I Can’t Believe I’m Saying This, But T-Mobile Is Awesome

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I’ve spent the last week back in my wintry homeland in Canada, and here the scales have fallen from my eyes, and I have seen the light, and I have a message for all of you who live in America, a message of the utmost importance, inscribed in fire on the sacred stone of the Internet. And that message is: holy crap T-Mobile is awesome. If you travel internationally at all, you should switch to T-Mobile now.

Yes, I know I sound like a paid shill. I feel awkward and embarrassed about that. I think my record speaks for itself, though: when it comes to tech companies, usually I’m a crotchety, negative guy. But this is different. This is terrific.

Heck, only six months ago I wrote a post called “America’s Carriers Are Terrible. It’s Probably Your Fault.” But then in October T-Mobile rolled out its free unlimited international global roaming.

Basically, international travellers on a monthly T-Mobile plan no longer have to either deal with rapacious roaming charges or the hassle of getting and activating a new SIM card local to your destination. Instead you just switch data roaming on and let your phone find your provider. To my considerable amazement, that’s all I needed to do; no APN hacking, no mobile-network munging, no service calls; It Just Works. I could even tether.

It’s not perfect, of course. You still have to pay, albeit very reasonable prices, for calls and texts, and your free data is only 2G/128kbps. Needless to say, you can buy 4G roaming from T-Mobile, but I’ve found no need to do so; in Toronto, at least, 2G is plenty good enough to check email and Twitter between the many zones and cafes where you can pick up a cup of wi-fi nowadays — and it’s so much better than the alternatives that any comparison at all is kind of insulting.

I am not accustomed to sounding like an advertisement like this. To be honest it kind of makes my skin crawl. But it’s probably important, on the rare occasions that a company — an American carrier, no less — actually does that right thing, that we praise them to the rafters and sing hosannas in their name.

Oh, I have no illusions that T-Mobile’s boardroom is full of angels. They were only driven to doing the right thing because they were the distant fourth-place competitor in a vicious market; and now that Softbank/Sprint is on the verge of buying them, everything may change. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if they canned this initiative the day after the merger closes, on the grounds that it actually improves their users’ lives without desperately inconveniencing them at every possible pretext and then charging them to mitigate those inconveniences — and we can’t have that, can we? It sets a bad precedent.

I half-expect their attitude towards their customers to soon revert to that of a medieval lord towards his serfs. But maybe, in the interim, we travellers can send a message by voting with our feet. Abandon your current carrier, buy an unlocked phone, and flock to T-Mobile and its (currently) almost incomprehensibly user-friendly plans. This golden era probably won’t last; but make the most of it while you can.

Image credit: chrisinplymouth, Flickr.