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Sprint still doesn’t understand what ‘unlimited’ means

Published Oct 18th, 2016 5:04PM EDT

There’s a bad trend going around the mobile industry right now of describing a plan as “unlimited”, and then going to specify three paragraphs of limits. Sprint is not the only network guilty of this, but it’s certainly doubling down on its “unlimited” plans.

The latest addition to the family is a new Unlimited tablet plan, which offers unlimited data for a tablet for $20 per month. Sounds fantastic, right? Wrong.

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First off, the unlimited data is subject to the same restrictions as Sprint’s unlimited phone plans. Video streams are capped at 480p (standard definition), music is capped at 500kbps, gaming is capped at 2 megabits, and you’ve got 5GB of data to use on personal hotspots or VPNs.

Given that most people buy internet-connected tablets to use as a) personal hotspots, and b) watch movies, this seems like quite a lot of limitations. Sure, you just spent $800 plus tax to buy a fancy iPad with a fancy Retina screen to watch HD movies, but I’m sure you’ll be totally fine with watching the SD version of everything on Netflix, right? And it’s not like you were planning on doing any work on your laptop today, I’m sure the data cap on tethering data is also just fine.

That’s the limits on the data use, but what about that too-good-to-be-true price? Well, in order to get the sorta-unlimited data for $20 per month, you need to:

  • Buy the tablet from Sprint
  • Be a Sprint customer with at least one other phone line
  • Enrol in AutoPay for your Sprint account

So, you either have to buy a brand-new tablet from Sprint for an upfront cost, or use Sprint’s financing options to spread the cost out over a few years, so you’re more deeply ensnared in Sprint’s ecosystem. Oh, and your phone has to be on Sprint’s sucky network as well. As I said above, Sprint is not the only network guilty of abusing the term “unlimited”. But it is taking liberties with marketing to a particular new kind of extreme.