On 2014-06-18, T-Mobile launched their new initiatives to “shake” the wireless industry. These new initiatives are called Uncarrier 5.0 and Uncarrier 6.0. For those that don’t know the Uncarrier benefits – here is a breakdown.
- No Annual Contracts (current contract customers are SOL)
- Jump Insurance Policy
- International Services / 200MB free Tablet Data
- ETF payoffs
So, what is Uncarrier 5, and 6? First, Uncarrier 5.0 is a test drive mechanism. One will be able to go to http://t-mobile.com/testdrive and with a credit card information – they will receive an iPhone 5S which they may use for 7 days. At which time, they will be required to return the phone which they can do at a T-Mobile store. The credit card will likely have the standard $1 phantom charge, and will not be billed unless the person actually takes the phone and not return it. This can be done once per card per year, and is intended to allow weary customers to test drive the T-Mobile Network. Obviously, you will have a secondary number, and since this is an iPhone 5S – Google Voice integration isn’t complete.
So, what will this mean? Well test drive customers will be able to test the use of data service which T-Mobile claims is the most active part of their network. SMS and voice can be tested, but let’s face it – the people you call will see the temporary number unless you have Google Voice, and willing to jump through the hoops that Apple imposes on you. So, why the iPhone – in a simple word – marketing. According to T-Mobile, a very small percentage of the population in the service coverage knows that iPhone is available on T-Mobile. However, this strategy alienates those that are in the Blackberry, Google, or Windows Phone universe. To have the iPhone and make full use of it, you also need to have a capable Windows or Apple PC. I know on my 1 year budget notebook, my PC chokes a little with using iTunes, and it gets worse with every update.
T-Mobile should work with other manufacturers to try to get the OSes that are in demand – even a little. I am sure if Microsoft was smart, they will allow T-Mobile to show off a flagship phone with Windows Phone. And while the relationship between Blackberry and T-Mobile has soured a little – this is a chance for them to make nice. And of course with T-Mobile offering the Nexus 4 and 5 – this could introduce people to a pure experience with Google. And all of these options are likely to be less expensive than the $650 price tag that an iPhone 5S-16GB model will cost. And while according to T-Mobile, Apple has provided these phones for free (most likely logistical reasons with Apple as well), there is still an expense that someone will have to deal with if the phone is bricked, damaged or stolen, and the credit card doesn’t cover it.
If you use iHeart Radio, iTunes Radio, Pandora, Rhapsody, Slacker, and/or Spotify – then the streaming of these services will not count against your data plan. In addition, there will soon be a cooperative venture with Rhapsody to provide a music service that will be free for unlimited data customers (+$20 to your line fee), $4 for T-Mobile customers, or $5 for everyone else. So, what if you are an Amazon Prime customer and use that music service, or the more popular Google Play All Access or their cloud music – well FU. T-Mobile notes that they are going to add more services as time goes on and it is a matter of inclusion of URLs to a no charge white list. Couldn’t White Listing based on the app being used work just as well? I know web browsers have Client IDs, and I can only imagine Internet connected apps do to. In any case, customers can go to http://t-mobile.com/musicfreedom to vote on the service that should be included next.
What should be done?
So, what should T-Mobile do to cater to more consumers? Well, let’s first address the Life Line plan. For those that don’t know, Life Line is a financial assistance program for low income families to acquire services. While some will criticize this service as a “Welfare Phone”, it can also apply to those who are physically disabled or elderly and do not receive a lot of money – you know the people who may not be capable of working. Their plan offers 145 peak minutes, and 500 off-peak minutes. This is not an issue. SMS is 20¢ – but is there a way to turn off SMS so you don’t get unsolicitated messages you have to pay for. There is also no data services which implies this is only for basic phones. T-Mobile’s Life Line department says this plan is normally $20, but with the Life Line discount – it is $6.50+tax. The only phone designed with this plan in mind is the T-Mobile 768 which is $72, and is rated with poor ratings by the customers that have the phone. In reality – there are so many better plans options than this one. Keep in mind, that this $20 plan is no where to be found on T-Mobile’s web site.
And now let’s look at their plans. First, the data plans on tablets can actually be more expensive than the voice plans with the same amount of data. I know because I have a tablet data plan, and I also have a phone line. This in my opinion should be properly address to where data only plans are cheaper than Voice/SMS/Data plans – especially when a tablet is given a data plan only. Next is options. There is effectively one voice plan which is unlimited voice and SMS with 1GB of data. You pay for things such as insurance, and addition unthrottled data. There is a cheaper plan that simply terminates your data once reaching your cap, but this seems to be only available for single line plans. However, during their Uncarrier 5/6 event – they mentioned that the most used increment of their service is data. So, why are they acting with only one option? My thought will be the following:
- Offer 3 tiers of plans.
- Tier 1: 1 service unlimited, two services 500 each. Plan starts at $30. Additional Lines: $15
- Tier 2: 2 service unlimited, one service 500. Plan starts at $40. Additional Lines: $20
- Tier 3: All services Unlimited. Plan starts at $60. Additional Lines: $30
- Tablet Data Service Plan (voice customers get $10 discount) which are as follows:
- 500MB – Free
- 1GB – $5
- 2GB – $10
- 5GB – $20
- 10GB – $30
- 20GB – $40
- 50GB – $50
- Life Line plan of 1 service with 250, and the other two services 100 – No charge
Services at 100, 250 or 500 will be in the form of minutes, SMS, or MB of data. In example, someone on the Life Line plan may choose to have 250 minutes of voice and 100 SMS / 100MB of data or have 250MB of data and 100 minutes of voice / 100 SMS. A similar process will apply to the plans. In regards to Family Plans, the Primary Line must at an equal or higher tier then the secondary lines. While this will make the plans a little more complicated, it does offer a wider range of options, and can cater to people’s desires more. Until the day comes where voice, SMS, and data is all treated as the same thing – there should always be options for customers who don’t need unlimited of what they don’t need.