When I woke up yesterday morning like I normally do, it wasn’t my personal iPhone’s alarm that was ringing. Instead, it was the alarm on the iPhone 5s provided to me by T-Mobile for their Test Drive program. If you haven’t read already, I received the iPhone last week and spent a good bit of time with it. Yesterday was the 7th and final day of the trial period and I have since returned the iPhone to the T-Mobile store a few blocks away. I wanted to give the device another full day’s worth of use, so after I silenced my alarm, I turned off the WiFi on the device and started my day.
In my last update, I mentioned that I wanted to test T-Mobile’s network as a personal hotspot, and in the days since I published that piece, I did just that. I started by using my AT&T Unite Pro hotspot to get an idea of the kind of network performance that a strong network would deliver. I use the AT&T hotspot quite often, but never really pay serious mind to the performance of the Internet. If it’s working, I’m happy. Usually, it’s doing just that. Once I got a feel for the AT&T network in the location I was sitting in, I fired up the T-Mobile hotspot on the iPhone 5s and got to working. A normal hotspot work session for me includes emailing, hammering my news reader with refreshes, downloading and uploading images, and writing in Google Drive (a live-saving web-writer).
I ran two tests on both AT&T and T-Mobile at SpeedTest.net through my laptop’s web browser before I started any serious work. The AT&T connection delivered 12Mbps down twice and 5/6Mbps up. T-Mobile, on the other hand, delivered with 32Mbps and 41Mbps download speeds alongside 11Mbps and 19Mbps upload speeds. Both networks were plenty fast for the coffee shop work I was doing, but if I came to adding streaming music to my workflow, I trusted the T-Mobile connection to deliver just a bit better.
I used each connection for about 45 minutes. They were both extremely stable, which is impressive given the reputation that T-Mobile can have in some areas. I was expecting some slow downs every few minutes, but it held consistency equal to my home broadband connection.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with how the T-Mobile network handled hotspot usage. It’s good to know that if I need to use it, it’s there.
The Return Process
I stopped into my local T-Mobile store on my way to the grocery store to pick up dinner supplies to return the Test Drive phone. I walked in, and was immediately greeted by a T-Mobile assistant store manager who was in the process of assisting another customer and told me she’d be right with me. Before she was able, another sales associate became available to assist me. She let me know that I was the first person at their store to return a Test Drive device, and said that the process could take a few more moments than I had expected, because they haven’t been trained on the return process. The associate placed a call to a T-Mobile support line and I was given a receipt and notified that the credit hold would come off of my card within 3 days. I was in the store for about 15 minutes and I expect that wait time to shorten as more stores learn how to process Test Drive returns.
Should I stay or should I go?
It’s been a fun week using a modern phone on T-Mobile’s modern network. Something I haven’t done in a long time. It was also nice to use an iPhone, so I could hook up my iMessage account and text my friends without having to give them another number. It really made the experience feel like I was testing my own personal device, and that always makes testing a network or device a lot easier. There are a few factors that will determine whether or not we take our family plan to T-Mobile. For starters, everyone in my family is going to want the new iPhone. Will I be able to pre-order and purchase four iPhone 6 devices at the same time or will those purchases be limited? I also want to get a better idea of coverage in another area, so I’m putting Eric to that test, since he lives in that market and I only visit it once in a while. If all of these things play in my family’s favor, it’s extremely possible that we’re T-Mobile customers by the end of October.
Please be aware that all of these results are completely subjective. T-Mobile’s service offering will differ by market. What I can say is that if you’re a potential subscriber in a big metropolitan market, T-Mobile’s coverage and service will be fantastic for you. If you’re in an area where the company is still expanding, rest assured that you aren’t forgotten about. T-Mobile plans to have all of its 2G service converted to 4G LTE by the middle of 2015. Until then, their devices do offer WiFi calling, so keep that in mind if you’re on the fence because service in your house is poor.
I’m really happy I gave T-Mobile a shot for 7 days. If you’re on the fence, try it for yourself HERE. You probably won’t regret it.