Figuring that people are intrigued by T-Mobile’s no-contract plans, but unsure how the (relatively) new plans compare to the competition, I wrote a short guide for the July issue of Money magazine. The article looks at four common types of smartphone users: a value-oriented, four-person family; a price-conscious user who tends to hold onto his/her phone for years; a heavy user who cares more about network quality than price; and a light user who wants a smartphone but doesn’t consume much data/bandwidth.

Based on each user’s voice and data needs, the story recommends a specific smartphone plan and carrier. Money used a decision tree for the print layout.

I did an intense amount of behind-the-scenes number crunching for this piece. If price is a major concern, there’s no better way to decide on a wireless plan/carrier than creating a spreadsheet and calculating the total cost of ownership of your desired phone/plan over two years. Don’t forget to include any relevant one-time fees, such as activation or upgrade fees or new SIM charges, as well as the cost of the phone. Doing the math can save you hundreds of dollars (over the course of your wireless contract) by pinpointing the right plan. Not fun, but worth it.

(The story’s print-only now, but I’ll add a link if it comes online.)