T-Mobile Finds That Giving Away Free Data Is Harder Than It Sounds

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T-Mobile figures that by giving tablet users free data, it might turn a few of them into paying customers.

But it turns out that giving away data is sometimes harder than it seems. T-Mobile’s operations – both human and computer-based – were just not set up to have a nonpaying relationship with customers. As a result, some of the company’s new tablet customers were erroneously charged $10 per month for data that was supposed to be free. T-Mobile has since corrected the problem, and plans to issue refunds to affected customers.

“We had a technology glitch and a training issue that caused some people to believe [they were being charged] – and some people to be charged,” T-Mobile chief marketing officer Mike Sievert said in an interview. “That’s just not right.”

T-Mobile’s plan does allow tablet buyers to bring over any new or existing tablet that’s compatible with T-Mobile’s network and get 200 megabytes of free data each month. On the iPad, for example, customers don’t even need to enter a credit card number, Sievert said. Anyone who was charged $10 for the free service will be credited automatically, he added.

“Every single customer gets free data for life if they have a tablet on our network,” Sievert said. “You don’t need to have any paying relationship with us whatsoever.”

The only other catch – and T-Mobile argues it has been clear about this from the start – is that customers who want to finance their tablet purchase through the carrier must have a paid relationship with T-Mobile.

But that doesn’t necessarily need to be through the tablet. For example, a T-Mobile postpaid phone customer could finance their iPad interest free, even without signing up for a monthly plan for the tablet. Those who aren’t phone customers need at least a $20-per-month tablet plan in order to finance the purchase.

Still, some are grousing that T-Mobile did make it sound like every customer could have both totally free data and finance their device.

“By offering free data for life with incredible upfront pricing, T-Mobile is un-leashing customers to fully enjoy iPad as it was meant to be enjoyed – mobile and connected,” CEO John Legere said in a press release touting the free data offer in conjunction with the ability to pay for the device in installments. T-Mobile phone customers can do both, but those without another line of T-Mobile service have to pay for their device outright or sign up for monthly paid data service to get the 200MB of free data.

Sievert said the free data offer is designed primarily to give people who aren’t currently T-Mobile customers a chance to try out the company’s network. “It has so rapidly improved and changed,” Sievert said. “It stacks up to everyone … People will eventually want more data from us.”

Update, 8:20 p.m.: T-Mobile has posted an updated FAQ to its Web site detailing the issues.

“We readily admit that we had some executional issues around our tablet launch on Nov. 1.,” T-Mobile says on the page. “Breaking with the industry norm and giving data away for free is complicated. There were legacy elements in our system and in our training activities that created the confusion. We are actively working to fix and clarify the website while re-educating all of our channel reps.”

Or, as Legere put it on Twitter:

“Bottom line: we are working to clear up the confusion, but at least we admit it & make it right,” he said, before taking a swipe at AT&T.

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AT&T’s ‘Next’ Follows T-Mobile’s ‘Jump,’ Allows for Mobile Upgrades Every 12 Months

AT&T

Rather than “rethinking possible,” AT&T is rethinking its plans, as it becomes the latest wireless carrier to offer customers the option to upgrade their phones more frequently. Starting July 26, AT&T will offer new “Next” plans for smartphones and tablets, on a post-paid basis. The plan allows customers to trade in their devices (feature phones excluded) every 12 months, provided the customer pays a monthly installment fee based on a 20-month cycle. So, you would take the full retail price of a smartphone or tablet, divide it by 20 and add that cost to your monthly traditional or family-share AT&T plan. Twelve months later, you trade in that device for a new one, and a new cycle begins. If you decide you want a new phone before the 12 months is up, Next owners still owe the cost of the remaining months’ fees.

Read the full story at All Things D.

Report: Verizon’s ‘VZ Edge’ Would Let Customers Pay Monthly for Smartphones, Upgrade Early

Verizon

Back in April, after extending upgrade periods to a full 24 months, Verizon introduced a new device payment that would allow customers to upgrade phones by purchasing them at full prices with the payments spread out over a 12-month period. According to sources of ours, Verizon will introduce a new upgrade initiative on August 25 called “VZ Edge” that will allow customers to upgrade their phones much more frequently to “stay on the leading edge of technology.” In an training slide detailing the new plan, we can see that Verizon is offering up VZ Edge as a way for customers to avoid signing contracts and upgrade fees, while remaining on the “best network” and with the latest devices. All of the specifics are not yet available, but this slide does mention that if customers are on the previously mentioned monthly payment plan, that they can upgrade to a new device at any time once they have paid off 50% of their current phone.

Read the full story at Droid-Life.

The Copycat Culture of Tech Hits the Mobile World in Full Force

T-Mobile Jump

Tech culture is a funny thing. If you track tech news, releases and new ideas closely enough, you’ll notice there’s a very apparent trend that pops up all the time:

  1. Some company has a truly original idea.
  2. Every competing company copies that idea.

It’s funny and sad at the same time, and it’s the same thing that happens every time there’s a truly unique idea in the tech world.

A Truly Original Idea

The most recent example of this has been the ability for tech-happy smartphone owners to upgrade their phones far more often than once every two years. T-Mobile made a big splash in the mobile market last week when it announced ‘Jump,’ which would give customers two mobile upgrades every year for an extra $10 per month. (As a refresher to the new way T-Mobile sells smartphones since they no longer have mobile contracts, you can catch up here.)

Jump is a great idea! A truly original idea. People love upgrading their phones and hate having to wait 20 months two years for a new gadget. (Let’s put aside the fact that you don’t save a much money by constantly upgrading your phones and you no longer have back-up phones to give someone or use in case of emergency. It’s still a very original idea.)

… and the Rest Shall Follow

You know what’s NOT original? The fact that AT&T just announced an almost identical program: Next. (All Things D notes that AT&T issued a memo teasing Next before T-Mobile announced Jump, so it’s unclear whose idea came first. The bottom line is still the same: derivative ideas.) Next would be slightly different from T-Mobile’s plans in a few ways: You’re eligible for an upgrade every 12 months, not six; you don’t need to put a down payment on your device; and there’s no additional monthly fee. It would be more forgivable of a copycat if it was better, but the numbers don’t add up. T-Mobile’s not scared, either, as an executive said it’s a “poor imitation” of Jump.

Want to hear a funny story? Verizon’s reportedly planning the same type of program, called VZ Edge, which would launch in August. The plan is almost identical to Next, which means it, too, is a slight derivation on Jump.

It’s just that type of copycat culture. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sprint announce something similar, except Sprint seems to be doing its own thing over there, with Unlimited, My Way essentially giving you unlimited everything forever and ever.

Not an Isolated Incident

Think back to the biggest tech breakthroughs of the last few years: iPhone, iPad, etc. Every major breakthrough has been imitated and copied and modded and tweaked by just about every company under the sun. I’ve just never seen it happen as quickly as we’ve seen phone carriers do their thing this week.

And this isn’t the last time we’ll see this type of behavior this year. The Pebble Smartwatch was last year’s Kickstarter darling, and recently hit store shelves. You know who else is interested in the smartwatch business? Oh, just about everyone: Google. Apple. Mozilla. Microsoft. TomTom. Sony. Dell. It’s amazing. For a while, I seemed to be posting a story about a new company wanting to enter the smartwatch business… and I know we’ll see the same thing once Google Glass becomes more prevalent.

Innovation breeds competition, which helps create better products for all of us to buy and use. I’d just like to see more unique ideas, rather than everyone piling on whichever bandwagon is hot this hour.

Shelly Palmer Radio Report – July 18, 2013

T-Mobile made waves in the mobile market recently when it ended cell phone contracts and changed the way you bought new phones: no more subsidies, but rather a down payment and small monthly installments. Its new program, ‘Jump,’ takes that strategy to the next level and gives you the option to get a new smartphone twice a year. While T-Mobile customers could already buy a new phone whenever they want, they’d be on the hook for the rest of the payments on their old device. Jump waives all future payments on your old phone and lets you start fresh with a new device. For ten bucks a month – plus a trade-in of your old device – Jump lets you get a shiny new phone twice a year. The new program won’t save you much – if any – money, and you can’t gift your old phones to family or friends once you upgrade. But if you want to make sure you always have the best phone on the market, hey, you might as well Jump.

T-Mobile Jump, AT&T Next, Verizon Edge: Which Saves You the Most Money?

Mobile Upgrade Plans

Within the space of little more than a week, three of the largest carriers in the US have introduced completely new plans to go alongside traditional contract agreements and prepaid services. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon Wireless, with their new plans called Jump, Next, and Edge, respectively, are all going after the same thing: subscribers who want to get the newest smartphone as quickly as possible. That’s not the only thing that brings these new plans together, however. They’re all extremely complicated. And make no mistake, carriers like it that way – it’s easier to overcharge if customers don’t know it’s happening. So let’s untangle the secrets behind these plans to see which (if any) are a good deal. The best way to analyze these plans is to take a real-world example. For the charts below, we’re looking at what you’d expect to pay for a Galaxy S4 on each of these carriers using one of their new plans.

Read the full story at The Verge.