In the US at least, every subscriber to T-Mobile’s prepaid service gets free access to the mobile web. Before you get too excited I have to point out that it’s a walled garden and a small one at that. In the garden you can find the usual pricey carrier downloadable games and ringtones, view your plan’s prepaid balance and expiration date and add money to the account.
But there’s more, T-Mobile gives prepaid users unlimited access to seven off-portal sites at no charge – and they aren’t bad sites either. ABC News is linked directly from the phone’s default homepage and six more that work if you type in the URL. Incidentally this free access is the only way to use the web on T-Mobile To Go. The carrier doesn’t offer any other data plans on prepaid, which seems to be a missed revenue opportunity. I’d gladly pay the $5.95/month that T-Mobile charges contract customers, or even a little more, for access to the whole web but its not offered.
Update, the available sites tend to change over time. As of Jan 13, 2011 the following sites work on most T-Mobile USA prepaid handsets.
Included on the T-Zones Portal :
ABCNews (wap.go.com/wireless/abcnews/xhtml) US and internationl news, sports and weather. Not working for me since Jan-2011
Not on the T-Zone home page but available by entering the URL are:
Amusing Info (tmobile.aspiro.com/s/WDispTm?S=menu&F=Main) is a simple wml text-only trivia site with drink recipes, pick up lines, a body mass calculator, “love” horoscope, dream symbols, an interactive page showing the symbolic meaning of different flowers and a personality test. This is another carrier specific page, if you try to access that url from outside the t-mobile network you land on a spamy domain parking page.
BBC (news.bbc.co.uk/mobile/bbc_news/index.wml) The wml version of the BBS’s huge news, sports and entertainment portal is fully functional including images. Not working for me since Jan-2011
The Weather Channel (tmobile.xhtml.weather.com/) Current and long range weather forecasts, radar and precipitation maps. (broken images)
NBC Day Area Mobile Entertainment (m.nbcbayarea.com/m/device/index.php) Local news, weather and entertainment listings for the San Francisco Bay Area.
Pocket Box Office (www.airborne-e.com/wml_getfirst.cfm?gv= ) Simple wml browser based games.
USA Today (http://usatoday.mlogic.mobi ) US and international news, sports and US weather. (broken images)
The T-Zones search function will find some of these sites if you search for “USA Today” , “Amusing”, etc. Search for, load and bookmark these sites. For the others including the BBC you will have to enter the URL’s (news.bbc.co.uk/mobile/bbc_news/index.wml) manually, once they load, bookmark them too.
The sites available on the free T-Zones do change from time to time. 4INFO, ESPN, Traffic.com and CNN were available for years, but are gone now. Check the T-mobile to Go board at HowardForums for collective intelligence on what works and what doesn’t.
Free T-Zones works with any browser that can connect through a WAP gateway or directly to the Internet, including Opera Mobile and the built in browsers of most phones. Except for the wml sites it alsos work with the Safari Browser of unlocked iPhones.
Free T-Zones doesn’t work with proxy based browsers like Opera Mini, Bolt or the UC Browser because access to the proxies is blocked. It doesn’t work with the Android phones sold by T-Mobile and the Google Developer phones which are explicitly blocked from free T-Zones.
If you are not using a T-Mobile branded handset, you will need to input the T-Mobile data settings. Refer to your phone manual or Google ‘GPRS settings “your phone make and model“‘
The relevant settings information for T-Mobile are:
- Access Point Name (APN): wap.voicestream.com
- Homepage: http://wap.myvoicestream.com
- WAP Gateway IP Address: 18.104.22.168
- WAP Gateway Port: 9201
Not of these apply to every phone. At a minimum you will need the APN. Non-smartphones generally require the WAP Gateway IP and port. If the phone asks for Username , Password or DNS you can safely leave them blank,
It’s really pretty cool that T-Mobile is giving away a subset of mobile web for free to prepaid users. The sites are well chosen and cover the basics; news, sports, weather, directions and traffic.
It’s unclear what T-Mobile’s goal with free T-Zones is. It’s prpbably just a loophole caused by a misconfigured firewall. But it does provide a no-risk introduction to mobile browsing – creating awareness and buzz among pre-paid customers. .