A few months ago, I got notice of T-Mobile's new "simply choice" plan with free data and text messages "in over 100 countries at no extra charge."
Great, I thought. Finally, one of the mobile carriers has dug out from under its rock and found a clue.
I've been a T-Mobile subscriber for years, not out of any special loyalty but because they were the carrier that offered the Sidekick ages ago. Given the two-year contract nonsense that US carriers are allowed to get away with, there have been relatively few opportunities for me to switch. And the devil you know. And inertia. So I've stayed. I do insist on a GSM carrier because I want my $#@$?*! phone to work in Europe, thank you very much.
For the past few years, I've simply been buying unlocked phones and renting cheap local SIMs. It makes perfect sense for T-Mobile to introduce a plan to discourage me from doing this. What I really care about when I'm traveling is data; the simply choice plan charges $0.20/minute for phone calls and, while that may not be cheap, I was perfectly happy to throw T-Mobile that bone for providing the data I want for free.
I had a really annoying experience with T-Mobile years ago. The Sidekick had a "disable data roaming option" which you needed with that phone because it was basically a cloud device before there was a cloud. It did /lots/ of background data. Well, it turned out that in London, the Sidekick connected to a carrier named "T-Mobile" so the device decided it wasn't roaming. Unfortunately, T-Mobile USA decided I was. I fought through three layers of supervisors trying to get the $80.00 charge off my bill before I gave up.
So this time, when I called to switch to the simply choice plan, I made a point of asking, "does it matter which provider I get connected to?" No, I was assured, you just don't get charged for data. Ok, I thought, genuinely clueful.
Not so much.
Upon arrival, I discovered that it does matter which provider you connect to. It appears to be the case that connecting to T-Mobile overseas is what they really mean. I got a couple of text messages when I arrived that made this clear(er). Especially the part about billing through other carriers at the "standard rate of $15.00/mb". In order to make it work at all, I had to turn on data roaming, suggesting I might quietly get billed at the usury rates. Thankfully, the couple of times I've connected to other providers I've been told I "had no connection to the internet" or words to that effect. I'm not sure what I'd have to do if I wanted to pay usury rates for connectivity anyway, but I also don't really want to find out.
Ok, let's say the rep was misinformed or didn't understand my question. Benefit of the doubt.
The other thing T-Mobile doesn't tell you is that your free data connection is artificially rate-limited. It is not quite unbearable, but it flirts with unbearable pretty aggressively. They do this in order to "upsell" you decent connectivity for US$25/week.
That level of deceit just pisses me off. So much that I just might switch to AT&T next time I can.
The irony is that if I'd simply been told these facts up front: that the plan only works when you're connected to T-Mobile and data costs $25/week, I'd have done some quick mental arithmetic and said "fine." T-Mobile have good coverage in Europe and a "data SIM" probably costs about $25. I'd be saved the inconvenience of finding a SIM provider, telling my contacts about my new temporary phone number, dealing with phone prompts in languages I don't understand, etc.
But I just don't think the conniving, lying bastards know how to be honest.