T-Mobile iPhone 5: 5 Things to Know

After years and years of unofficial support, T-Mobile has finally officially started offering Apple’s iPhone, in the start of a pre-order for the iPhone 5, Apple’s latest and greatest smartphone. Of course, we know all about the iPhone 5 and its hardware and software features but beyond those, there are things that potential buyers should know about T-Mobile iPhone 5.

For quite awhile now, T-Mobile has remained firmly stuck in fourth place amongst U.S. carriers including AT&T, Sprint and Verizon. There are many reasons for this. One of them is the fact that T-Mobile did not have a 4G LTE network, a high-speed cellular network that allows users to pull down on-the-go speeds that are often as fast as home Wi-Fi networks.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 - Battle for the Best Smartphone.

The T-Mobile iPhone 5 has arrived on T-Mobile.

Another reason is the fact that the carrier did not offer one of the biggest smartphone staples, Apple’s iconic iPhone. Rumors swirled for years about the possibility of T-Mobile getting the iPhone. And once Sprint finally joined AT&T and Verizon, it seemed like it was only going to be a matter of time before the company finally got a hold of it.

At a launch event in March, T-Mobile addressed all of this. The carrier launched its long-awaited 4G LTE network which is now live in an assortment of cities around the U.S. It shifted away from the typical contracts that carriers ask consumers to sign and instead, has opted to offer off-contract pricing for devices. And finally, it announced that it would be carrying the iPhone 5 starting on April 12th.

Today, ahead of that release date, T-Mobile has started taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5, the latest iPhone from Apple, and one of the best smartphones on the market.

The devices some with some stellar specifications including a slim, lightweight industrial design, iOS 6, 4-inch Retina display and a fantastic rear camera. However, it also comes with some lesser talked about features that consumers should be aware of before taking the plunge.

Here now, we take a look at what we think are five of the most important things to know about the new T-Mobile iPhone 5.

Not Just $99

Today, T-Mobile started taking pre-orders for the iPhone 5 and like the other carriers that have it on their networks, T-Mobile will be offering it up in three different styles: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB.

The first thing that prospective pre-orderers will notice is that T-Mobile’s pricing is different than other carriers. The 16GB iPhone 5 is $99.99 instead of $199.99. The 32GB iPhone 5 is $199.99 instead of $299.99 and the 64GB iPhone 5 is $299.99 instead of $399.99. This is not a typo.

When T-Mobile announced the iPhone 5, it also announced that it would be shifting away from subsidization’s, meaning, it wouldn’t be offering devices on-contract any longer.

The T-Mobile iPhone 5 has tricky pricing.

The T-Mobile iPhone 5 has tricky pricing.

The iPhone 5 is not immune to this policy change and thus, those prices represent the minimum down payment that consumers must make to T-Mobile at the time of purchase. Then, after buying it, consumers will have to pay $20 over the course of 24 months to pay off the rest of the phone.

So, this is a vastly different experience from what many consumers are used to. Many consumers are likely used to buying their phone at a discounted price at the cost of a two-year contract. That won’t be found here.

Instead, users on T-Mobile will be off-contract, free to leave whenever, and will be paying cheaper data plans at the cost of paying the full price of the phone. It’s a trade off that is certainly worth looking into.

Small 4G LTE Network

Indeed, the T-Mobile iPhone 5 will feature 4G LTE connectivity. That means that it will be able to pull down speeds that are up to 10 times faster than standard 3G speeds. 4G LTE has been a standard for years now and T-Mobile is extremely late to the game. And while T-Mobile may have its network live in seven cities, that’s no where close to its competitors in terms of LTE coverage.

T-Mobile LTE is currently live in seven cities including Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose and Washington D.C. Outside of those cities though, those who buy the iPhone 5 will have to deal with T-Mobile’s other, lesser networks.

The carrier hopes to cover 200 million Americans in 2013 and that means that we will see expansions. However, as we’ve seen with other carriers, that takes time and users often have to wait months, even years for access.

Those who don’t wish to wait will likely want to take a closer look at the iPhone 5 on Verizon and AT&T. Verizon currently has over 400 LTE markets live in the United States.

HSPA+ 42 Beats Other 3G Networks

Not all is bad at T-Mobile in terms of network connectivity though. While it may have an extremely small LTE footprint, it does have the speediest secondary network for iPhone 5 owners. T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 network is what T-Mobile has, in the past, called its 4G network. It’s essentially a glorified 3G network but it’s an extremely fast one.

HSPA+ 42 speeds, which can be seen compared to 4G LTE below, aren’t typically as fast as LTE, but they can sometimes get there. They are, however, much faster than the 3G speeds that other iPhone 5 owners on other networks will get.

AT&T is the best of the rest with its HSPA+ 21 network, but even that doesn’t come close to the HSPA+ 42 network that T-Mobile has in place.

iPhone 5S Release on the Horizon

The iPhone 5S release is rumored for the summer with a design and shape similar to the iPhone 5.

The iPhone 5S release is rumored for the summer with a design and shape similar to the iPhone 5.

Another thing to know about when it comes to the T-Mobile iPhone 5 is the fact that Apple may have a new iPhone on the way in just a couple of months. Rumors suggest that the iPhone 5S could be out as soon as this summer which would put a damper on any money thrown at the iPhone 5 right now.

Indeed, T-Mobile customers are now free to go whenever they choose, but there is still going to be money lost if they decide to drop the iPhone 5 for the iPhone 5S when it comes around.

Rumors have pegged the iPhone 5S for a summer release, possibly in July, and it will likely feature some upgrades over the iPhone 5 including a better camera, faster processor, and potentially one killer feature that will not only help push it past the iPhone 5 but the Galaxy S4 and HTC One as well.

What that killer feature is remains to be seen but it’s possible it could be NFC paired with a fingerprint reader for added security with mobile payments.

T-Mobile of course isn’t guaranteed to offer the iPhone 5S at launch but given its new commitment to Apple, we’d be surprised to see it miss out.

Unlocked iPhone 5 Owners Welcome

Finally, one other thing to know is that T-Mobile’s network is friendly to unlocked iPhone 5s which means that buying through T-Mobile is not a necessity. In fact, the unlocked AT&T or the Verizon iPhone 5, which comes unlocked, with the proper SIM can work on T-Mobile’s network.

Better yet, T-Mobile has issued an update to iPhone 5 owners that enables 4G LTE connectivity, further sweetening the deal. So while it may be tempting to buy through T-Mobile, keep the other options in mind.