12 Comments

Summary:

It took nearly six years, but T-Mobile is officially an iPhone carrier. T-Mobile won’t be selling the device like any old carrier, though. The iPhone 5 will be unsubsidized, but available over some of the cheapest service plans in the mobile industry.

iPhone 5 product shot

It’s official: T-Mobile has the iPhone. On Friday, April 12, the magenta-tinged operator will start selling the iPhone 5 nationwide and the iPhone 4 and 4S in select markets.

T-Mobile now not only has the iconic device it has so long craved, but it’s offering it with compelling service pricing. Under the new plans unveiled over the weekend you can pay as little as $50 a month for unlimited voice, text and 500 MB of data, and you can use your phone as a hotspot — something most carriers charge you extra for doing on an individual data plan. For $70 a month, you can upgrade that data plan to unlimited, though hotspot usage is limited to 500 MB a month. All of these plans are available without a contract.

But T-Mobile is demanding you make a tradeoff. Its cheap rates mean it will no longer subsidize its devices, meaning customers will have to buy their iPhones up front, enroll in a financing plan, or bring an unlocked device to the network.

“We’re canceling our membership in the carrier club,” CEO John Legere said at T-Mobile’s Uncarrier event in NYC on Tuesday.

T-Mobile will finance the iPhone 5 for a down payment of $99.99 and payments of $20 each month for 24 months. That works out to $580, which is actually cheaper than the unsubsidized, unlocked device price of $650 Apple charges today. The iPhone 4S will have a down payment of $69.99 with monthly payments of $20, which works out to $550 (the same price Apple charges). The iPhone 4 costs $14.99 down with $15 monthly payments, which totals $375, a full $75 cheaper than the unsubsidized equivalent. You can also bring an unlocked iPhone to the T-Mobile network to avoid financing costs completely, though only AT&T’s iPhone 5 version will work on T-Mobile’s new LTE network.

T-Mobile also revealed it will be the first U.S. carrier to support HD voice on the iPhone through its newly upgraded networks.

The reason we’ve waited so long for the elusive T-Mobile iPhone is a combination of physics and economics. Since T-Mobile first launched its 3G mobile broadband network, it’s set itself apart from the other major carriers on the electromagnetic spectrum. Apple didn’t make an iPhone that tapped into the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) band used by T-Mo’s HSPA+ network, and it showed no inclination of custom-designing a device for a specific carrier.

That all changed last year when T-Mobile undertook an ambitious plan to reconfigure its networks and clear up spectrum for LTE. It began moving its HSPA+ network into the 1900 MHz PCS bands used by most U.S. carriers for 3G, and in the gaps that opened up it began deploying its LTE systems.

Last summer, T-Mobile began inviting unlocked iPhone users to test out its network, but it hadn’t reached the point where it could support all of the new iPhone 5’s most advanced features. The missing component was LTE, which T-Mobile launched today in an iPhone-friendly band.

Will the iPhone be T-Mobile’s savior? It’s tough to say. T-Mobile will finally have the most sought-after smartphone in its arsenal, and T-Mobile has readily admitted its lack of the device has hurt it with consumers. It will also be able to offer that device at very low pricing. But pricing and variety don’t always sway consumers. Verizon Wireless may be the most expensive carrier in the business, but its coverage and customer service have kept it on top of the heap.

This post was updated several times throughout the morning as events unfolded.

  1. Which city got the first LTE?

    Share
    1. Kevin Fitchard Tuesday, March 26, 2013

      Hi Shiggity,

      The full LTE launch details are in Kevin T’s post here: http://gigaom.com/2013/03/26/t-mobile-launches-lte-with-a-bang-the-iphone-5-and-no-contracts/

      (We split the labor)

      Share
    2. Kevin Fitchard Tuesday, March 26, 2013

      I suppose I could also just answer your question :)

      Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, and Washington, D.C.

      Share
  2. I just called T-Mobile to inquire about the new payment plans and It was just awful customer service . When someone finally came o the line , I could barely understand her English so I just said after this poor customer experience , I would be staying with Verizon. Terrible .

    Share
    1. sorry to hear that you had poor service…..I have been with TMO for nearly 7 years and the customer service has exceeded my expectation…thus the reason I am still with TMO

      Share
    2. I would recommend you give TMO another chance….it’s worth it

      Share
  3. #June
    I am surprised that you got poor customer service. My experience with TMo customer service has always been top notch. In fact, i left VZW because of their shitty customer service, phantom charges on my bills and all round poor reception in my area.

    Whatever rows you boat. If you like VZW stick with them. I for one will be with TMo and laughing all the way to the bank with the money I am saving.

    Share
    1. I’ve been with tmobile for 7 years too and for the past year or so, I get so frustrated because EVERY time I call ,I can’t understand the person I am speaking with. I hang up and call back, wait for 10 minutes and get another person I can’t understand. Unfortunately, with the contract I’m in that has an extra line I was tricked into getting( that I’ve never even used), I can’t afford to cancel my service.

      Share
  4. Is there any place to see what cities have been upgraded? I live in SLC, Utah and when I called T-Mo customer service they didn’t have a clue if our area was upgraded or not….?

    Share
  5. What about storage capacity? Is the $99 down for 16gb or just 8?

    Share
  6. Agata Buksowski Friday, April 19, 2013

    For the people who wants to unlock ATT phones, go google attiphoneunlocking, they unlock any model and firmware up to date. I did mine there, took me couple hours.

    Share
  7. Rony Bagthaliya Saturday, May 4, 2013

    I actually did quite a bit of research on these cell phone trade in programs, and http://www.smartphonecashin.com is definitely the highest paying site. They are also very straightforward and easy to use.

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post