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What Is T-Mobile Essentials Plan? Is It Better Than Simply Prepaid?

T-Mobile offers both postpaid and prepaid unlimited data plans. At first glance, T-Mobile’s $60 postpaid Essentials unlimited starter plan looks identical to T-Mobile’s $50 Simply Prepaid unlimited starter plan. But there are differences between each plan and some are quite subtle. As always, the plan that’s right for you will depend on your specific needs. Let’s take a deep dive to compare the two plans to see which might be best for you or you and your family.

It Starts With A Credit Check

The Essentials and Simply Prepaid unlimited starter plans are indeed quite similar. However, there is a very big difference between the two. The T-Mobile Essentials plan requires a credit check, whereas its prepaid plan counterpart does not. This in itself has a couple of big implications.

If you can’t pass a credit check and are aspiring to become a new T-Mobile customer, you may not qualify for the Essentials plan and T-Mobile Prepaid will be your only option. Furthermore, if you can pass a credit check, the T-Mobile Essentials plan will allow you to get a new phone for free, including the top devices from Apple and Samsung. There is no such option with the prepaid unlimited plan.

So, if you are looking to become a new T-Mobile customer and want a shiny new top-end phone, the T-Mobile Essentials plan will be a better option for you. This is true whether you have a single line or multiple lines. But if you already have a phone you’d like to use with T-Mobile, the picture becomes a little murkier. So let’s get that figured out.

Let’s Talk About Priority

Another notable difference between the T-Mobile Essentials unlimited postpaid plan and its Simply Prepaid unlimited counterpart has to do with something called priority data. The concept of priority data can be a rather involved topic to discuss. And if you really need to know the nitty-gritty details about it, you can check out this forum on Reddit, or visit coveragecritic.com. But in a nutshell, to help manage data traffic on their networks, carriers like T-Mobile assign different priority levels to their plans. So during times when the network gets busy with a lot of traffic, customers on a higher level priority plan will have faster data speeds than customers on a lower level priority plan. And when the network traffic dies down, everyone’s data speeds should be about equal.

T-Mobile and other carriers use what’s called a quality of service class identifier (QCI) value for short to assign priority levels to different plans. This value dictates how data is handled over an LTE network. For 5G, the quality of service identifier may be represented by a 5QI value. Data traffic management is a bit more complex and granular with 5QI. For the purpose of this article, we’ll stick with the QCI values as they are more well-known and established, and also less complicated. And they should still offer a pretty good idea of how T-Mobile will value and prioritize one plan over another.

T-Mobile has four different data priority QCI levels. They are QCI 6, QCI 7, QCI 8, and QCI 9. Plans with a QCI 6 value have the highest priority level of data available to general consumers on the T-Mobile network. Plans with this QCI value will have data speeds that are faster than all other general consumers on the network during times of network congestion. Conversely, plans with a QCI value of 9 are considered low priority plans. Consumers on a QCI 9 plan will have their data speeds slow down the most compared to all other customers on the network when the network is heavily congested with traffic. Likewise, plans with a QCI value of 8 will have data speeds that slow down more during times of network traffic than consumers on a plan with a QCI value of 7.

With all of that explained and out of the way, the T-Mobile Essentials plan has a QCI value of 7. T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid unlimited plan has a QCI value of 6. So in an area where T-Mobile’s network gets heavily congested, the prepaid unlimited plan should have data speeds that are temporarily faster than someone on the Essentials plan. However, this is only true for the first 50GB of data consumed on each plan during a billing cycle. After 50GB of data gets consumed in a billing cycle, the Essentials plan and the Simply Prepaid unlimited plans drop down to a QCI value of 9 until the next billing cycle starts.

What Plan Offers A Better Value For Single Line BYOD Customers?

If you are a single-line customer looking to join T-Mobile and don’t need unlimited maximum priority data, that is data that never slows down when the network is busy compared to other customers on the same network, and you don’t need to buy a device, then you should take a hard look at T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid unlimited plans. Below is a table comparing the differences between T-Mobile’s postpaid Essentials plan and T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid unlimited plans.

T-Mobile EssentialsSimply Prepaid UnlimitedSimply Prepaid Unlimited Plus
Price 1-Line$60 autopay$50$60
Premium Data50GB50GB50GB
QCI* Premium Data Level/
QCI Level After Premium Data Consumed
7/96/96/9
HotspotUnlimited 600KbpsUnlimited 600Kbps10GB 5G/LTE then unlimited 600Kbps
1-Yr Free Paramount Plus ($4.99/Mo Value)YesNoNo
Unlimited International Texting From HomeYesNoNo
Free Texting While Traveling InternationallyYesNoNo
Free Usage In Canada & MexicoYes, data at 2G speedsNo, $5/month upgradeNo, $5/month upgrade
Scam Block/Scam Caller IDYesYesYes
Manage Scam Settings With
T-Mobile Scam Shield App
YesNoNo
T-Mobile DIGITS Free 2nd Phone NumberYesNoNo
Comparison Of T-Mobile Essentials Postpaid Plan To T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid Unlimited Data Plans For Single Lines

Taxes and fees cost extra with all plans. The T-Mobile Essentials plan costs $65/month if you do not enable autopay billing.

From the table above, for a majority of single line bring your own device customers, T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid unlimited plan will be a better value than the T-Mobile Essentials plan. The only reason why a single line BYOD customer should get the Essentials plan is if they need and will regularly use the plan’s included international features, the ability to text from the USA to international numbers, the ability to use your phone to text while traveling internationally, and the ability to roam while in Canada or Mexico.

But if you only need some of those features, stick with Simply Prepaid. You can add Canada and Mexico roaming for just $5/month to the prepaid plan, and you’ll actually have faster data speeds in those countries than you’d get with the Essentials plan. Data speeds are only at 2G or 128Kbps while in Canada or Mexico on the Essentials plan but with the Simply Prepaid add-on you get 5GB of 4G data speeds before data gets slowed to 128Kbps. And with the add-on you are still paying $5 less per month than you would with the Essentials plan. If you want that free second phone number, you can always just use a service like Google Voice.

One odd difference between the Essentials plan and Simply Prepaid is that you can’t use T-Mobile’s Scam Shield app to enable and disable scam call blocking, caller ID, scam reporting or to create a whitelist of allowed numbers. The only way you can use T-Mobile’s scam blocking and ID features with the Prepaid plan are to enable them by dialing #662#. You can turn them off by dialing #632#.

What If You Need Multiple Lines?

If you need multiple lines of service, which plan is the best option for you will above all else, most likely depend on exactly how many lines you need. The Simply Prepaid plans will be cheaper in some cases, and the Essentials plan in others. Here’s a line-by-line cost breakdown of each plan when you have 2-5 lines.

T-Mobile EssentialsSimply Prepaid UnlimitedSimply Prepaid Unlimited Plus
2-Lines$90$80$90
3-Lines$90$110$120
4-Lines$105$140$150
5-Lines$120$170$180
Price Comparison T-Mobile Essentials Vs T-Mobile Simply Prepaid For Multiple Line And Families

Once again, taxes and fees cost extra. Also be aware that T-Mobile has been running a 3rd-line free offer on its postpaid plans including the Essentials plan above, basically forever. If the promotion ever gets discontinued, lines 3-5 will cost $15/month more than what’s shown in the table above for the Essentials plan.

Quick Summary Of What To Get

For the TL;DR crowd, here’s a brief overview of what plan you should get.

If you need a plan that can provide you with a high-end free phone, if you need a plan that offers international texting both domestically and while traveling in another country, or if you need a plan with 3-lines or more, you should get the T-Mobile Essentials plan. For everyone else, the T-Mobile Simply Prepaid unlimited data plans will offer a better value.

Unlimited GB
T-Mobile Prepaid Prepaid
$50/Mo
$600/Annually
  • Unlimited Minutes
  • Unlimited Texts
  • Unlimited At 3G Hotspot
Unlimited GB
T-Mobile Postpaid Postpaid
$60/Mo
$720/Annually
  • Unlimited Minutes
  • Unlimited Texts
  • Unlimited At 3G Speeds Hotspot
Unlimited GB
T-Mobile Prepaid Prepaid
$60/Mo
$720/Annually
  • Unlimited Minutes
  • Unlimited Texts
  • 10GB 5G Then unlimited 3G Hotspot

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