Mint Mobile wireless phone service review

After a long run with Google Fi, we switched over to Mint Mobile for our 2 lines in December. Mint is an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) that runs on top of T-Mobile, providing prepaid mobile phone service to consumers. Their self-proclaimed mission is to:

deliver affordable, premium wireless direct-to-consumer

So what do they say makes Mint Mobile different?

  • Online only. No stores or salespeople.
  • Buy in bulk. 3, 6 and 12 month purchase options.
  • No contracts.
  • No overages.
  • Choose your data plan.
  • Earn service credit for referring friends.
  • No nickel and diming.

Pricing

Mint offers a variety of plans that include various levels of included LTE data (4G or 5G!).

The starter plans include 3 months, and they cost:

$15/month with 3GB of data/month
$20/month with 8GB of data/month
$25/month with 12GB of data/month
$30/month with “unlimited” data/month

After your initial 3 months, if you stick with purchasing 3 months at a time, you’ll pay $10-$20 more, per month, depending on the plan. But if you switch to purchasing 12 months at a time, in advance, you’ll be able to pay the introductory per month pricing (x12).

For us, all we need is the 3GB of data/month plan, especially in these COVID times where we spend most of our time at home and on WiFi. That means we pay a mere $15/month per line!

Getting set up with Mint Mobile

When we received our starter kit, it was an easy process to follow their instructions to port our numbers over to Mint and to get started with using their service right away. If you’re porting over, you’ll need to make sure that you have your account number and PIN from your old service.

To use Mint, you need a phone that supports the T-Mobile network and its particular LTE bands. We currently use Moto G7 smartphones that are carrier unlocked. I specifically chose these phones in part due to their support for all major US carriers, including T-Mobile, Sprint (RIP), Verizon, and AT&T. We can take these phones to any mobile phone service in the US! If in doubt, Mint Mobile provides a phone compatibility checker on their Bring Your Own Phone page.

I appreciated that Mint included a “pin tool” that helps you pop your SIM card slot out of your phone and swap in your new Mint Mobile sim. Their sim is also a “choose your own sim size” pop out card that should make it easy to use with a variety of different phones that support various sim sizes.

After the Mint sim is installed and you’ve verified that the new service is working, don’t forget to turn on WiFi calling, if your device supports that feature. WiFi calling allows for superior audio quality and better reliability when placing calls from a WiFi network.

Using Mint Mobile service

My initial tests with Mint Mobile were splendid. I could make and receive calls, send Signal messages (which I prefer over text messages, as texts are completely insecure) and use mobile data just fine, with good 4G LTE speeds.

On one of my first excursions out of the home, however, I ran into a very strange problem where I couldn’t use mobile data at all. After attempting to turn mobile data off and on again a few times and attempting other troubleshooting, I wound up rebooting the phone, which resolved the problem. I had that issue precisely once, and haven’t seen it happen again.

Over the past 2 months of using the service, I’ve had a couple of dropped calls, but it hasn’t been frequent. I’ve had a few times where I couldn’t get LTE service for data, but again, that has been rare. Overall, we are happy with the phone and data service.

MMS (picture) message issues

The biggest issue we’ve seen so far with Mint Mobile is the MMS (picture) message performance.

The first issue is with the transmission time. Sending and receiving MMS messages is horrendously slow. I’m talking 10 full seconds of counting out loud to ten (or longer!) before a picture message might actually show as sent. Receiving/downloading MMS messages also happens at a snail’s pace.

picture message from Google Messages app

The second issue is that when sending picture messages, we often receive a false failure message status that says “Failed to send” (in Signal) or “Not sent. Tap to try again.” in the Google Messages app (see image above).

How do I know it’s a “false failure message”? Well, when I first started seeing these, I would tap the message and attempt to resend. Sometimes 3 or 4 times. I have followed up with the recipients and they report receiving 3 or 4 copies of the picture message. This means that even though it says “failed to send” on my end, they’re actually making it to the intended recipient in most cases.

I reported this issue to Mint Mobile customer support, and they walked me through adjusting some of my MMS settings, in an attempt to resolve the issue. This did NOT resolve the issue for us, and after letting their customer support know that their suggestions did not resolve the problem, they said:

“I understand

Is there anything else I may help you with?”

Yes, Mint Mobile, you can help me by resolving issues with your MMS messages. They wouldn’t offer to do anything else for us on this issue, so I ended the chat.

Let’s wrap up by listing out the Pros and Cons of Mint Mobile service, and then showing our conclusions on the service.

Pros

  • Extremely low cost! Their lower end data plans are cheaper than most other providers.
  • No base line fee + data fee. It’s all included in one monthly price!
  • Unlimited calls and texts with every plan.
  • Coverage has been wonderful for us, as T-Mobile’s network is solid in our area (SLC, UT).
  • WiFi calling and texts.
  • The ability to top up your data. Purchase “UpData” 1GB for $10 or 3GB for $20.
  • 7 day money back guarantee.
  • Free calling to Mexico and Canada.
  • “Mint Family” feature allows you to manage and pay for multiple lines from one account.
  • Free mobile hotspot (tethering) from your phone.
  • Their end of year holiday promo netted us a buy 3 months, get 3 months free deal.

Cons

  • MMS (picture messages) are snail slow to send and receive, and you often get false positive “failed to send” status notifications on those messages.
  • They claim “No BS” and “no nickel and diming” on their about page, but they don’t send you a detailed receipt via email that includes the breakdown of taxes & fees. In addition, when I requested this via support, it was like pulling teeth. They told me they could not provide it. After insisting multiple times, they finally did send me a breakdown.
  • Unused data doesn’t roll over to future months.
  • Support isn’t great.
  • No email support (phone and chat only).
  • 3 month minimum increments. Bulk prepaying for multiple months locks you into their service.
  • No pause service feature. You can’t use your prepaid months at a later time.
  • Your service is at risk of “deprioritization” in highly congested environments where multiple users are competing to use the network. Postpaid, official T-Mobile customers will have better service than you in these circumstances. Think crowded stadiums or other highly populated areas.
  • No discounted family plans.
  • Mint Mobile Android app is missing some features available on the desktop website.
  • International Calling (except Canada & Mexico) and International Roaming costs extra.

Conclusion

Overall, the Mint Mobile phone and data service has worked well for us, and the extremely low cost is a huge positive. With Google Fi, we were paying $60-$90 per month for 2 lines, depending upon how much data we used, which was rarely over 6GB/month for our 2 lines. With Mint, we pay $30/month for 2 lines, and we get 3GB of data per line!

The requirement of prepaying for 12 months in advance to get the best pricing is a con, but I do appreciate that it allows them to offer these amazingly low rates.

All in all, their poor picture message performance and the lackluster customer support are negatives that we’re willing to deal with in order to take advantage of the rock bottom pricing that Mint Mobile offers. We will likely be using Mint Mobile for a long time to come!

If you’re intrigued by Mint Mobile, I encourage you to give it a try! There’s a 7 day no risk money back guarantee, and you’ll earn $15 towards your plan renewal by signing up through our link.

BONUS

We received an email from Mint Mobile this week informing us that their 3GB data per month plans are now increasing to 4GB data per month at no additional cost! Their 8GB data per month plan is increasing to 10GB data per month, again, for no additional cost. More data for the same low rates, woohoo!

About Wes Novack

Wesley Novack is a Technologist working in the software industry, with extensive experience building and managing highly available applications, services, and systems in the public cloud. He has a breadth of experience in online publishing, the consumer electronics industry, and building internet communities. Wes enjoys hanging with his family, skateboarding, hiking, the vegan lifestyle, and a good cup of tea. You can find him on Twitter @WesleyTech.

View all posts by Wes Novack →

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