If you're a Sprint, Verizon, or AT&T customer, T-Mobile is trying to entice you to break your contract and jump ship. As an incentive, T-Mobile is offering to pay the penalty fee, up to $350 for every line you switch. Consumer Reports checks out the offer.
When the early termination fee appears on your bill, you have to turn it in to T-Mobile for reimbursement. So you actually have to pay that money up front.
You do have to buy a new phone for every line you switch, so that's an expense. And if your credit rating is less than stellar, you'll have to pay more up front for each phone.
T-Mobile will ease the pain with a credit for any phone you turn in up to $300.
How much will they pay for your old phone? According to T-Mobile's website, about $100 for an iPhone 4S and about $160 for a Samsung Galaxy. What T-Mobile actually pays will depend on the phone and the condition it's in when you turn it in.
If you're planning to turn in an old phone, Consumer Reports says take care to wipe it clean of personal data with a factory data reset. STEP BY STEP DETAILS BELOW
Last, choosing your plan. T-Mobile promises "all plans come with unlimited talk, text, and Web." But watch out! With the lower-cost plans you only get so much data before the speeds slow down.
Still, there could be a reason to switch. Consumer Reports crunched the numbers, and in most cases, T-Mobile's rates were cheaper than those from AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon.
If you're wondering how satisfied T-Mobile customers are, the latest survey of Consumer Reports' subscribers found it was one of the better major providers in many cities.
STEPS FOR FACTORY RESETS
Smart phones and tablets
The easiest way to securely erase a smart phone or tablet is to encrypt the device first, then do a factory reset. First, though, remember to back up any files you want to keep and remove the microSD and SIM cards.
Apple generally does a better job of securely erasing your personal data than Android. For the iPhone 3GS or later, third-generation iPod Touch or later, and all iPads, device data should automatically be encrypted if you have a passcode (screen lock) enabled. The passcode is used to generate an encryption key, and when you factory-reset your phone, the passcode and encryption key are securely deleted. Any data that's left behind is securely scrambled, and thereby inaccessible to all but the highest-level data-recovery experts.
If you haven't already set a passcode in iOS, you can do so by tapping Settings, then General, then Passcode.
Also check on this screen to make sure that data protection is enabled; if it isn't, toggle it on.
Once encryption is enabled, head back into Settings, then General, then Reset. You'll see a warning that the next step will erase all your media and data, followed by a red Erase button. Hit this and after a few minutes, your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch is ready to sell or trade.
Many Android phones and tablets, particularly older devices, don't support hardware-based encryption. But you can enable encryption via software. Just know that encryption may slow your device's performance, and it can't be disabled without resetting your phone.
Plug in your Android device before encrypting, as the process can take more than an hour, depending on hardware and the amount of storage on your device.
You'll also need to set up a PIN or password (not pattern unlock or face recognition) if you don't have one already, as the device uses your password to generate the encryption keys. Go to Settings, then tap Security, then Screen Lock, and PIN or Password. Then create a PIN or password.
Now you'll be able to encrypt your Android device. Go to Settings again, then Security, then Encrypt phone (or tablet). A warning screen will advise you that the process will take time and can't be undone without resetting your phone or tablet. You'll also have to provide your PIN or password before proceeding.
After your device has finished encrypting its data and rebooted, you'll have to again enter your PIN or Password to get back into Android. Once there, you're ready to factory-reset the device.
Because different device makers tweak Android to their own liking, the instructions for this next step (and Android instruction in general) will vary from device to device.
For recent Samsung devices, go to Settings, then Accounts. Scroll down to Backup Options, tap Backup and Reset, then Factory data reset.
For Nexus devises such as the Nexus 7, go to Settings, then scroll down to Backup & reset, right above Accounts. Tap that, and then hit Factory data reset.
Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars & trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports' website.
Consumer Reports/WFMY News 2