Review: T-Mobile Simple Choice International Plan

Filed Under: Travel, Travel Technology

One of the things I really struggle with is how to stay connected on the road. On my recent trip to Beijing the internet at the hotel was essentially unusable, which severely impacted my ability to stay connected, and threw off my schedule by several days.

T-Mobile Simple ChoiceT-Mobile recently released their Simple Choice plan, which is targeted towards international travelers. The idea is that your phone just “works” upon arrival in a new country, which is certainly compelling:

There’s no need to purchase an expensive international plan since it’s automatically included with almost every Simple Choice postpaid plan. As part of that plan, consumers get unlimited international data and texting in 122 countries at no extra charge and flat-rate calls for just 20 cents a minute. And the best part, consumers don’t have to do a thing. No hoops to jump through, no special international plans to sign-up for, they just show up to their location and their phone works.

As part of their marketing campaign, T-Mobile asked if I would review the service on my next international trip, and offered to provide me with a “loaner” phone.

There are a couple of challenges here, the first being that I try to avoid taking comps of any kind unless there is something in it for you guys as well. That’s obviously not practical when it comes to phone service, though for what it’s worth T-Mobile is currently offering a seven day “test drive” for anyone who wants to test their domestic service.

T-Mobile Test Drive

This is a brilliant marketing move, in my opinion. Giving people the option to test out the product in advance is smart, especially as many people have probably had the same phone plan for years and are hesitant to switch.

Anyway, the bigger issue with reviewing the international features is that my travel plans have been changing almost daily. I’ve been trying to cover several different inaugural flights, and they keep getting pushed back for one reason or another. I had originally planned to review the T-Mobile service on a trip to Indonesia, and had made arrangements for T-Mobile to ship the test phone to me in advance, but ended up canceling that trip literally the day of.

However, my friend Tiffany was leaving that same week for a trip to Southeast Asia, so I asked if she’d be willing to test out the service on her trip. She was on the trip where we compared international data rental plans, and is better with technology anyways, so this is probably more helpful in the long run regardless.

Outside of the phone and wireless package itself, neither of us have received any compensation or consideration in exchange for this review. All thoughts, comments, and opinions are either hers or mine, and not those of T-Mobile.

Hello again!

A few weeks ago I was staring at my suitcase in frustration, trying to figure out how on earth I was going to fit four pair of shoes in my 20” carry-on when the phone rang.

Ben: Did you get a FedEx package for me today, by chance?
Me: Yep! Is the plan still to meet in the oneworld lounge at LAX tomorrow, or what time is your flight?
Ben: Sooooo, about that….

Which is how I ended up taking another piece of technology with me to South East Asia.

Fortunately the HTC One M8 they sent used the same chargers as all my other stuff, otherwise we’d be re-evaluating our friendship instead of reviewing phone service ;-).

To give you a bit of background, I currently spend about half the year abroad internationally, and feel like I have my tech setup pretty dialed-in. I’m sure there’s probably a more efficient or economical approach (and I’d love to hear it!), but this works pretty well for me.

I use a ton of data, and have a near-constant need for connectivity. I can get by without phone service as probably 90% of my phone calls are made through GrooveIP or Google Voice anyways, but slow internet is a deal-breaker. I also (probably irrationally) place a high value on the block of time between wheels-down and reaching the lounge or hotel. I can get an astounding amount of work done on a moving sidewalk or on a train, so having service right when I land is a huge perk for me.

Currently, I use an unlocked HTC One with a grandfathered Sprint unlimited plan for my domestic service. The data speeds are fast enough to tether my laptop to, which I do pretty frequently, and haven’t had any issues with throttling or anything like that.

I also have an Italian Vodafone SIM card that “lives” in my phone. This is a prepaid plan that gives me 2GB of data per month in Italy for €17, and then roaming anywhere else in Europe or the UK is €3 a day. I just load up the account if I’m going to be headed that way, and it works when I land. Easy peasy.

For longer trips, or travel outside of Europe, I also have an unlocked mobile hotspot. This is seriously the best purchase I’ve ever made, and picking up a local SIM card is generally as simple as smiling to the person at the kiosk and handing them the hotspot. Data-only packages are typically pretty reasonable, especially given that you can have multiple devices connect to one hotspot, so it’s great if you have multiple people traveling.

Again, I am positive there are less-expensive options, but this is easy, at least for me.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the T-Mobile Simple Choice experience. Here’s a brief overview of the service in the cities I visited, then I’ll go into further detail below:

San Diego, CA - 4 bars, 4G LTEChicago, IL (Downtown) – 4 bars, unusable data
Los Angeles, CA – 5 bars, 4G LTEChicago, IL (O’Hare) – 5 bars, data still unreliable
Hong Kong – Tech issues, no serviceSingapore – 5 bars, 3G
Langkawai, Malaysia – 4 bars, 3GKuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 5 bars, 3G
Siem Reap, Cambodia – 4 to 5 bars, 3GAngkor, Cambodia - 1 to 2 bars, 2G

Domestic service in the US

Out of the box, the T-Mobile service at my house in San Diego blew Sprint out of the water. Seriously.

Like, remember when we all had dial-up at home and then went to college and they basically had magic coming of the ethernet ports? It was like that.

So that aspect at least was really impressive, and the service on the way to LAX was great as well. Even in areas where I typically don’t have Sprint data coverage (like around San Onofre) I still had reception with T-Mobile.

It is worth noting that I had the opposite experience in Chicago though. This was at the tail end of my trip, so I’m not sure if that had any impact, but the T-Mobile data situation there was impossible, while I had no issues with my Sprint phone. Sending a text through Google Voice (which uses the data connection) was taking 10-15 minutes, if it sent at all.

If someone lives in Chicago and can report back on the T-Mobile situation there that would be really helpful, actually. It could certainly have been a re-entry issue with the phone itself, and I don’t really have any input otherwise.

International Service – Hong Kong

After the amazing coverage in California I was really excited to see how the phone worked overseas.

So after a perfect flight on an airline that actually knows how to provide personalized service to non-German speaking passengers, I turned the phone on and waited for magic to happen.

Which, to be honest, was quite possibly the most frustrating technology experience I’ve had in recent memory.

Hong Kong Network Hong Kong No Network

Five hours later, success!

T-Mobile Welcome to HK

Annnnd, then back to nothing:

T-Mobile HK No Network

I was only in Hong Kong for one night, so didn’t take the time to call T-Mobile’s tech support, but never had voice or data service for more than maybe 7 minutes. I did reset the phone, turn mobile data on and off, and toggle every other setting I know of (and keep in mind I use a phone nearly identical to this one on a daily basis, both home and abroad).

Scott had similar issues in Hong Kong, and he’s much smarter than me, so I’m thinking there are probably some extra steps or settings that need to be managed for the T-Mobile products to work well in Hong Kong.

Based on my other experiences I don’t think this is a deal-breaker at all, just something to be aware of so you don’t feel like a crazy person if it’s not working for you.

International Service – Langkawi

Landing in Malaysia the following afternoon, the phone worked perfectly!

Literally, within a minute of taking the phone out of airplane mode I received a text from T-Mobile, and I had 3G service immediately.

T-Mobile - Welcome to MAS T-Mobile KLIA

The connection was great at the Kuala Lumpur airport (which I would expect), and even after taking a domestic flight to Langkawi the phone worked perfectly.

I had great service the entire time I was there, which is impressive for a more rural area, and the T-Mobile global network even made it possible to connect to Thai cell networks, which were stronger in many areas.

So, super awesome, really impressive, and couldn’t be happier.

International Service – Kuala Lumpur

Service was similarly flawless for the first day in Kuala Lumpur. We were there for a wedding, so were all over the city (if you’ve ever been in a wedding, you know how that goes), and had consistently great service. I was able to manage several email accounts, order cars from Uber, and, most importantly – upload pictures to Instagram with ease.

KL Petronas Towers

(As a side note, I think the camera on the HTC One is better in low-light conditions than the new HTC One M8. Not like this is a phone review, and this is still great for freehand-through-glass-from-an-overly-florescent-room, but just in case anyone was wondering.)

Halfway through the time in Kuala Lumpur I started having the same issue where the phone couldn’t find a network to connect to as I’d had in Hong Kong. I have no idea why this started happening suddenly, but was able to call T-Mobile and speak with someone at tech support.

I’m actually glad for the experience of calling in, as their service staff was phenomenal. I spend pretty much my entire life on the phone with front-line phone representatives, and they are rarely pleasant, much less competent. The people I spoke with at T-Mobile were sharp and friendly, which was a really refreshing change.

T-Mobile KL SettingsThey were quickly able to walk me through changing a setting on the phone which was buried under “WiFi Calling.” I’m not sure if this is a feature of all Android phones, or is specific to HTC, but that seems like a pretty odd place to have a setting that basically turns off the phone antenna.

So, if this is happening to you, make sure you’ve selected “Cellular Network Preferred,” which isn’t intuitive to me, but there ya go.

Other than that glitch, the service worked really well, and I was totally happy. There really weren’t any coverage blackouts or dead zones, and it was really nice to have data coverage while sitting in jams for hours on end. (Gotta love KL traffic!)

International Service – Siem Reap

Service here wasn’t as fast as in Kuala Lumpur, nor would I really expect it to be.

But I consistently had 3G service within the town of Siem Reap, and generally had at least 2G throughout most of the temples in Angkor. There were some more isolated areas where I barely had cell service at all, but at one point the connection was still strong enough to have a Hangout with my mom and show her the baseball-sized scorpion I’d just nearly stepped on. Because that’s the kind of thing all mothers want to know about, and I am a great daughter ;-).

Also, technology is really amazing, when you stop to think about it.

International Service – Singapore

I was only here for a night, but the connection was seamless.

The phone once again worked immediately upon arrival, speeds were consistently fast, and coverage throughout the city was great.

Overall Impressions & Pricing

The T-Mobile Simple Choice plan is a fantastic idea, and I really hope this idea takes off with other carriers as well. Other than the minor issues with settings I didn’t have any problems, and for a situation where I was in multiple places for just a few nights at a time it was certainly easier than swapping SIM cards in and out.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve had the same Sprint plan for about six years, so I have really amazing pricing on my current phone plan. I also have several other lines on the account, so to switch to T-Mobile and have everyone on an equivalent plan and phone to what we have now would be about $90 extra per month, if you factor in the cost of new phones for everyone. Otherwise, the costs of the packages look to be roughly equivalent.

The only thing I’m unsure of is if the unlimited data with T-Mobile is as truly unlimited as what I currently have with Sprint. The fine print is a little ambiguous there, so I need to research further.

The experience was good enough that I’m considering switching though, and easy enough for me to recommend that Ben definitely should switch. Given his travel patterns I think the T-Mobile plan is probably a no-brainer.

I hope that helps, and please let me know what questions I can answer about international phone coverage with T-Mobile! – Tiffany

  1. Weird that you had issues in Hong Kong.

    I spent a few months overseas this winter and used my T-Mobile plan to roam internationally the whole time. Everything worked really well in Phuket, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. The only place I had a problem was in Macau where T-Mobile doesn’t have a roaming agreement yet.

    For what it’s worth, I use an unlocked iPhone 5S from the US and everything “just worked” without any issues like you mentioned 😉

  2. As the posts headline clearly indicates, the “free” international data is included with T Mobile’s “Simple Choice” plans. It is not included with their “Walmart Plan”, which costs $30/month (including tax) for unlimited USA domestic data and 100 minutes of phone time. So, if you don’t do that much international travel, the Walmart Plan might be a better option. (I live in Los Angeles and the connection is, as noted above, excellent).

  3. I have a T-Mobile 5GB data plan which I use with a Samsung LTE Mobile Hotspot Pro that I bring with me when I travel. I pay $30/month minus a 20% discount I get from my company. I still have my AT&T iPhone, but I’m thinking of moving to TMO soon. Everything works seamlessly as soon as I turn on the device after landing. It picks up the local provider and data starts working within a few minutes. Data speed for me is a mixed bag. It worked noticeably faster in ICN, HKG and PVG, but very slow in FRA, CGK, and DPS when I was there. 3G speeds were acceptable in TYO and KUL as well.

  4. i have simple choice intl with my plan – the $80 unlimited everything plan (including 4G high speed data unlimited) + 5GB mobile hotspot – but have yet to test the intl feature so this post is very informative.

  5. Switched to this plan at beginning of year (after 10+ years with ATT). Am saving $60/month with family plan (3 lines). Service was seamless in Istanbul, Sochi,Moscow ,Hong Kong, Bali, and Zurich. For Ben, it should be a no brainer.

  6. I used the T mobile in Alberta Canada and had the same issue as you. It worked fr 5 minutes, then stopped. Repeat. I was also concerned that the phone stated that I would have to pay roaming charges. Have not checked my bill yet but I am hoping this is standard language that does not apply. Anybody know if this is true?

  7. I was always under the impression that international data with t mobile was 2g only. Awesome to see that 3G is offered. Under promise and over deliver! Did you have a chance to do a speedtest?


  8. I typically will get a SIM or use a hotspot while abroad, but in a recent trip to Europe (where I knew my hotels and airBNB stays had free wifi) I decided to go without a 3g/4g plan for 12 days.

    I found between Starbucks (Yes they are everywhere) and other city wifi hotspots I could check a few emails and checkin on swarm (totally unnecessary, but fun).

    London – Decent Wifi and Boingo in LHR (When not in lounge)
    Helsinki – Amazing Wifi access
    Tallinn – Decent Wifi access
    Krakow – Lots of locked Wifi Access Points
    Zakapone – Tour busses on the parking lot had wifi, as did the Mountain Gondola Stations
    Warsaw – Free City Wifi
    Toronto and Vancouver – I used 3G/4G, but wifi is ok

  9. Just a heads up, I returned from a week in Buenos Aires and got no data connection the entire time. 4 calls to support were unable to make it happen and I read many threads in T-mobile support where people mentioned the same problem in Argentina. I contacted them again when I returned to the States and they said they would begin the process to remove Argentina from their coverage list.

  10. I switched to T-mobile primarily because of this plan. It is really fantastic. I was traveling for the last 4 months on it across five countries in Latin America. No problems whatsoever. You get unlimited 2G data which isn’t very fast but more than adequate for Google maps, Facebook, and e-mail. You have an option to purchase 3G data packs. This in conjunction with the fact that you can still be accessible with your US number (0.20 a minute flat rate). I’ve heard some people say they got 3G service in Europe but haven’t confirmed it myself. The actual service really depends on who T-mobile has a roaming agreement with but for the most part it was one of the top carriers in each country. I really hope some other carriers do something similar.

  11. Thanks Tiffany for the helpful review!

    I’m currently on Verizon and they don’t have nearly enough intl partners. Considering this new service by TM now….I wonder how it works with iPhone…..

    Just curious, you also in the travel biz like Lucky? Also are you going to stick to your current unlocked mifi setup?

  12. I got this plan for ease of international travel. I did not drop my regular cell phone plan. I am glad because I have found that the T-mobile service in Chicago (where I live) is not great. I also found the service to be spotty in Hong Kong. Otherwise, I think it is great and I love not having to hunt for SIM cards.

  13. I find that the T-Mobile international plan is totally awesome!!!

    I can keep my phone on and not worry about being dinged for huge charges. I don’t have to mess with SIMs or different phone numbers and forwarding. I don’t care if people send me texts since I’m not paying. I can pull up maps or whatever.

    The data speeds seem fine to me, at least for maps, email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. (I do download maps of the countries I’m going to by WiFi before I leave.)

    In my opinion T-Mobile is the no-brainer service of choice for any U.S.A. resident who travels internationally and pays their own phone bill. Unlimited texts and data, and inexpensive voice. It’s a way better deal than any competitor.

    I love two other features: WiFi calling, which is built into my phone and works internationally as well, zero charges for calls. And data tethering, which only works in USA but if you are at a place where there is no free WiFi, you can get your laptop onto the Internet for free.

  14. Great article, substantively. Really solid info in here.

    Just trying to figure out what I should do….

    I have an unlocked 5S (iPhone)…currently use ATT in the States. Going to Sicily, Canada, Egypt, and Thailand all within the next 6 months.

    Wondering if I should just use my unlocked phone and purchase a SIM card at each spot, or at the end of the day, whether I should try the T-Mobile referenced above….

  15. @ FlyingDoctorWu — That would have been smart, but I am not a professional blogger, so didn’t think of it until I got home.

    Here it was 11.28 Mbps down and 6.55 up, versus what I get with Sprint, which is *barely* 0.27 Mbps down and 0.36 up, since I don’t get LTE here typically.

  16. @ Stacey — Thank you!! I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t work on the iPhone. I’ll probably stick with my MiFi setup just because I’m often traveling with other people who *aren’t* frequent travelers, and it’s really nice for them to be able to connect their devices as well.

  17. @ Ben — Thanks! In my experience, it would depend on how long you’re going to be in each place. In this case I wasn’t anywhere for more than a few days, at which point buying a separate SIM card gets sorta irritating. If you’re going to be places for at least a week and are otherwise happy with AT&T it might not make sense to switch.

  18. Thanks Carl! I’m sold!

    No tethering internationally though means a mifi device might still come in handy for laptop usage I guess?

  19. I signed up T- Mobile in April to take advantage of their international data plan but had very bad experience with them and wrong billing for three months in a row. In my experience, Tmobile is the worst and won’t recommend it to anyone. Their front line sales team was eager to push sales so hided a lot of information. Customer service was nice until I asked to cancel the service. The charged the whole month even I only use one day in July even though the T-Mobile store agent told me that they will bill prorate. They didn’t. I didn’t make any phone call when traveling internationally( I even remove the phone button from my front page to prevent pocket dialing) but in the end they billed $125 for calling their customer service from Hong Kong and Japan which I didn’t. I asked to file disputed but they denied and said I wouldn’t be able to close my account. I paid the full month( even only one day usage) to end this nightmare and never again! The only thing I can agree with Tiffany is HTC One or HTC one M8 are both great phones. Sprint 3G and 4G service is a joke in NYC. Don’t try it.

  20. I switched to T-Mobile for this plan, and I love it. Previously I always left my primary cell phone at home and used my unlocked iPhone 3 and bought a sim card in the country I was visiting. That worked, there were several problems: often the sim card would work in that country, but not necessarily other countries I traveled through in transit. Also, the sim card number and the minutes expire if you don’t use them for a certain period of time. And the number is always a new one, so it’s not something that I or the people who want to call me can remember. Data seemed to always be limited, and I would rack up data usage without thinking I was using much.

    With T-Mobile, my next door neighbor could call me in Portugal if something’s wrong at my house, and it’s still a local call for them. And for me it’s 20 cents a minute to receive the call.

    I also appreciated that T-Mobile let me just pay for the phone and then promptly unlocked it for me. So, I could still use another sim card if I wanted to. That was my original plan, but I found it so convenient to just use theirs that I haven’t done it. for a long-term stay I might though. I applaud T-mobile for providing this flexibility and hope other providers follow the example.

  21. I have used the T Mobile plan throughout West Africa and was very pleased. In the countries listed in their promotional material, service was available and was only $.20/min. I sent a lot of photos via their free data. I find the T Mobile service in Chicago to be quite good. Don’t understand the complaints. BTW: I too had a bit of static between what was told me in store and what was reflected on my first bill. Customer Service cheerfully and promptly made it right, never accusing me of being a liar, etc. :)-

  22. I’ve traveled extensively using T-mobile’s free data roaming. I switched to T-mobile because of all my international travel. I’ve used it in Dubai UAE, Turkey, Bahrain, Taiwan, Mexico, Canada, France, UK, Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, China, and Greece. I can tell you the devices do connect in 3G in most countries. I did do a speed test in every country and it looks like speed is throttled to .12 mbps (2G speed). It is fast enough to use google maps, listen to streaming music, websites, and emails. The good news is it is connected back to the T-mobile server in the US so even in China and middle east I was not censored by their government. I’m happy even with the 2G throttle speed as it is FREE internet. Many of the countries that T-mobile included in the free roaming plan aren’t even in the other major carrier’s paid data package plan.

  23. I’m in Hong Kong now. You have to manually change to Smartone which is the one 3G network you can use for tmobile international roaming

  24. Great Review I have gotten slammed on my last few international trips with data charges. When in China the internet is so restrictive it is difficult to get work done and even VPN services are not reliable. Will plan to try one of these on my next international trip.

  25. Couple face palms in this article.

    Yes, tmobiles unlimited plan IS truly unlimited.

    Second if you paid more down on your phones it wouldn’t be 90 a month more to switch

    Lastly, WiFi Calling is a feature unique to tmobile in the US where your regular calls/texts work through WiFi anywhere in the world. So you’re not at whim where there is cellular coverage. Your calls/texts work like normal with your regular number wherever there is wifi. It is NOT a voip service like Skype. It is an extension of tmobiles cellular network to wifi.

  26. This was so great!!! Have been a long time TMo customer and immediately called up to change the family plan to Simple Choice and shaved $60/month off the bill. Question: do you get a text message when you arrive in each country letting you know that unlimited text and data is included and that calls are 20 cents a minute? Would like to know what people’s experiences are with that. Thanks.

  27. How much MORE does it cost to actually get 3G speeds when roaming in these countries on the Tmo plans? Everyone I’ve talked with says yep, they get 2G speeds only, and it can be slower than dial-up

  28. @tivoboy: For some reason, the throttling is inconsistent. It’s more consistent in Europe, less consistent in Asia. If you want to guarantee that you get 3G or better:

    * $15 gets you up to 100 MB in one day
    * $25 gets you up to 200 MB total for a week
    * $50 gets you up to 500 MB total for two weeks

    More expensive than getting a local SIM, but cheaper than roaming with the other carriers. For what it’s worth, you get unlimited text messages while abroad even if you don’t pay for guaranteed speeds.

    @Stacey: For some odd reason, relatively people are aware that T-Mobile does carry the iPhone now. It’s a fully supported device, so yes, international roaming is included in the plan.

  29. @Tiffany: Some upgrade work was/is happening in Chicago to increase capacity and speed. Perhaps it was related to that?

    Regarding the unlimited data: I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you’re referring to Section 11, “In addition, if your total usage exceeds 5GB…”. A lot of people point that out. Strangely enough, they all seem to miss out on a statement in the very first paragraph: “To the extent any term in your Rate Plan expressly conflicts with these T&Cs, the term in your Rate Plan will govern.” Since the $80 (used to be $70) unlimited plan explicitly states that you will be getting unlimited 4G LTE data (states it twice and even once in bold on the plans page) AND it’s also constantly advertised as such, the “5GB” clause should be overriden.

  30. @Komal Here is a list of all the countries covered:

    I had mixed results with regard to getting text messages. Sometimes I would get one right away, some times a few hours, and some countries I didn’t even get the welcome message. It isn’t a problem though as long as you are in one of the roaming countries… there will be no charges for data or SMS (inbound/outbound) so you shouldn’t have to worry.

    I also had a Nexus 5, which you can use to tether the Internet connection off of as there are no restrictions with it.

  31. I have used TM all over the greater Chicago area for the past 5-7 years and have had no problems with either voice or data. The Data on the phone is never throttled.

  32. @ saykred cow — Great to know that the plans are “truly” unlimited, rather than “unlimited with a bunch of fine print.” Thank you!

    As far as the cost of the phones though, I must be missing something. The ~$90 a month figure I gave factors in the prorated cost of purchasing multiple phones, which is pretty much the same whether purchased upfront or spread out over a two year period, right?

  33. @ Steven L. — Thanks, that’s super helpful!

    The service in Chicago could very well have been user error. It seems rather odd that coverage would be so good in Southern California and then so horrid in Chicago, but if there were updates happening that might explain it as well, thank you!

  34. @Tiffany It depends. T-mobile is pretty transparent when it comes to the phones. You could bring your own phone (assuming it is unlocked) or purchase one somewhere else (i.e. Nexus 5, etc). Or you can get a phone through T-mobile which you can either purchase up front at the retail price (S5 and M8 are ~$650). If you buy it outright you will have no additional monthly fees. If you choose to finance the phone they just split the retail price of the phone over 24 months. So roughly $650/24 = ~$27 a month which is what you would pay for a high end phone. Each month you pay this, they deduct this price from the retail price of the phone. So you can buy the phone outright for 650 – 27*x months at any point.

  35. Chicago resident and t-mobile customer here…service tends to be spotty for me the last few years while at home and at work. Both locations are downtown highrises but husband’s verizon works perfectly. On the other hand, t-mobile always works perfectly for me internationally- clear calls and fast data. I’ve had a few issues at O’hare too but only in specific areas.

  36. Great information. I have been a T-Mobile customer for over 10 years. I first got them when the Sprint coverage in Chicago was horrible, but also because they were the ONLY carrier at the time that had GSM phones that could be used internationally and we travel frequently. Frankly, all the phone services have their good and bad points, (At&T makes me nuts). But for me, T-Mobile is the best of these terrible companies, (and I’ve had my share of problems with them too).
    Based on friends’ experiences, Verizon has the best coverage in the states, but in Chicago, my T-Mobile works quite well. In France, Argentina, London, Dublin, Zurich, and Italy, texting and calls are fine with my slow-as-molasses iPhone 3GS. I’m a staunch T-Mobile customer because they seem to have the most agreements with some of the strongest companies abroad!

  37. Hi Tiffany, great review.

    I travel for work 100% of the time, and about half my trips are out of the US. I recently switched to Tmo after being with AT&T for years– but really just because of the included international service.

    While the coverage in the US is not as great as AT&T, their customer service and and international data make up for it. I’m also in Chicago about once every two weeks, and have never had issues there with coverage.

    In terms of international coverage, I’ve been to Aruba, Mexico, and India last month and had 3G service the whole time, and it worked flawlessly. I just got back from Canada had and LTE service while there.

    The only advice I can give you for the technical issues you were having is that you need to make sure you have the “data roaming” switch turned ON. I am an iPhone user, and had the same issues as you until I turned this switch on.

  38. I got this T Mobile plan for my recent trip. It worked flawlessly in Frankfurt for my 12 hour layover there.

    It did not work in Hong Kong and was very on and off in Bangkok. It didn’t work in Singapore unless I was in the middle of the city in a touristy area. It was very slow in Siem Reap.

  39. I used it on a recent trip to Europe. So refreshing not to have to basically disassemble your phone (remove battery & SIM) for fear of it somehow connecting and racking up a huge data bill to the tune of $15/MB.

    Service was great in Germany and Sweden, and NO EXTRA CHARGE whatsoever on this month’s bill for data or texting while in Europe. It’s like magic! I used almost 1.5GB during the trip, per my phone’s data meter.

    Love love love T-Mobile (not a fanboy but everyone who travels internationally will understand what a game changer this is).

  40. I love this plan.
    Three weeks in Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy, and the phone worked great.
    Sadly, T-Mobile coverage is extremely spotty in my neighborhood. I can use wifi calling in the house, but when I’m out walking the dogs I’m unreachable.

  41. I just got back from my trip and used my trusty Nokia Lumia 810 in UK, India and UAE. No issues anywhere and actually the speeds were quite good for HERE Maps, general email, Feedly (to read Lucky’s blog), SMS and some occasional work. The best speeds were on a 2G connection in rural India – go figure!

  42. I been to a few countries this year and I must say that T-mobile has done a good job here.
    The speed is usually fast enough for google maps and simple page browsing. Also email is fine too.

    The ability to NOT switch phones, sim cards and 20cent flat rate calling is worth it.

    There were some places where I couldn’t connect… E.g. Macau. (I was using a nexus 5)

    There are better options if you stay in one country for extended amount of time. However I usually stay in a place for less than 3 days and travel multiple countries, this service is pretty amazing for that.

    The places I’ve used the t-mobile plan are: Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany and Macau (which didn’t work for me).

    One other thing to note is that there are often multiple carriers that you can connect to with in a country. E.g. I was able to connect with China Mobile and China Unicom without issue and was able to get online. Also, in China — as long as you are using a foreign simcard on their network, you are free to browse Facebook … 🙂

  43. I have T-Mobile’s Everything plan with an iPhone 5 purchased from Apple and used it last fall in Bahrain, soon after it was introduced. I’ve since used it in Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France. I never got 4G or LTE reception overseas, probably because different frequency bands are used for them in North America and Europe, but I almost always got 3G data, very few EDGE aka 2G occasions.

    I’m a happy T-Mobile customer

  44. @Garrym Can you confirm you were getting 3G data speeds included with your unlimited data at no additional cost? I have heard of a few people getting this in some countries in Europe.
    To add some additional info, I recently used it in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia. I often connected to 3G networks but it was EDGE speeds in all of these countries.

  45. I apologize if this is a dumb/obvious/off-point question: but do you know whether T-Mobile has a Simple Choice-esque plan that would work internationally with a Tablet/iPad (for those of us who need a bigger canvas)?

  46. I decided to try out T-Mo on a single line this spring on a couple overseas trips.
    In general I was quite happy with the experience in Istanbul, Vienna, Madrid, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Singapore.
    At times yes data seemed to slow down a bit, but honestly unless I was trying to view a very graphic rich web page on my phone, it was not a deal breaker.
    The value in being able to stay in touch with family for literally pennies compared to AT&T makes this a no brainer.
    My biggest concern with T-Mo however is back here at home in the U.S. Unfortunately the reception near my home is pretty crappy (2-3 bars) while AT&T is solid 5 LTE.
    I’m really torn if I move the rest of the family over to T-Mo or not.

  47. @Tiffany
    I’m not sure how often you are in Italy, but for Europe, I’d say Three UK’s offer is unbeatable. It’s essentially T-Mobile’s plan but within its multiple networks around the world, so in this case, in Europe you’d have the whole of Scandinavia, Finland, Ireland, France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Since you mostly use data anyway, Three UK offers 25GB outside of the UK at max speed.

  48. Is it possible to use this like a GPS while driving in Europe? I would love to leave my sorry GPS unit at home. I don’t currently have a smart phone but I am going to get one when my contract is up with Verizon . This looks like a good plan for us, we hope we can dump the GPS, camera,iPad and kindle and all the cords for an iPhone! Please weigh in with any thoughts, Thanks

  49. Thank you, Tiffany & others! Have Sprint and been thinking of switching over or at least getting a line with T-Mobile so it’s helpful to read about others’ experience.

  50. @tiffany

    If you pay more down on the phone the monthly payment for the device is less. For example an iPhone 5s is $27 a month of you out nothing down but only $15 a month if you put $300 down.

  51. @Tiffany

    By any chance did you try using the T-Mobile SIM Card in your sprint HTC One M7? I have an unlocked M7 with sprint, but am going to be traveling in Eastern Europe for 6 months and am thinking of setting up a T-Mobile simple choice plan for that time.

  52. @ Nat — I didn’t try it, but I’m not sure if that would make sense. T-Mobile wants you to use the plan “primarily” in the US, and I think you would realistically get a better deal by purchasing SIM cards locally in Europe.

  53. I see many say this is working well but I just saw this on the T-mobile web site on the FAQ.

    Will I get the same high-speed network experience now internationally, as I do here at home in the U.S.?

    No. Customers will have unlimited web speeds great for web browsing and e-mail, social networking and occasional use of certain features like GPS/maps. Some applications like streaming music or video will be more difficult than when on T-Mobile’s domestic network. However, higher-speed data passes will be available for purchase when you are abroad:

    Single day pass: $15 for 100MB (high speed data capped at 100MB)
    7 day pass: $25 for 200MB (high speed data capped at 200MB)
    14 day pass: $50 for 500MB (high speed data capped at 500MB)

  54. October 18, 2014. My wife and I just returned from a 3 week trip (from the USA) to Italy and were using the “Simple Choice” global plan. This includes (while Roaming and not using WiFi) Unlimited text, email, data (4G for 1GB then downgraded speed to 3G for unlimited GB’s), and talk at 20 cents per minute.

    Here is a summary of what we encountered:

    1. Upon arrival in Italy, we received a T-mobile text message affirming the plan as shown above. However, a second T-mobile text arrived stating: “Free T-Mobile Msg: Unlimited web included as part of your global coverage. To purchase high speed data please visit:……………”

    This message is confusing because it suggests that unlimited data may not be included as part of the plan (I think the message is supposed to mean that after using 1GB of 4G speed, more 4G speed could be purchased instead of the speed being downgraded to unlimited 3G). However, this message confused me as well as two other family members traveling in other parts of Europe using the same plan (who received the same text message).

    2. Every thing worked 100% as advertised in WiFi areas.

    3. Traveling from Milan (northern part of Italy) south to Sorrento (southern part of Italy) over 3 weeks, while Roaming, we experienced the following:

    a) Texting and 20 cents per min. talk worked perfectly 100% of the time. (however, sending an image with the text only worked 5% of the time).

    b) Email worked 10% of the time. It did not work 90% of the time even when roaming signal strength was strong (3 bars or more).

    c) Data (web page stuff) worked 5% of the time. It did not work 95% of the time even when roaming signal strength was strong (3 bars or more).

    When our email and data (web stuff) was NOT working (90%-95% of the time) it wasn’t just slow, IT DID NOT WORK AT ALL.
    During the 5% – 10% of the time email and data were working while roaming, they both worked well.

    Bottom line: T-mobile has a great plan that clearly promises the best options at a very reasonable price while roaming throughout (120 countries) the world. However, with respect to traveling in Italy, the promised data and email service did not work as advertised.

  55. There is a better way if you travel internationally allot. Experimenting with it now. About 80 per month for 3gb international and domestic data. 10.00 for each added GB. Voice calls over Skype as data I avg the cost at 3 cents a minute. Once I see my next bill I can confirm this works as expected. Voice and text plan is extra. I expect to save several hundred this month.

  56. My Even More plan is being replaced per TMobile mandate soon. As far as I can tell, we’ll be getting the whole unlimited Simple Plan (called Select Plan for existing customers being migrated) at the same $55 cost for 3 lines (rather than $90! on the Simple Plan as new customer!). The legacy plan already includes free calls outbound or inbound while in Europe, which has been a huge benefit, but no data or text. The free text and unlimited (even 2g) data will be a big improvement, especially internationally. Using that data plan with Skype might reduce the $0.20 phone call cost down to Skype rates ($0.10/min or $20/month?)?

    Despite MANY calls and online chats with TMobile reps, since they are quite inconsistent or even have no knowledge on answers for seemingly simple questions, I still do not have confidence that I have received accurate info of when a call is free, $0.20, $0.40, or $2/min. I basically end up taking the answers to my identical questions and, because those answers are not consistent, having to tally and compute a “confidence factor” for each question’s REAL answer.

    Soooo, from folks who have actual experience and have received the actual bills, please provide the real scoop on the cost/min, if any, of:

    1. TMo to TMo call via wifi on both phones while both phones are in Europe. This would be very handy between folks traveling together to meet up when separated.

    2. TMo to TMo call, one on wifi, one on cell tower between 2 TMo phones in Europe (total for both phones).

    3. TMo to TMo call on cell tower between 2 TMo phones in Europe (total for both phones).

    4. TMo wifi stateside to any phone in Europe except TMo wifi phone.

    5. TMo wifi stateside to TMo wifi phone in Europe.

    6. TMo cell tower stateside to TMo wifi in Europe.

    7. TMo wifi in Europe to any phone in US (should be free?).

    8. Receiving call from stateside by TMo wifi phone in Europe (should be free?).


  57. Concerning unreliable service, I have found on my Blackberry that the phone gets confused fairly easily when there are both wifi and cell tower signals, so turning off the one that I DON’T want (typically because it costs me or is low signal) and have much more reliable use of the other. Hopefully other phones have the same ability to turn off the circuits independently for the wifi vs cell circuits in the phone.

  58. Simple choice doesn’t cover US to international calls. Just figure out this part. Very weird to me.

  59. I travel internationally for both work and pleasure and I’ve used T-Mobile international data roaming in Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, China, England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Portugal so far. It worked fine pretty much everywhere except it took more than a day or 2 to get connected to the local 3G network in Hong Kong and China the first time I used it. Eventually I got connected to SMC HK in Hong Kong, and China Unicom’s 3G network in China. After my second trip to HK and China, my phone got connected to the local 3G network right away without much wait.

  60. I have an upcoming trip to Europe next week, is it possible to sign up for this plan just to use it during my two week trip and then cancel it when I return home or is it not possible? I’m a little hesitant about signing up and then getting stuck paying per month for a plan I won’t use.

  61. How long as anyone stayet overseas with their T-mobile simple plan? I’ve read up this thread someone has been abroad for 4 months. I’m thinking of going abroad for at least 2 years and I really don’t want to lose my grandfathered data plan.
    Also to note, we have a family plan. However, only I will be out of the country.

    Clarifications and suggestions accepted!

  62. Is the One Simple Plan truly a month-to-month plan? As in could I purchase the plan and phone, use it for one month while abroad in Europe, and then cancel it when I get back to the US? I tried to find info on their website but couldn’t really find anything.

  63. Here is our experience with Simple Choice in Europe this July. We were in Netherlands, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Cork, and London. Per the statement, we never got to enjoy the 4GB speed. The speed was definitely not fast but it was acceptable for reading email, brief browsing, using Google maps in most of the cities. However, at the last stop – London – we had terrible, terrible, terrible speed. We stayed near South Kensington (not rural) and, like the statement indicated, we had not used any of the 4G data so I think the speed shouldn’t have dropped so dramatically. All of the activities were done on iPhone or iPad (tethering via iPhone). Needless to say, the slow speed was most noticeable on iPad.

    I switched from a pre-pay plan so they did a hard pull. What a waste! I hardly use my cell phone while in U.S. so a $33 pre-pay plan was sufficient but now the bill is $60 ($50 + tax + fee). And I only need it for five out of twelve months when I travel overseas. With my recent experience and others’ comments, I begin to consider switching back to pre-pay.

  64. Can anybody tell me what t-mobile bar in Mexico City? Is it 3G or 4G LTE?
    My family staying there couple of months and wondering I should get them t-mobile.
    Don’t want them to go with Verizon.

  65. I will be staying in Italy for four months and traveling throughout Europe on weekends. I have seen mixed reviews of the Simple Choice Plan in Italy. Are all calls billed at .20/min? Is this for calls within Europe as well as calls to the US from Europe? Texts are really unlimited ( both within the country and internationally?)

    This seems to be a good choice for a student traveling abroad. Recommendations?

  66. @ Susan — In your case I’d probably get an Italian SIM from Vodafone, as they’re quite inexpensive and allow roaming in Europe. Otherwise yes, great general option for travel abroad!

  67. @ Tiffany – thank you. But why do you recommend that option? Do you feel as though Simple Choice does not work well in Italy? And does anyone understand the clause about ” excessive roaming?” Thanks!

  68. @ Susan — Having lived in Italy myself, Vodafone has great coverage there, and a good roaming option for elsewhere in Europe. I’m sure the T-Mobile option works just fine, but the local option is likely much less expensive. You should research both and decide which makes the most sense for you!

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