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T-Mobile vs. Sprint: Which wireless carrier is better?

Allconnect
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Allconnect

Aug 7, 2020 — 5 min read

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  • While Sprint technically wins as the carrier with the lowest plan costs, T-Mobile pricing runs about the same as Sprint’s pricing.
  • Lots of crossover exists in terms of the carriers’ phone deals. In our sampling, only the Apple iPhone XS carries different pricing. T-Mobile sells the phone for $699.99 while Sprint’s price tag comes in $100 lower.
  • Both T-Mobile and Sprint offer high-value family plans. Two lines with T-Mobile each cost $58; Sprint’s per line cost is $54. Three lines at T-Mobile each cost $39; $41 at Sprint. Four lines at both carriers each cost $35.

Formerly positioned as head-to-head competitors to each other, T-Mobile and Sprint round out the big four wireless carriers after industry leaders AT&T and Verizon. And now, as T-Mobile and Sprint move closer to completing their planned merger, the companies’ consumer offerings also move toward integration. 

T-Mobile and Sprint’s positioning puts them in competition for some of the same customers. In this light, some of the competing packages appeal to a crossover demographic. Once their merger is complete, the complimentary offerings will anchor efforts to attract and retain a growing customer base.

Plans, pricing and perks

Both T-Mobile and Sprint offer a range of plans designed to fit various consumer needs. With some plans tailored toward budget-focused consumers and other plans emphasizing data capacity and speed, each company cuts a wide swath in their ability to serve customers. 

The competition between the two works as a win for you. 

On the T-Mobile side, perks include a Netflix subscription with two or more lines, T-Mobile Tuesday specials, unlimited text and data across the world and in-flight texting. 

Perks on the Sprint side include unlimited text and data in most countries and subscriptions to TIDAL for music streaming and Lookout for mobile security. Customers who use Sprint devices also receive a Hulu subscription. 

Winner: Sprint

Cheapest unlimited plans

T-Mobile and Sprint each offer no-frills options to budget-focused consumers. Both the T-Mobile Essentials Plan and the Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Plan amount to bare bones packages. But for consumers where the bare bones package offers enough, Sprint’s Unlimited Kickstart Plan carries the best price tag at $35/mo.

Top tier unlimited plans

On the high end of wireless packages, both T-Mobile’s $85/mo. Magenta Plus Plan and Sprint’s $80/mo. Unlimited Premium Plan offer the latest bells and whistles. The negligible pricing difference loses more relevance considering neither plan requires a contract. 

The 5G access factor is probably the most interesting category among the top tier unlimited plans. On the precipice of 5G immersion, the companies’ preparation toward 5G adoption is reflected with their push on the rollout. 

And, at the high end of their wireless packages, both T-Mobile and Sprint offer plenty of perks to consumers. With the Magenta Plus Plan, T-Mobile gives customers subscriptions to streaming movie companies Netflix and Quibi. On the Sprint side, customers receive Amazon Prime, Hulu, TIDAL HiFi, 100GB of mobile hotspot and unlimited roaming in Canada and Mexico.

Family plans

Just as with the top tier plans, unlimited family plans offered by both T-Mobile and Sprint tally with relatively comparable price tags. A $4 price difference separates the cost of T-Mobile and Sprint family plans designed to serve customers with two lines on their account. At four lines, the average price per line for customers at each company runs around $35. 

Phone deals

Just as T-Mobile and Sprint service plans show lots of similarity, the phones they sell — and the price at which they sell them — also feature lots of duplication. The exception is the Apple iPhone XS. Buy this phone at T-Mobile and pay $700. Buy it from Sprint and save $100. 

Of course, both T-Mobile and Sprint also give customers the option of adding phone installments to their monthly bill. Financing deals with each company typically run at just a few dollars per month for a period of 18 months.

Winner: T-Mobile

Coverage and speed

While both T-Mobile and Sprint take hits for spotty coverage, T-Mobile comes out slightly ahead in providing a better network. Technical metrics as examined through the RootMetrics Overall Performance score and the Ookla Speed Score, show T-Mobile dominance. 

T-Mobile’s focus on speed, coverage and performance metrics dates back years. According to a study published by Opensignal early last year, T-Mobile continuously moves to catch industry leader Verizon.

Sprint, on the other hand, sits at the other end of the scale. Download speeds over the 4G T-Mobile network average 19.43 Mbps; over the Sprint network the speed averages 12.02 Mbps. Over their 3G networks, T-Mobile averages 3.46 Mbps compared to Sprint’s 1 Mbps.

Winner: T-Mobile

5G

As the world moves closer and closer to common 5G access, the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint offers complimentary development of their 5G networks. According to a May report published by Opensignal, T-Mobile users were able to access 5G nearly 20% of the time in the U.S. Citing a mid-band 5G spectrum deployed by Sprint, Opensignal analysts expect the average 5G speed of new T-Mobile users to rise “as the new T-Mobile combines the assets of Sprint.”

Winner: T-Mobile

Customer service

Customer satisfaction scores as measured by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), Consumer Reports and J.D. Power, all place T-Mobile ahead of Sprint. 

Winner: T-Mobile

T-Mobile vs. Sprint: Which one should you get? 

Although it’s unclear when T-Mobile and Sprint will become fully integrated, the competition for customers still clearly exists between the two. The merger will potentially change plans and the niches they serve, but for now, each carrier serves a range of customer needs. 

Budget-minded consumers, for example, choose Sprint for lower plan prices. Data-heavy users and those looking for high performance and consistent access to 5G, choose T-Mobile. 

By Romona Paden