited plan is eligible for the same introductory offer that Mint offers on its other plans. New customers can purchase three months of service at the rate Mint usually reserves for customers that purchase 12 months of service. I.e., three months of service on the unlimited plan costs $90 ($30 per month).

Reflections

Competitiveness

I’m glad to see Mint offering a plan for heavy data users with such a low price point. I expect the plan will be popular, especially among people who only need one or two lines of service. The new Mint plan should be competitive with other low-cost unlimited plans offered by carriers like Visible and Cricket. While I don’t think Mint’s new plan will make T-Mobile’s Essentials plan irrelevant, I’m ready to argue Mint’s plan is almost strictly the better option.

Pricing strategy

Interestingly, Mint has narrowed the distance between pricing tiers with the new plan. Mint’s 8GB plan costs $20 per month for customers that purchase a year of service upfront. The plan is 75% more expensive ($35 per month) for customers that purchase 3 months of service.3 Mint’s unlimited plan is only 33% more expensive for customers that opt for 3 months of service.4

In the past, I’ve wondered whether Mint’s pricing structure made volume discounts too aggressive. The large difference between monthly rates on three-month terms and twelve-month terms may have made the carrier unappealing to budget-sensitive consumers that could have been a good fit for Mint. Is it possible we’ll soon see Mint narrow the gap between pricing tiers on its old plans?

Mint’s new approach to pricing has a funny consequence. In some situations, Mint’s 12GB plan is now $5 per month more expensive than the 35GB (unlimited) plan.5

AT&T Prepaid Adds 6 Month Option To Its 8GB Plan

In one of my recent posts, I discussed the awesome deals AT&T is offering on its prepaid plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 8GB of data each month. At the time I wrote the post, AT&T offered the plan with three different price structures:

  • Month-to-month payments ($40 per month)1
  • Three months purchased upfront ($33 per month or $180 total)
  • One year purchased upfront ($25 per month or $300 total)

Now, AT&T has added another option. Customers that purchase six months of service upfront can get the 8GB plan for $30 per month.

Before AT&T added the six-month option, I was comparing AT&T’s plan to Mint Mobile’s 8GB plan. The plans look even more similar now that both carriers offer 3, 6, and 12-month payments options.

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.