tmobile vs sprint

Let’s look at the best cell phone plans and compare.

SquareTrade is good for a smartphone aftermarket insurance plan, but what about a phone upgrade plan? We’ve been doing quite a few phone upgrade comparisons here at Gadget Review, trying to sort out which wireless provider offers the best value and the quickest phone upgrade options. This week we look at the number 3 and 4 largest wireless companies in the United States in terms of subscribers: Sprint and T-Mobile. T-Mobile’s Jump upgrade plan launched back in April, and, like a domino effect AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint followed shortly thereafter with their own plans. We’ve already compared the T-Mobile upgrade plan to AT&T Next, and T-Mobile to Verizon Edge. Now let’s compare T-Mobile Jump to One Up, Sprint’s upgrade plan that just launched a couple weeks ago. If you’re going to be traveling internationally, you might be better off with the Flexiroam: data roaming in over 100 countries.


T-Mobile Jump Sprint One Up
Upgrades Twice per 12 months Every 12 months
Down Payments Yes Yes
Upgrade Fees No Yes (tablets no)
Finance Minimum No No
Finance Charges No No
Activation Fee Yes. $35 Yes. $36
Plan Fee $10 per mo. No
SIM card purchase $10 new cust. only No
Phones & Tablets? No Yes
Insurance plan (included in plan fee) $11 per mo.
Service Contract Service Contract No
Upgrade Cost Yes Yes
Unlimited Data Plans OK OK
Number of Payments 24 Months 24 Months

Upgrade Timing

Sprint One Up lets you upgrade your phone once every 12 months. If you want to upgrade before the 12 months have passed, you’ll have to pay off what is remaining of the full 24-month agreement. The device would be yours at that point.

T-Mobile Jump lets you upgrade your phone twice every 12 months, after the first 6 months of enrollment in the program. The upgrade timing essentially allows you to get a new phone every 6 months – that’s time enough to keep up with new phone releases.

Winner: T-Mobile

Down Payments

For a limited time Sprint is offering One Up plans with no money down (expiring Oct. 10, 2013). The promotion includes both phones and tablets. You will, however, have to pay any sales tax associated with the final price of the phone. After that, you’ll need to pay for the phone service (currently $65 promotion for unlimited phone, text, and data), and the device payment (amount depends on the device you choose.) The promotion may not be available in all Sprint stores. After the promotion expires, your down payment will depend on the device you choose to finance.

T-Mobile requires down payments on some phones, but not all. For example, an iPhone 4s with a plan doesn’t require any money down. However, you’ll have to pay $99 up front for a 32GB iPhone 5, or $199 for a 64GB iPhone 5. In all cases, however, you have to pay for all taxes due for the entire 24-month term (or, the full cost of the phone).

Winner: Tie

Finance Charges

Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile apply finance charges for qualified customers. You only have to pay the monthly charges spread out over 12 months for the device. At time of upgrade, you may have to pay off a remaining balance on your device if you have not reached the number of monthly payments required.

Winner: Tie

Finance Minimum

Neither Sprint nor T-Mobile enforce a finance minimum. Meaning, your device does not have to be a certain price in order to finance for a 24-month term.

Winner: Tie

Upgrade Phones & Tablets?

Sprint offers the One Up plan to customers who want to finance a tablet, but unfortunately tablets are not eligible for the $15 per month service discounts (or any service discounts for that matter). Availability of tablets will depend on the store you visit, but the website currently lists the Apple iPad Mini, iPad with retina display, and Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 as available models. Sprint says basic phones, mobile hotspots, other mobile broadband devices (excluding Tablets), Sprint Phone Connect and Sprint 4G WiMAX devices are not eligible for One Up at this time.

T-Mobile is finally being more clear about whether or not you can finance a tablet with Jump. For a while, it seemed as if stores were not clear, but the T-Mobile website (which only lists one tablet) will not allow you to add Jump to a tablet plan. And, two CSRs confirmed tablets are not eligible.

Winner: Sprint

Upgrade Fee

Sprint apparently charges an upgrade fee for smartphones purchased with One Up, although two sales people spoken to claimed there is no upgrade fee. On Sprint’s website, however, they make it clear there is no upgrade fee for tablets purchased in the One Up plan.

T-Mobile charges an $18 upgrade fee. You may also consider any down payments required by either wireless provider an upgrade fee, especially if the phone is pricier than what you had before.

Winner: Tie

Service Contracts

Neither Sprint’s nor T-Mobile’s upgrade plans require long-term service contracts. But, you still have to sign a 2-year contract to pay off the phone. If you cancel your wireless service you need to pay off the balance of the phone.

Winner: Tie

Plan Fee

Sprint does not charge a One Up plan fee. T-Mobile charges $10 per month program fee, but that includes phone insurance and $175 deductible.

Winner: Sprint


Sprint charges $11 per month for insurance per device in your plan.

As mentioned above, T-Mobile provides cell phone insurance plans included within the $10 per month plan fee. You also get Mobile Security with Lookout. (Without Jump, “Premium Handset Protection” costs $8 per month.)

Winner: T-Mobile (Because it costs less and is included with the Jump plan fee.)

Tethering/Mobile Hotspot

Sprint includes offers 1GB of tethering for an extra $10 per month, or 2GB tethering for an extra $20 per month.

T-Mobile’s Jump plan includes up to 2.5GB of Smartphone Mobile HotSpot (SMH) service.

Winner: T-Mobile (Just because it’s free with the Jump plan.)

Unlimited Data Plans

Sprint One Up is currently offering their Unlimited, My Way plan with unlimited talk, texting and data for $65 per month (a $15 discount through final installment payment). The promotion may not be available in all Sprint stores.

T-Mobile also lets you have Unlimited Data plans with Jump. Data plans are priced at $50 per month for 500MB, $60 for 2.5GB per month, and $70 for Unlimited data. The Unlimited plans includes Mobile HotSpot service as mentioned above.

Winner: Tie

Activation Fee

Sprint charges an activation fee of $36 per line. However, there is no activation fee for tablets purchased in the One Up plan.

T-Mobile charges new customers only $10 for a SIM card, and an activation fee of $35 (although that fee is frequently waived depending on plan and promotional periods).

Winner: Tie

Monthly Payment Amount

A monthly payment for an iPhone 5s with Sprint would be $27 per month. The same phone with T-Mobile would be $22.91 per month. Note that the Sprint amount may be a bit higher because they are currently offering a no-money-down offer. Both of these monthly payments are based on a 24-month agreement.

Winner: T-Mobile

Sprint One Up vs. T-Mobile Jump Score Chart

Category Winner Why
Upgrade Wait Time T-Mobile Because with T-Mobile you can upgrade twice a year after the first 6 months of enrollment. With Sprint you must wait 12 months (or pay the entire amount owed on the device).
Down payments Tie Sprint currently requires no-money down, but when the promotion runs out they will require money down on certain devices. T-Mobile requires down payments on certain phones, like the iPhone 5s.
Upgrade Fees Sprint Sprint does not charge an upgrade fee. T-Mobile charges an $18 upgrade fee.
Finance Charges Tie Neither carrier applies finance charges.
Finance Minimum Tie Neither wireless carrier has a minimum finance amount.
Activation Fee Tie Sprint charges $36 activation fee per line. T-Mobile charges $35 activation fee (But also new customers $10 for a SIM card see below).
Plan Fee Sprint Sprint wins because T-Mobile charges $10 per month for the Jump plan.
Service Contract Tie Neither carrier requires long-term service contracts. However, device agreements are attached to wireless service and must be paid off in full if service is cancelled.
Unlimited Data Plans Tie Both plans are eligible with unlimited data.
SIM Card purchase Sprint T-Mobile charges new customers $10 for a SIM card.
Phones & Tablets? Sprint T-Mobile does not offer tablets on its Jump plan.
Insurance Plan T-Mobile Sprint charges $11 per month for insurance per device. T-Mobile includes insurance in their $10 per month plan fee.
Unlimited Data Plans Tie Both upgrade plans are eligible with unlimited data.
Monthly Payments Tie While a monthly payment with Sprint is slightly higher than T-Mobile, it may be because of their no-money-down currently offered. Expect these plans to be very similar in amount per month for the same device — not including any service plan costs.
Overall Winner Sprint 12-10

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Christen Costa

Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."

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  1. Just to follow up on the activation fee, here is a screenshot from a T-Mobile cart which shows the $35 activation fee waived. No matter though, both providers tend to waive the fee and the category results in a Tie anyway. Thanks again for the detailed feedback.

    1. I can appreciate this, however it’s still inaccurate. The cart shows the fee being waived but it only shows it waived because they used to charge them and now they don’t. It helps to show a differentiation from T-Mobile’s past ways and from other providers because if it simply didn’t show the fee whatsoever (as opposed to showing it waived) then people may not even think about it and realize that value they’re getting. To say that “both providers tend to waive the fee” is just wrong because that would imply that sometimes they don’t. I took a screenshot as well on the link: which shows all the fine details of activating and using service. It describes the $10 SIM starter kit, credit approval and possible deposits as well as approximated taxes among other things. What it doesn’t mention is a $35 activation fee as even a possibility because it isn’t. It also isn’t mentioned in the T-Mobile Terms & Conditions. The fact that Sprint charges them whatsoever – even if it’s only a tenth of a percent of the time would make T-Mobile the winner. Regardless of “winners”, the information listed on this site just needs to be as accurate as possible.

  2. Hi Tyler. Indeed you are correct. The column header was flipped. You should find the information the top chart correct as all the research was done recently and with T-Mobile reps. In terms of the activation fee for T-Mobile, when signing up for Jump the activation fee was waived. So, in theory there is a fee but can be waived. Please let us know if you find any other misinformation. And, thank you for the feedback!

    1. This is actually incorrect and sadly there is quite a bit of misinformation. I’ve worked for T-Mobile since 2009 in many different departments so I know the company well.

      The $35 Activation Fees and upgrade fees are a thing of the past as of the Un-Carrier launch in March of this year. They no longer exist, although the $10 you referred to for buying a SIM card is actually called a SIM Starter Kit charge. This is essentially like an Activation Fee because it’s charged only at activation and charged even if you have your own SIM card somehow, and isn’t charged on upgrades. Sprint, however, does still charge upgrade fees AND activation fees.

      Next, T-Mobile doesn’t force you to pay the entire amount you owe on a device before you upgrade if it hasn’t been long enough. They allow a certain amount of money to be financed PER LINE on your account. If you have other lines that haven’t upgraded they you can upgrade your line with the advertised price (O.A.C.). Also if you’ve paid towards your phone even just a month or two, that frees up money on your line to use towards another phone.

      Next, the handset protection insurance that comes with the JUMP program is listed here to have a $175 deductible. This is only true with the most expensive phones. Other (most) phones range $20-$150. JUMP also DOES NOT come with 2.5GB of Mobile HotSpot service. The $10 JUMP cost has nothing to do with your data. Unlimited 4G for $20 comes with 2.5GB hotspot service but you don’t need this plan to be with JUMP. You can have JUMP on the free 500MB data that comes with the $50 plan (which has hotspot service as long as you have that 500mb of overall use) or on the most expensive data plan that comes with 12.5GB of hotspot service, and all data plans in-between. Also JUMP Doesn’t come with Mobile Security with Lookout, however it does come with an extended warranty program for malfunctions on your device.

      Next, this article describes Sprint’s plans’ prices as having unlimited talk, texting and data. Which is true. Then it describes T-Mobile’s plans as “data plans priced at $50 per month for 500MB, $60 for 2.5GB per month, and $70 for Unlimited data”. While the pricing and data allotments are correct, they don’t say anywhere that these prices INCLUDE data but ALSO include unlimited talk and text as well. They’re described only as data plans. Data only plans (for mobile hotspot devices, tablets, etc) come with the same allotments (except unlimited) for MUCH lower prices.

      Next, there is a minimum finance amount for devices although it’s very minimal and just doesn’t apply in many cases whatsoever.

      Also T-Mobile should win the Unlimited Data Plans category since they come with a generous-sized mobile hotspot service for free, unlike Sprint. T-Mobile should win Activation fee since there isn’t one (unless you count the $10 which is significantly less than Sprint’s $36 fee) as well as the Upgrade Fee since T-Mobile doesn’t charge this either. SIM Card Purchase shouldn’t even be a category since Sprint doesn’t use SIM cards as the base of their service and instead use a much less convenient (when swapping between phones) CDMA technology.

      Next, you state that “you only have to pay the monthly charges spread out over 12 months” which is false. You pay your phone off over 24 months if you choose to keep it that long – on both carriers.

      Also, you have Upgrade Fee listed as a Tie in your article but then list the winner as Sprint in your score chart. You ALSO have T-Mobile as the winner in the Tethering/Mobile HotSpot category but then don’t list this category in your score chart.

      I’m a very nice guy and I want to be nice and professional about this but this article is just a disaster. It’s got more misinformation/mistakes than correct information almost.

  3. I work for T-Mobile and the information in this article is horribly wrong. Some of the information in the sprint colum is for T-Mobile and some is for sprint. Also T-Mobile has no activation fees. I suggest checking your sources before writing and posting an article like this….

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