T-Mobile's free data roaming put to the test — is it good enough to get you by?

Charles de Gaulle Airport

T-Mobile is currently providing 200MB of 2G EDGE data free for customers who travel — and roam — internationally. Yes, 200MB isn't much in our multi-GB world and EDGE is barely a trickle compared to the flood that is LTE. But, free. That means no costly data roaming plan or inconvenient SIM switching. Yet for some people the frustration that comes from low limits and slow speeds will more than outweigh any cost savings or convenience benefits. So, how do you know? Well, in our case we sent Phil Nickinson all the way to Spain to find out. Armed with little more than a T-Mobile plan a dream, here's what he had to say on Android Central:

What's that good for? It's sort of tough to say. You can send and receive e-mail, of course, but the overall smartphone experience isn't anything like what you expect in 2014. Don't bother opening an app that does anything with images or video, basically. Even with e-mail, I'd suggest just letting your phone do its thing, and don't worry about how long it takes.

Hey, free is free. It's just slow. Very slow.

I've used Rogers $1/1MB U.S. roaming plan in the past and it cost me so much money I ended up buying a Verizon iPhone. Yeah. Ouch.

Phil also tested out the $50/500MB plan and shared some thoughts on the AT&T $120/800MB plan. Go find out how all of them, free and fast, worked out for him and then hurry back here and let me know if you've tried out international roaming lately and how it's worked for you.

Source: Android Central

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

T-Mobile's free data roaming put to the test — is it good enough to get you by?

9 Comments

Used it in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Invheon airport and Tokyo airport. In all cases texts and talk were a godsend, data nonexistent.

I see this not so much for typical smartphone usage, but for "incidentals" and texting. For instance, if you end up on a roaming network, you may forget to turn off notifications and email pushes and such, and those data charges add up. This will cover those automated tidbits and slowness won't really be a concern there. Also, use of iMessage is common, so this allows your texts to behave as normal without having to turn off iMessage and your senders potentially getting stuck while it tries to send you an iMessage and fails (searching the internet, it is common to see that iMessage doesn't switch off too quickly on the other side and sometimes messages get "stuck" trying to send). If you actually want to browse or read emails and such, then you pay for roaming on faster networks or another data option (wifi or local SIM).

I thought the free 2G was unlimited? I know it is still 2G, but it would work in a pinch when you are only going to be in a country for a day.

If you get the free "200MB of 4G LTE for life" plan, it doesn't have the unlimited 2G data afterwards. Data stops completely. It's only when you start with a paying plan that you'll get the unlimited 2G after you use up the limited 4G portion.

That being said, I tried to see how much 200MB would last when I got my iPad mini Retina. Just so you know, running Ookla Speedtest once ate 30MB in a single test. That being said, with all the push notifications and email I get on a normal basis, I tried three months in a row and couldn't make it past three weeks before the 200MB were completely used up.

Yeah I've never heard about the 200 MB limit on international data. Pretty sure it was explicitly advertised as unlimited. Here's language copied directly from the U.S. T-Mobile site, on the page for their Simple Choice plans: "Simple Choice customers will be able to enjoy unlimited data, texting and flat-rate calls for just 20 cents a minute, in 120+ countries and destinations--and growing."

T-Mobile is creating some interesting plans. If you could only search and talk at the same time, I would be open to switching.

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Yes, 2G speeds are less than ideal, but it's not free for T-Mobile to offer this, and to keep it from ruining them they need a way to keep people from using too much of it. I think this is a far preferable solution to having a small, finite pool of data at an exorbitant price, which causes the user to have to check their usage daily or hourly. No, you can't reasonably do anything with media, but at least the mission critical communication stuff doesn't break, like iMessage or email. And especially if it fetches in the background at its own pace, even Twitter and RSS is usable. I give T-Mobile's free international data a big thumbs up and in fact it's why I switched to T-Mobile a few months back when they first announced it.

If 2g isn't your cup of tea and E-Mail isn't your only way of comunicating than that plan isn't for you. Instead of paying $120 for 800mb of data with AT&T you can get on the faster HSPA+ Network in Europe, T-Mobile's $100 for 1000mb of data. That to me is the much better and faster plan. Either way T-Mobile wins. I have had boh AT&T and T-Mobile as my Carrier of choice, I have never had faster and better service than I'm currently getting from T-Mobile. The best part is T-Mobile gets faster and better every day. Thank You T-Mobile. My new IPad Mini with Retina display 128gb is on it's way in white & silver to match my iPhone 5S. 2 days and counting for delivery.