T-Mobile will let you stream Netflix and other video services without using data, but there’s a catch

By , Nov 10, 2015

BingeOn

T-Mobile just took the cover off of its latest Uncarrier initiative, Binge On, which will allow customers who pay for at least 3GB of data to stream Netflix, ESPN, Hulu, HBO Now, Sling, and other popular video streaming services without it counting against monthly data usage.

If that sounds a bit crazy, then we’re right there with you. T-Mobile has done similar things with music streaming already, but video is a whole different animal altogether.

But unsurprisingly, there is one small catch. T-Mobile will essentially cap the maximum quality of the video streams participating in its plan through what it calls “optimization”. Basically, it’s reducing the amount of bandwidth used for videos, which will result in at least some quality degradation for most modern smartphones.

The promotion, entitled Binge On, optimizes video for mobile screens, minimizing data consumption while still delivering DVD or better quality (e.g. 480p or better). That means that you should expect some degradation, and watching video on an iPhone 6s Plus, which offers a 1080p screen, may feature a noticeable dip in quality.

T-Mobile says that its data optimization, which streaming services must opt into, results in an approximate 30% decrease in bandwidth usage. Users will have the option of opting out of Binge On if they find that the quality of the video doesn’t meet their standards, but T-Mobile says that users should expect at least DVD quality for streams.

Along with the revelation that T-Mobile is offering video streaming without charge for 24 popular video streaming services, the carrier is also doubling data for both new an existing customers of its Simple Choice plans.

T-Mobile is seriously trying to shake things up, and it has reaped results. T-Mobile is currently the fastest growing carrier, even though it remains in third place behind Verizon and AT&T.

As most of you guys know by now, I’m a huge T-Mobile proponent. I’ve been a T-Mobile user for several years now, and I’m usually not shocked by their promotions, or the antics of enigmatic CEO John Legere. But even I had to do a double take when this scrolled across my Twitter timeline. Of course, my excitement was quelled a bit when I got to understand the data optimization element involved, but hopefully it won’t be too noticeable.

Here are the services that will work with T-Mobile new promotion:

  • Crackle
  • Encore
  • ESPN
  • Fox Sports
  • Fox Sports Go
  • HBO Now
  • HBO Go
  • Hulu
  • MLB
  • Movieplex
  • NBC Sports
  • Netflix
  • Sling TV
  • Sling Box
  • SHOWTIME
  • STARZ
  • T-Mobile TV
  • Univision Deportes
  • Ustream
  • Vessel
  • Vevo
  • VUDU

That’s a healthy looking list, but it does feature one glaring omission: YouTube. It means that you will still be docked for data usage when watching one of our videos here at iDB.

Would you consider switching to T-Mobile now that you can stream all of the Netflix, Hulu, and HBO shows that you want without incurring data cap limits?

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  • Marcus

    I will never understand why people stream tv shows on their phones… I’d rather just not use my phone at all and then watch tv at home on my computer or tv.

    • teCHology

      Well some people like myself like to watch netflix at work on breaks and such. I also use it to watch live TV while im at work, mostly NFL games….

      • Marcus

        Fair enough, I still like to wait until I have a better ambiance though. I believe that shows such as Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead aren’t meant to be watched on mobile. I actually believe that for most tv shows frankly. I guess sports are different though because they’re on so often it’s hard to make time for them, so you just have to watch whenever you can.

      • Morgan Freeman

        How long are your breaks, TV Junkie?

    • Stefano Polo

      There are two areas where I stream video on my iPhone or iPad on a consistent basis. One area is when I’m doing my laundry at the laundromat and another area is when I’m commuting back to my parents home on the train every two weeks or so. Obviously both these areas are eating up my data so much so that I had to bump up my plan to 12 gigs. To have a service that won’t count towards that at DVD quality…yea there’s definitely a need and there are a lot of us that would love it. I’m definitely considering the switch now!

      • Marcus

        If you’re riding on a train for a long length of time, you should read. Do you happen to watch Game of Thrones? If you do, you should seriously consider reading “A Song of Ice and Fire” (by George R.R. Martin. It’s the book series that Game of Thrones is based off of. Book Six, The Winds of Winter, is going to be released early next year. The audiobooks are 35-50 hours long, but I read all the books in physical copy and they were fantastic. If you were to read one book series, read A Song of Ice and Fire. This is really random, but reading is great when traveling on trains or planes and this is probably the most popular book series right now due to Game of Thrones being the most popular show.

      • some people get motion sickness when reading. I usually hear TV Shows

      • Marcus

        Motion sickness is much different in a plane or train compared to a car or small boat. It’s worth a shot.

      • iByron

        So what do you recommend for fans of Robot Chicken?

      • Marcus

        I don’t watch Robot Chicken, but you can probably find some good books online somewhere.

    • Guy

      In the world we live in today no one has time to sit in front of a TV or computer and watch movies, shows, etc. Between work and my girl I don’t have time either. Mobile watching is best for people on the go.

      • Marcus

        I spend two and a half hours a week watching my tv shows and I have time to do that. I’d rather enjoy them more on the weekend relaxed than watch them during a rushed time on my phone during the week.

      • Guy

        The average person works weekends. More power to you, that you can relax were others can’t.

      • Manuel Molina

        Exactly. I come home and barely get tired to watch tv, and if I do, it’s for a few minutes and go to sleep. The world is doing more work than before.

    • James

      chromecast 😛

  • Brandon Higgins

    Even with a catch they’re doing more and better things than its top two competitors. I love T-Mobile and service in my area is great.

    • teCHology

      when i first got the service it was great, now that everyone is switching over its getting a little slower for me. When i am at work i have to turn LTE off because its so slow its unuseable but 4G is fast enough to use for streaming and such. But thats only when i am at work other then that its great….

  • Rupinder

    When does this go into effect?

    • ChicagoSportsFanatic

      They said in about a week

      • Rupinder

        Just checked their site – starting on the 15th!

  • This is nuts and great. We’re about to cord-cut and use many of these services.

  • TechnoBuff

    Good in the short run for consumers but gradually, we are moving towards a pay per use system of data usage as most people cut cords……
    In a few years from now,there wont be data bundles anymore but a pay per use system

    • iByron

      And that’s a bad thing??

      • TechnoBuff

        Actually it is

  • Chang in Charge

    i been thinking about making the jump to t mobile and this might push me over the edge

    • Julio Hernandez

      It’s worth it, especially if you have great T-Mobile coverage in your area. Not so much inside my home but I frequent in Anaheim, CA and Los Angeles, CA so I always have great and speedy service.

      • Chang in Charge

        Even in the home now they have those cellular signal boosters that they debuted on Monday. Free of charge I believe.

      • Julio Hernandez

        Almost entirely free if you have a simple choice plan and you give a $25 deposit

  • I wish YouTube was on the list.

  • My data plan is 2.5gb so will I get this?

    • Vince Reedy

      For users who pay for at least 3GB

  • Merman123

    That’s awesome. I wouldn’t even call that a catch. It seems more than fair. I’m strongly considering T-Mobile. I feel like I say that every time they have an event.

  • Guy

    Quality a side this isn’t a bad deal.

  • Shams

    I love what T-Mobile is doing for customers. I’m Canadian and our three companies are a monopoly. No choices and we have the most expensive monthly bill on average against the rest of the world. I wish we have t mobile here.

  • Shams

    I pay over $200 with 5 lines share everything plan that comes with 5GB data. Unlimited Canada wide calling and texting.

  • pr1son3r

    why don’t you put your video’s on vessel first then to youtube?

  • Off-topic, but this is great. I am enjoying a similar plan here in Saudi Arabia, where it offers me unlimited YouTube over my 5GB data plan which will end up using less than 1.5GB due to this extra free YouTube, video streaming services are the biggest suckers of data on your phone.

  • Digitalfeind

    Doesn’t this violate Net Neutrality??

    • TechnoBuff

      Exactly my view as well, it does violate it somehow but Tmobile skirted around it by stating that its a feature thats on offer and customers are free to chose it or not.

    • Eduardo Martinez

      They’re not forbidding anyone from joining. Services that want to join just have to meet the requirements. Just like Apple has heir own rules about what can and cannot be in the app store.

  • Manuel Molina

    While this move is pretty cool and all that other good stuff, can T-Mobile find ways to bid for more spectrum and provide…umm… better service maybe?

  • Tom

    Tmobile is still expensive

  • iByron

    This is cool. My phone is AT&T: they’re still the best coverage at my home, and they’ve been doing right by me pricing wise. But my iPad — where I watch most of my Hulu shows — is T-Mobile! I’m excited about this.