Why The Deaf <3 T-Mobile
I was talking to a co-worker about mobile phones the other day and she revealed something to me that I hadn’t considered: deaf people overwhelmingly have T-Mobile service and overwhelmingly use one of the various Sidekick models. What, you mean deaf people use mobile phones?
Why not? If your deaf, you might not be able to use the phone portion of the device, but you can most certainly use the SMS, IM, and Internet access from a mobile phone–none of which require any audio to make use of. Certainly these are all things the Sidekick does fairly well.
But T-Mobile? Well for one, the Sidekick is only sold through T-Mobile, but that can’t be the only reason. There are plenty of other phones out there sold by AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint that have a similar form and function. But one thing that T-Mobile does that the other guys don’t do for handsets is something very important for a deaf person: a data-only plan. And it’s dirt cheap.
On a contract basis, you can get service for $39.99 a month. This doesn’t include text messaging, but it does include all the data you can use and T-Mobile Hotspot access. You can purchase blocks of text messages, of course, and because you’re signing up for a contract, it means you can get a better price on the Sidekick.
What I think ends up being a better deal for a data-only Sidekick plan is prepaid, which T-Mobile offers a special plan for. For $1 a day, you get unlimited (domestic) texting, email, and web-browsing. Voice calls, if you need to make one, will cost $0.15 a minute. So for $30 a month, plus the unsubsidized cost of the Sidekick ($400), a deaf person gets a personal communications device that is deaf-friendly at a price that the average hearing-enabled person would love to have for a voice plan.
All in all, it’s a smart move on T-Mobile’s part. It’s a pity the other carriers don’t provide a similar service.