T-Mobile, Sprint customers will be fine if the deals keep coming

T-Mobile, Sprint customers will be fine if the deals keep coming

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Competition was great for this reporter’s cell phone bill. A T-Mobile-Sprint deal would take one big carrier out of the mix.

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Here’s how this mega-merger could be good or bad for long-time customers. USA TODAY

A year ago, my wife and I were still paying through the nose for two cellphone lines from Verizon Wireless that somehow consistently cracked the $200 monthly barrier.

We made the switch to T-Mobile in September and quickly saw so many things for the better. We got lower rates—under $100 of unlimited calls and data with no extra fees or taxes, the ability to make free calls in Mexico, text and use data in Japan at no extra charge, and get a mobile hot spot for those times when access to Wifi just wasn’t there.

The network wasn’t as great as Verizon—but my complaints were minimal. With savings like that, who cared?

A T-Mobile store is seen on June 4, 2015 in Miami, Fla. After the government nixed AT&TÕs attempt to buy the company in 2011, T-Mobile led the way in many consumer-friendly changes, such as ditching two-year contracts and bringing back unlimited data plans. Consumers are paying less for cellphone service, thanks to T-MobileÕs influence on the industry and the resultant price wars. (Photo: JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES)

The proposed mega-merger of T-Mobile and Sprint meant it was time to go back to the big four wireless carriers to compare pricing, and get a real sense of deja vu. 

While the language may seem different, little has changed. the big two, Verizon and AT&T, continue to charge more and offer fewer benefits than scrappy No. 3 T-Mobile or No. 4 underdog Sprint.

The spin on the $26 billion merger is that by combining, the wireless industry will be more competitive and the contenders can have more oomph to be ready for 5G, the next step in wireless that will be way stronger than the 4G we have today.

But let’s take a quick look at recent history, and the consumer-friendly innovations T-Mobile sold to us:

—Lowered rates and ushered in the return of unlimited data. That’s what we had back in the early days of the smartphone revolution, only to see the carriers pull back on it when we started using it all the time. 

—The end of the two-year contract, and the offer to buy out your current contract to switch.

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—International data and texts.. T-Mobile offers the ability to make these in 140 countries at no additional charge. The speed is slower than back home, but it beats paying the average $10 a day to use your phone internationally that Verizon quoted me on a Japan trip before I switched. . 

—Monthly freebies, like T-Mobile’s Netflix on the house. Sprint has free Hulu and AT&T complimentary HBO. 

File photo taken in 2011 shows cell phone customers at the counter of the Verizon store in Beachwood, Ohio. (Photo: Amy Sancetta, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Sadly, rates are still sky high for all the carriers, and it’s really hard to compare their terms. 

In a nutshell, for one line of service with unlimited data, Sprint is the lowest at $65 monthly, followed by T-Mobile and Verizon at $70 and $75 for AT&T.

It’s the add-ons and the bundles where you see the big difference.

A four-person Verizon family plan goes to $160 with a free mobile hot spot, but it’s one with limited data. If you want unlimited, you need to step up to the $200 monthly plan—plus taxes and fees. Additionally, Verizon’s unlimited plan is capped—meaning if you use too much of it, Verizon will cut back on your speed. 

AT&T’s family plan is $180 without the hot spot, or $210 with it, plus the free HBO. AT&T will also cut back on your speed “when the network is congested,” the company says. 

T-Mobile charges $160 for 4 with the free hot spot, unlimited data, Netflix and free international data and texting 

Sprint’s family plan is a bargain priced $100 for two lines, but additional lines are free and you get the free subscription to Hulu. 

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to read through the plans and see which companies are  giving consumers the most for their money.

A pedestrian walks by a Sprint store in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images)

Mergers tend to make companies less competitive, not more so, and those sweetheart deals that got them to the bargaining table can tend to disappear.

The proposed merger raises many questions. Will the two companies fight harder for your business? Will the Sprint network, traditionally the weakest, actually become competitive? And what becomes of all those thousands of retail T-Mobile and Sprint stores? Do they remain standalone, or will many shutter their doors?

Either way, we know most consumers care most about one bottom line:  keep the add-ons coming and prices lower, and I stand with them. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg welcomes app developers to the Facebook F8 2018 developer conference held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center on May 1, 2018. (Photo: Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY)

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Facebook said it would start a dating service. No word on when this will debut, or exactly how it will work, but the social network did reveal that members will be able to announce their status privately within the groups and events section of the site. Will you now be tracked by Facebook suggesting ads for beachfront restaurants and hiking facilities when you say that you like “long walks on the beach?” That’s Facebook’s challenge—winning over skeptical consumers. 

Twitter’s passwords were hacked. Over 300 million Twitter passwords were hacked. Twitter suggested all of us change our passwords immediately. Have you done it yet? (We did on Thursday and suggest if you haven’t, you do it now.)

The Google Assistant is now in 5,000 smart home devices, reports the search giant. Products includ the Dish Hopper, Logitech Harmony remote controls, smart lights from ADT, Xiaomi, and IKEA, window treatments from Hunter Douglas, air conditioners and humidifiers from Hisense, televisions and other appliances from LG, and security cameras, alarms and door locks, from Arlo, ADT, First Alert, Vivint, August, Schlage, and Panasonic. 

MoviePass is bringing back movie a day subscriptions.  New subscribers to MoviePass can once again take advantage of its one-movie-per-day offering. The $9.95-monthly moviegoing subscription service had not included that option for new subscribers since mid-April, but the removal of the $9.95 movie-a-day monthly plan led to an online outcry. And so it’s back. 

The backward selfie trick. Photographer Anthony Quintano reveals his great backwards selfie smartphone trick on Talking Tech. 

Facebook’s move to augmented reality. The social network brought animated lipstick to a Sephora app and more at the F8 developer conference. 

I downloaded my data from Apple. Like we did with Facebook and Google, we downloaded the personal information Apple had collected and report the findings. 

Would you trust your dating profile to Facebook? Trying to take on Tinder and Match, Facebook announced plans to start a dating service, but, really—would you trust more of your love info with the social network?

Inside the T-mobile and Sprint merger and what it means to you. Ed Baig and Eli Blumenthal weigh in. 

Thanks for visiting with us again for our take on the week’s tech news. Have you subscribed to the newsletter? Click this link to get it delivered to your inbox every Saturday.  Be sure to check out the daily #TalkingTech podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to podcasts, and look for me on Twitter (@jeffersongraham) YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/jeffersongraham) and Instagram (http://www.instagram.com/jeffersongraham)

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