Cell Phone Service Provider: T-Mobile vs. AT&T

This is from real-life human experience, not some conclusive summary through readings. It also excludes the consideration of other cell phone service providers such as Sprint, Verizon or Alltel.

Update: We were charged $36 restoration fee to reactivate my line because I was behind on my payment. Unheard of in my many years with T-Mobile.

Update #2: When we started considering the use of the plan, we were hoping to be paying at most $40/month per person (since the plan was $59.99 + tax and fee). Until today, 4 months after, we have been slammed with weird fees and were paying $100+ per month. The last payment was $177 for both lines. Now with that money, I would not mind paying the $175/line cancellation fee.

I have had enough trying to communicate with the AT&T bunch and I need to write a post about my experiences in comparison to that of T-Mobile.

In this post, I will separately describe my experience with both services (T-Mobile and AT&T) with the conclusion included within my wordings (which are biased due to experience). This is not just a consumer’s review or some kind of report. But an indication of the needs of consumers in an era where information are powerful in and customer-centric businesses needs to step-up their service qualities.

My Experience with T-Mobile
(Average User Ratings from 311 users – 7.1/10)

I have personally been a T-Mobile customer since the early 2004 (still am, even though I’m without a contract at the moment). The contract was from a friend of mine who was working as a T-Mobile sales representative back in Seattle, WA. The contract was $39.99/mth for 800 minutes or so with an additional $2.99 for 300 Text-Message. Not a whole lot, but was sufficient for my need at that time. Since then, I have had 2 contract renewals, the first year I was able to extend my minutes to 1000 minutes/month.

I have never had coverage problem until I moved to Bloomington, Indiana from Seattle. The problem didn’t last long as I moved to a dorm where I lived on the eleventh floor and full bar daily. The only time when signal goes to null is when I’m in classroom buildings, which was perfect for me who was distracted enough to need to use text-message or off-time phone calls.

Now, I can declare myself a bad customer, I frequently miss my monthly payments and sometimes accumulate bills up to three-, four- hundred dollars. Whenever this happens, T-Mobile make sure I’m served (well-informed of my situation), through phone calls and mail.

Here are my experiences communicating with them on two occasions.

First time: I had about $100+ on my bill that was a result of my international calls made that month. I was desperate and was hoping that they can sort of ‘waive’ it like banks do, since I wasn’t aware of the rate. I called in and the lady on the line was explaining to me that it was not possible to revoke the charge. Her tone didn’t make me feel stressful; in fact, she was patiently explaining to me and empathetic of my situation. She provided alternatives to prevent such scenario from reoccurring again in the future (such as locking international calls or references to calling rates). Problem wasn’t solved, but I felt better after the call – and made my payment

Second time: About a month ago, I was ready to switch to my girlfriend’s AT&T’s Family Plan and wanted to call T-Mobile and figure out how I can make the transition smoothly (the AT&T representative had asked me to do so). Again, a lady was on the phone, after hearing that I’d decided to move, she asked, “May I know what is the reason that you are considering to switch?” and I explained it to her expecting her to be upset and asking further questions to attempt to detain my contract. But instead, she provided me the information I needed and told me that if it doesn’t work out, my girlfriend can join me on T-Mobile’s family plan. None of the persuasion had bothered me like many had experience when trying to terminate a contract.

Today, I’m still using T-Mobile on a month-to-month contract basis as I’m waiting to make the switch to AT&T.

My Experience with AT&T
(Average User Rating from 471 users – 5.9/10)

Before Cingular became part of AT&T, I was told by my friends here in Bloomington to switch to Cingular so that it would cost less to talk to them (with the Cingular-to-Cingular minutes and stuff). But for some reason, it was somewhat a pride to have T-Mobile as my service provider; it’s like an identity thing for transferred students from Seattle to have T-Mobile or (206) area code.

But starting this semester, my friend/girlfriend has been looking for people to join their now AT&T family plan which is a really good deal at just $59.99/month with two lines for 550 minutes plus future rollovers. I contemplated and decided to make the switch.

It was a long drag due to various reasons, but one day I finally made the call to AT&T and expressed my desire to switch to their service. Instead of feeling welcome, I was told I need to make phone calls to T-Mobile to release my number (since I was thinking of keeping it). And that was it, no future references or what so ever. I was kind of surprised.

The following week I made a phone call to T-Mobile and was told that the transition should be handled by AT&T (description of the phone call was illustrated above), and if they’d need information, I could then call T-Mobile for the specifics. So yes, I was tossed around, the last thing any service provider should do to their customers.

That week, I made a phone call to AT&T in regard to the switch, and a lethargic representative was on the phone. The goal of the conversation was about the transferring of my number from T-Mobile to AT&T, since it was my major concern. Throughout the hour-long dialogue, I was put on hold several times, advertised to products that I’m not interested, a couple of times and was questioned why I do not need the product that he was promoting. In the end, the manager of that store got on the phone and told me it would not be possible to transfer my number because of the market restriction. I was left bewildered by the amount of time wasted for nothing.

We were determined to try to get my number switched, so my girlfriend and I went to the local AT&T store to speak with the representative. This time around, he was energetic; gagging about the response I’d received from the phone representative – he believe that my number can be transferred. So we waited, getting through systems, provided information, and after about half-an-hour the conclusion was out, and again supported by the store manager – no, you can’t transfer the number. Great, another way of wasting time found.

Amidst all the attempts to change my number, my girlfriend and I had several other unpleasant trips and phone calls with AT&T. One of the major one was when my girlfriend was asking if free phone are provided on new sign-ups (me), the store manager did not only repeat to us that they do not provide such service (of free-phones), but said this, “I have been working here for a year and I have never seen someone walking out of the store with a free phone”. I was furious, but my girlfriend asked for alternative ways. Then, she explained that if we were to print off from AT&T websites that certain phones are free, we can redeem it in the store. Good timing. On top of my experiences, there were several incidents that AT&T had charged her account for things that she had not used before and here is the latest. She just realized she was charged $100+ for her service in the past month that she wasn’t aware of. And when consulted, the representative explained that because the 2nd line was not attached, her account was demoted to a personal line for $39.99 and 450 minutes per month. This is understandable unless notifications were given. But there was none, and when asked to waive, the representative offered no consolation and alternative solution. She simply said, “I can’t help you, it has already been charged, there is nothing I can do.” I’m in a service industry and I know that there will always be something you can do. Trash talk, checked.


Once or twice is understandable, since mistake can sometimes be unavoidable in company this size, but cumulatively, it can be seen as strong evidence that the management is not doing enough to train its employees to provide quality services.

Again, relating to my new media class, in today’s technology era of perhaps post-modernism views, channels of information distribution are no longer limited to just major media such as television, radio and newspaper. It is as widespread as the number of bloggers or people willing to write reviews on legitimate websites.

This may be a capitalistic state that focuses on wealth and profit, but as the authority of consumer market slowly breaks down giving information that determines consumer-decisions, propelling the market to be further service-centric, companies has to learn to not just provide valued and quality products, but also services that incorporate such values.

Now, I do not mind paying the penalties for my girlfriend to get out of her contract to join T-Mobile’s family plan. Not for anything else, just the better service.

Thanks for reading through such a long post – I hope it’d helped your learned more about either companies.

Share your thoughts or hear what others have to say?

4 thoughts on “Cell Phone Service Provider: T-Mobile vs. AT&T





    oops sorry about the caps.

  2. If anyone in Arkansas has had their AT&T Telephone Service “cutoff” (suspended or cancelled) and then restored and then a “Service Restoral Fee” was added to your account, please IMMEDIATELY contact me at the noted email or 501-258-0107… Thanks

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