T-Mobile is the mobile carrier that wants to disrupt the mobile carriers.
And it is making a pretty good show of it.
Today, T-Mobile announced a program called JUMP: Just Upgrade My Phone. It allows T-Mobile users to get new smartphones from the carrier up to twice per year. For $10 a month, users can enroll in the program and be allowed to trade in their old T-Mobile smartphone for a new device after a six-month waiting period.
“We are going to redefine a stupid, broken and arrogant industry,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said today in New York City at an event announcing JUMP.
The move is the latest in T-Mobile’s move to position itself vis-à-vis its competition—Verizon, AT&T and Sprint—as the “un-carrier.” The JUMP program ties into T-Mobile’s move to rid itself of smartphone contracts and subsidies that it announced it March this year. Instead of signing up for a two-year contract to get a cheaper price on a smartphone, T-Mobile users can pay a monthly Equipment Installment Plan (EIP) for their smartphones until the device is fully paid off.
With the JUMP program, after the initial six months, a T-Mobile user can trade in their smartphone and the carrier will waive the rest of what is owed on that device through the EIP program for any reason. If a user doesn’t like their phone, just wants the latest and greatest or it has a little wear and tear, T-Mobile will trade in a smartphone with the JUMP program as long as it is in decent working order.
JUMP is part of T-Mobile’s smartphone insurance program. Hence, if a device is broken or has water damage, the user will have to pay a deductible (between $20 and $170 depending on the phone) to upgrade to a new device.
The move to allow users to upgrade twice per year while starting a new installment plan for their phones is in direct contrast to the two biggest mobile carriers in the U.S.—AT&T and Verizon—which both recently announced that they are extending the ability to upgrade users smartphones to a full 24 months, or the full length of their contracts. Consumers previously could upgrade after 20 months on either carrier.
T-Mobile will also roll out a marketing program called #Hate2Wait for JUMP with the theme of "730 days"—a reference to that 24-month waiting period other carriers' customers face. Former Saturday Night Live actor Bill Haider stars in it.
T-Mobile also announced today that its 4G LTE network now covers 157 million people in the United States. While the connotations and speeds of what LTE actually represents can be ambiguous and vary greatly from area to area, any LTE from T-Mobile is a lot better none, which a lot of industry analysts figured would be the company’s LTE footprint two years ago.
Finally, A Carrier Does It Differently
T-Mobile wants to come off as transparent and consumer friendly as possible. This is not a normal trait for a mobile operator in the United States, which are often tight-lipped except to point to marketing slogans touting how awesome they think they are. T-Mobile is also guilty of trying to tout itself and show that it is edgy and different and that its Pink is better than the Red, Blue and Yellow of its competitors.
T-Mobile has its faults and all the marketing the company will hit consumers with in the following months should be heavily scrutinized against the reality of the industry. T-Mobile’s plans may not actually be that much cheaper than other carriers, its LTE may not be faster. These are variable situations depending on consumer choice and location.
What T-Mobile offers consumers that its competitors do not is freedom. From the ability to not be tied into a two-year contract and the ability to get a new smartphone twice a year, T-Mobile at least wants to present the appearance of standing for consumer choice.
At least T-Mobile is thinking outside the box and offering something different. That is not something that the other operators have done in a long, long time.