T-Mobile 5G is now rolling out across the US.
T-Mobile remains the third biggest network in the US, despite it having absorbed the Sprint network in a protracted deal that closed during early 2020.
Similar to AT&T, T-Mobile has also rolled out a lot of low-band 5G, which isn't great for speeds. That so-called 5G Extnded Range network was started in 2019 and is essentially 4G with a few enhancements to make it quicker. T-Mobile rightly calls it a "foundational layer of its 5G network" and while that's true, it's not really full 5G.
It does have the benefit of huge coverage though, cover more than 200 million people and more than 1 million square miles across the US - over 8,000 cities.
One thing's for sure - T-Mobile is gaining customers at some speed. Figures from the fourth quarter of 2019 point towards a million 'postpaid' customers; people who pay a monthly bill. 77,000 pay-as-you-go or prepaid customers were also added over the period.
According to the network, that means it has added 53 million users since 2013. Not surprising when you have had 27 successive quarters with over a million new users added.
And now, after the Sprint acquisition, it has just over 100 million subscribers across the US.
T-Mobile 5G cities
The 5G Extended Range network covers 8,300 US towns and cities. It is still be able to get to speeds of around 450Mbps if conditions are at their best, although expect significantly slower speeds than that generally. Essentially, it is like a quicker form of 4G LTE.
T-Mobile's Ultra Capacity network is different. It's a millimeter wave (mmWave) network similar to that which we've seen from the other US providers - but not providers in Europe. It provides the fastest speeds, but has poor range. T-Mobile says it is upgrading 1,000 cell towers a month for this, covering 100 million Americans. However, it is really only in some areas of the very largest cities at present.
T-Mobile 5G phones
T-Mobile originally offered the Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ and the OnePlus 5G before launching the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren on an exclusive in the US.
Like most other networks offering 5G globally, T-Mobile has now added the Samsung Galaxy S20 series to the list.
Apple iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini
The whole iPhone 12 range comes with the latest A14 Bionic platform so there's no performance limitation for going for one of these 6.1-inch or 5.4-inch handsets (the Pro has more RAM though). Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are available in Black, White, Red, Green, Blue.
The standard iPhone 12 is our pick of the iPhone 12 range.
The 6.1-inch iPhone 12 Pro doesn't do enough to distinguish itself from the same-sized iPhone 12.
However, the Pro Max certainly does with its huge 6.7-inch display and sheer desirability. The cameras are among the best we've seen, especially in low light. It's eye-wateringly expensive, though.
Samsung Galaxy S20 5G
Capable of 8K video recording and with a large 6.2-inch AMOLED display, the standard S20 is no slouch, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 platform for the US market. Like the others in the range, it has super-fast charging, too.
Available in cloud pink, cloud blue and cosmic grey, it's only around in a 128GB version only.
There's a triple camera (not quad like the other S20s) and it has a 64 megapixel main sensor. It's also got a 30x digital zoom, too.
Samsung Galaxy S20+
The 6.7-inch S20+ is available in three colours - cloud blue, cosmic black and cosmic grey - and adds an extra storage size to the standard S20 in the form of 512GB in addition to 128GB.
Again it offers a 64 megapixel telephoto lens and 12MP ultra-wide camera setup, but the S20+ (and Ultra) offer quad-camera arrangements.
The price premium for the S20+ is not extensive over the standard S20 and as such is worth considering.
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Slightly bigger - by 0.2-inches than the S20+ - the S20 Ultra clocks in at 6.9-inches and features an upgraded camera.
Storage capacities are the same as the S20+ at 128 and 512GB. However, the Ultra is only available in cosmic black or cosmic grey.
So what's better about the camera? Firstly there's the zoom - the S20 Ultra is capable of 100x (rather than 30x) while there's an extremely large 108 megapixel camera sensor to go alongside a 48 megapixel telephoto lens.
You won't find the 100x zoom that practical, but using it is fun.
Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Common to all the US 5G networks is Samsung's first 5G phone. It's an extremely powerful device and it sizeable, too, with a 6.7-inch display making it more like the recently-announced Note 10 series.
It's even larger than the 6.4-inch S10+, which itself is supposed to be the larger version of the standard Galaxy S Series phone. The advantage of a bigger phone is that there's more cooling, and certainly that's an advantage for the first wave of 5G phones.
The Galaxy S10 5G is powered by Samsung's own Exynos 9820 platform and 5G modem and has a large 4,500 mAh battery, too. You also get a quad-lens rear camera including wide, telephoto and ultrawide lenses.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G
The latest Galaxy Note series debuted in the late Summer of 2019, but this time it faces competition from Samsung's own Galaxy S Series, too. The S10 5G above is almost the same size; this is a 6.8-inch phone.
As always with the Note series the main difference from other Samsung devices is that it has the S Pen stylus so you can select and move objects on screen, write on the display and use it as a remote clicker. The S Pen slots into the phone - if you're thinking you don't need it then plump for the S10 Series instead.
T-Mobile 5G coverage
For its 5G Ultra Capacity network, T-Mobile is using 28 Ghz mmWave (millimetre wave), just as Verizon is. That means excellent download speeds, but a more difficult blanket rollout. That's because the shorter wavelength signals don't travel so far and are easily blocked in urban areas or by external walls - so you need loads of 5G nodes.
You only need to look at T-Mobile's current coverage maps to show the issues around mmWave deployment - it's extremely patchy.
So as we mentioned, T-Mobile has also opted to use low-band 600Mhz spectrum. The low-band spectrum can also carry 5G signals inside.
Before the T-Mobile launch of low-band 5G, Sprint was leading the way with low-band and it's one of the reasons that Sprint and T-Mobile felt they would be a good fit by merging, which they duly did.
T-Mobile 5G deals
In terms of SIM-only, T-Mobile 5G offers service plans at $15 for 2GB (not enough, in our opinion), and $25 for 5GB. The plans also offer 100GB of free monthly home internet to 10 million American families. And if that wasn’t enough, the company also gives free wireless service to every first responder in America.
Currently, Samsung Galaxy S20 5G is available on T-Mobile from $31.25 a month on a 24-month deal providing you put $349.99 down plus tax. You can also buy it outright from the network for $1,099.
T-Mobile 5G business and home internet
Unlike Verizon's 5G Home Internet, here are no currently announced plans for a 5G home or business service from T-Mobile. However, in its statements about 5G on its website, it does mention home broadband as a future growth area for 5G, so we'll join the dots on that one.
T-Mobile 5G for business
Like the other big US networks, T-Mobile sees big opportunities for businesses willing to invest in 5G, especially around the internet of things and remote connectivity.
Currently, T-Mobile offers various business-orientated plans under its Magenta brand including Magenta Plus for Business, with 20GB of mobile hotspot data and unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi.