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T-Mobile is failing to exclude data used by the Spotify app

6/29/2014

Spotify app Last week, T-Mobile announced UnCarrier 6.0, "Music Freedom". They said that they would no longer count data usage for streaming music (on select services) against customers' high speed data caps. While there has been quite a bit of talk about whether this is good or bad for customers in the long run, as this will lead to customers favoring services that don't use data over those that do. My personal view is that this change is good for T-Mobile customers and is not a particular net neutrality issue, though I certainly see how it is the first step down a path that could be bad to get too far on.

But there is a second, more significant issue with the promotion: T-Mobile is not treating data as claimed at this point.

For most of the services included, everything works as it should; data used for streaming music is not counted against the high-speed cap. For Spotify, however, the data still counts.

T-mobile usage I have tested this repeatedly on my own smartphone, the LG G2, as well as on other phones at a local T-Mobile store. Checking usage by either T-Mobile's (terrible) app, or through the dialer code #WEB#, Spotify will use a few megabytes of data for each song.

Minor Update:
I wanted to add a few more details on how I tested. I am currently a premium user, so I can and do use 'extreme' quality playback - increasing how much data is used for each track and making it a bit more noticeable. I have also tested and found data use on accounts using normal quality and non-premium users. I initially noticed the data use through normal use, and then decided to actively test it. To make the test as conclusive as possible, I turned off most other apps, then checked data use and waited a few minutes before checking again. This confirmed that no data use was caused by apps besides Spotify. I then started spotify and skipped tracks every 2 seconds or so, in order to use the most data possible in a short time. This method has produced similar results on all phones I have been able to test on.

Initially, I assumed that the issue was simply in the data use shown by the phone. Upon calling and talking to T-Mobile's tech support, however, they said it was definitely not supposed to show the uncounted data, and that their system showed the same use that my phone showed.

The representative told me that what I was seeing must be data use for the album art and other files related to streaming that were not the MP3s themselves. The amount of data I was seeing is many times what these extra files would use, and upon talking to other reps, I don't believe she was correct that these files count in the first place - I would like to see an official statement from T-Mobile defining the answer.

Once I convinced her that this usage couldn't be the extra files, she submitted a ticket for me, and told me that I would not hear or see anything from the ticket, except that they would fix my issue in the next 72 hours. She told me they would not be able to credit the data usage back to my account, though she did agree to consider some sort of resolution when I talk to them again after the issue is fixed.

Given the various incorrect answers and very limited help, I feel no certainty that the issue will be fixed - in fact, it was first reported at least a few days ago by shadow_shooter on Reddit, and is not yet fixed.

I want to add, I really like T-Mobile, and quality of cell service I have been getting is better than any other carrier I have tried. Still, I find the issue, especially when combined with the lack of ability to set up a good support experience around it, to be one that requires sharing.

I will update this if I hear back from T-Mobile, or when I find the issue has been fixed.

-Andrew

Update 2: 6/30/14
I added a video of the issue to help demonstrate how I am testing it. Tmonews.com has recieved an update from T-Mobile, that basically claims no issue exists, and gives a number of alternate explanations. Unfortunately, none of them seem to fit the facts.



Update 3: 7/1/14
I have spoken to tier 3 support at T-Mobile, who asked me to help confirm the problem. We were able to confirm by setting my plan to a low high speed cap, then downloading files until I hit the cap. After hitting the cap, Spotify should be unaffected by the throttling, as with Pandora and others. Having hit the cap, Spotify No longer had a good enough connection to stream, while the other included apps still worked perfectly.

They have still been unable to fix, or even officially confirm, the problem, but the rep I was talking to went from trying to explain how I was incorrect to very concerned about figuring out and fixing this issue ASAP.

I will continue to update as I learn more.