T-mobile unveils Simple Choice PlansIn a bold move to differentiate itself from its rivals, T-mobile revamped its mobile plans by decoupling the service plans from the phones. What does this mean? It means that T-mobile is moving to contract free plans where you either buy your device up front, pay for it on a payment plan, or bring your own.

My preference of the three options is to bring your own. I like the idea of being able to buy any device you want and then decide which plan you want to use with it. I started moving this direction over a year ago, and when my current contract with T-mobile was up this summer, I was planning on moving to a prepaid service plan for me and my family.

I reviewed our monthly usage and found that we were using our phones primarily for texting and data. The number of minutes used on a monthly basis was pretty low. I had my eyes on T-mobile’s $30/month prepaid plan that included 100 talk minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited web with up to 5GB at 4G speeds.

The new T-mobile plans presented me with another option, so I decided to compare the three options: their classic contract plan, their new Simple Choice plans, or the prepaid plan I was considering. Here’s what I found over two years:

The Classic Plan
Family plan with 1,000 minutes, 2 lines incl. $60
2 additional lines ($10 ea.) $20
Unlimited text for all lines $20
2GB data for all lines ($20 ea.) $80
Total monthly cost (before taxes and fees) $180

Phone cost: $800 ($200 x 4 lines)
Total cost over 24 months: $5,120

Simple Choice Plan
First line with unlimited talk + text + 500MB data $50
Second line with unlimited talk + text + 500MB data $30
2 additional lines ($10 ea.) $20
2 GB additional per line ($10 ea.) $40
Total monthly cost (before taxes and fees) $140

Phone cost: $2,400 ($600 x 4 lines)
Total cost over 24 months: $5,760

Prepaid Plan
4 lines with 100 minutes ea., unlimited text + data w/5GB at 4G speed ($30 ea.) $120
Total monthly cost (before taxes and fees) $120

Phone cost : $2,400 ($600 x 4 lines)
Total cost over 24 months: $5,280

Considering I buy the latest smartphone, which typically retails for approximately $600 or is subsidized at $199, the classic plan that I have is the best value over two years. Of course, the Simple Plan does offer unlimited minutes, but based on my usage, that isn’t important for me. The prepaid plan certainly gets a lot closer to the classic plan, but it still doesn’t beat it.

In fact, the only way I can beat the classic plan I currently have is to either buy cheaper phones up front or to keep the phones for longer than 30 months. After that, the classic plan is not a good value.

The morale of this story, make sure you do your homework and run the numbers before changing plans or carriers. Your situation may be different than mine and result in greater costs and/or savings between plans.