Given your calling issue Thur/Fri, I’m curious what network/company you were with prior to moving to T-Mobile. Did it seem like a network issue, or a phone/hardware issue, or uncertain?
I value flexibility quite a bit so I haven’t been on a carrier contract plan for ages and have purchased my phones separately up-front as well. Generally I have found that MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), which work on the same networks as the big
4 3 carriers, offer similar connectivity and the benefits that matter to me, at a lower price, and without contracts. I.e. I can switch at any time, no penalties. That said, if you’re financing a phone, a big operator is little different from a small one, and often you’ll get comparable pricing in that scenario I believe.
I have avoided financing phones because, especially before the last few years, the subsidized pricing and add-on to your plan monthly fees was more than you’d pay just purchasing the phone outright, and then having a separate phone plan, especially after the ~2 year pay-off time frame. The advantage, of course, was not having to pay it all at once. But in many cases companies would just keep your price high even after the phone had been paid off, and it was up to the consumer to try to negotiate it down, or (in many cases) upgrade to a new phone on that 2 year cycle.
I find these days, and for at least the last 4-5yrs, that phones are fast and mature and good enough even in the mid-range of $350-$600 (and increasingly on the “low” end < $350), that we don’t need to be on a 2 year hardware upgrade cycle. And it sounds like your wife’s 7+ year old phone more than demonstrates that.
So what I currently use, and have had generally good luck with, is a Google Pixel 3a, purchased about 1.5 years ago for $450 (and I expect to get at least another 1-2 years out of it), and 4 lines of Total Wireless service (which is on the Verizon network). Each line comes out to $25/mo, $100/mo total, all fees inclusive, 100GB shared data between 4 lines (i.e. 25GB each), 10GB per line of hotspot. I frequently do speed tests as I’m traveling around and have had generally good speeds, mostly comparable to anyone else I was with at the time, and coverage that seems very similar to Verizon with a very few exceptions. For the price, what you get is fantastic. It’s a bit more per line if you have fewer lines, of course, but still a good deal.
Having said all that, it sounds like you got a pretty good deal for your needs, as long as T-Mobile’s coverage and speeds are good in your typical usage areas. Since merging with Sprint, that is almost certainly the case, though I do find that there can be surprisingly dramatic differences between carriers in one key place that is often overlooked: at home. Since most of us now only have a cell phone and no landline, it is of course important for our phones to work very well at home. And yet I have found a surprising number of people I know have poor coverage at - and especially inside - their homes. Modern Wi-Fi calling-enabled phones and networks can help considerably with this, provided you have good home Internet and Wi-Fi coverage.
Regardless, gone - fortunately - are the days when options were few or hard to access and companies could and would charge you for voice minutes, number of texts, small amounts of data, or even access to data at all. I find the modern price of “flagship” phones to be fairly absurd, especially with how good the mid-range has been really since the original One+ came out. But people are apparently willing to pay that price, so they’ll keep charging it. As long as there continue to be very good mid-price options I’m happy.