The company calls its idea Family Allowances. As you might imagine, you need a T-Mobile family service plan for this to work.
Under this new plan, parents can give their kids an upfront monthly wireless allowance. Parents set and change limits for voice minutes, all sorts of messaging and downloads (games, ring tones, wallpaper, etc.) using an online tool. Once the monthly allowance is reached, the feature shuts off service for that specific element and parents receive a notification.
There are also "Always Allowed" telephone numbers that continue to connect, even after the monthly allowances have been reached. And any unlimited calling feature included in your family's plan (myFaves and T-Mobile-to-T-Mobile) can also still be used. Additional controls are available so parents can choose to set allowances on unlimited calling features, if they wish.
With this new Family Allowances option, parents can choose to establish additional limits on the time of day a phone may be used, set allowances to zero to prohibit the use of minutes, messages or downloads (other than to "Always Allowed" numbers), and establish numbers that are blocked from calling or sending messages to any phone on their family plan.
The first benefit of this plan -- and it's a giant -- is that it puts an end to surprise family cellphone bills. That alone is worth the price of admission. T-Mobile adds that that new plan also provides the ability for parents to teach responsible phone use.
Family Allowances works on every phone that T-Mobile offers.
Here's the best part: the new service will be offered at an introductory rate of $2 per month in addition to their T-Mobile family plan. That's $2 per month to protect against killer cellphone bills. Sounds like a no-brainer. (One small warning: that $2 introductory rate is a limited-time offer. Hope the price doesn't rise too soon.)
The Family Allowances feature will be available, beginning in August, at select T-Mobile retail stores and
. It is open to customers with qualifying post-paid multi-time plans. Of course, taxes (an inevitable burden) are additional.
Let's see how companies such as
answer this challenge.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.