CEO John Legere and T-Mobile want to make buying a smartphone more like shopping for a used car. And they mean that in the best possible way.
On Wednesday, the company announced a new "test drive" program in which would-be T-Mobile customers can try out an iPhone 5s for seven days to decide whether they want to the carrier to provide their wireless service. And if they do sign up with T-Mobile, they can take advantage of another new program introduced Wednesday: Subscribers to T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan will be able to stream music from popular streaming services without it counting against their data plan. In addition, T-Mobile plans to launch a subscription-based radio service with Rhapsody next week.
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The three moves are part of T-Mobile's ongoing Uncarrier program in which it tries to unsettle rivals like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint -- and spirit away some of their customers -- by taking on some of the standard practices of the wireless industry. This year alone, T-Mobile has offered to pay users' early termination fees for jumping ship from other carriers and it's dropped overage fees. The moves have helped T-Mobile attract 17 million switchers since the company launched its Uncarrier campaign by doing away with two-year contracts last spring.
"Customers in the wireless industry are experience wireless like never before," Legere said before an appreciative crowd of T-Mobile customers and employees Wednesday night, as he pointed out that rival companies had responded to T-Mobile's moves by adopting many of the same practices he's championed.
T-Mobile has been busy strengthening its own networking, noting that it now offers Wideband LTE in 16 markets and plans to cover 100 million people with Voice over LTE by the end of 2014. But that networking news won't be what people talk about when discussing the latest steps in T-Mobile's Uncarrier campaign.
Test-drive an iPhone
Instead, people will likely focus on programs like the T-Mobile Test Drive. Starting June 23, you'll be able to sign up with T-Mobile to receive a fully functioning iPhone 5s for a week; your credit or debit card will have a $700 hold placed on it as security. (True to its boundary-pushing reputation, T-Mobile is calling this a "seven-night stand" with all the double entendres that phrase can inspire.) The phone will arrive in the mail, and you'll get a chance to see how it performs on T-Mobile's network in the areas where you spend the most time. When the seven days are up, you return the phone to a nearby T-Mobile store; the company will helpfully point out where the nearest locations are when you get your test phone.
"The buying process [for smartphones] is worse than for used cars," said Mike Sievert, T-Mobile's chief marketing officer. "And yet, we don't question that this is how the wireless market operates."