T-Mobile thinks it's time more people used tablets with a cellular connection. To encourage them, it's offering 200MB free each month.
T-Mobile's latest "un-carrier" moves follow the Oct. 22 introduction of the Apple iPad Air and iPad Mini
with Retina display.
T-Mobile will not only sell both new iPads
—its first-ever iPads, getting it fully on board with Apple's entire device lineup—but it plans to make them more affordable to acquire and to use.
Americans have bought approximately 115 million tablets since 2010, and only about 12 percent of those are connected to a cellular network, T-Mobile CEO John Legere said during an Oct. 23 conference call.
"Tablet sales are outpacing PCs, and we believe it's time that tablets operate the same as smartphones do, and they should be connected all the time," said Legere. "It's time to stop the silliness."
T-Mobile has introduced "Free Data for Life," an offer of 200MB of free data each month. A tablet owner can consider those megabytes an add-on to an existing plan, or simply use those 200MB, which are enough to send out 3,400 tweets, make 540 Facebook posts or send 2,500 emails, said Legere.
The offer is also extended to everyone. If you have a tablet that can access the T-Mobile network (such as a cellular-equipped tablet purchased from AT&T), whether or not you have a paying relationship with T-Mobile, you can take advantage of the 200MB offer.
T-Mobile will also accept tablet and smartphone trade-ins toward any new T-Mobile tablet, the new iPads included. ("I think we'd accept a bushel of corn," Legere joked, suggesting the carrier's excitement to get more people to experience a tablet on LTE, as once they do, it expects they'll be hooked.)
Legere said he believes it's not the upfront difference in costs between WiFi-only and WiFi-plus-cellular models that has prevented nearly 90 percent of tablet owners from choosing the latter.
"People have a fear of, 'What's going to happen if I turn this on?' Just like they do with international roaming," said Legere.
On Oct. 9, in yet another un-carrier move, T-Mobile addressed that fear , announcing that anyone with T-Mobile Simple Choice plan can enjoy free data
use and texting in more than 100 countries, at no additional cost. That offer, CMO Mike Sievert clarified during the Wednesday call, applies to T-Mobile's tablets as well.
"If your tablet is on a Simple Choice plan," said Sievert, "you get free data" in 115 countries.
In addition to its 200MB offer, T-Mobile plans to sell every tablet in its lineup for no money down.
It will sell the 16GB iPad Air for $0 down and 24 payments of $26.26 and, in the same model, the 16GB iPad Mini with Retina display for $17.91 a month, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 for $19 a month with no money down and the Google Nexus 7 for $16 a month.
"In our true fashion, there are no strings attached," said Legere. "Starting Nov. 1, your T-Mobile tablet works out of the box. Every month you get 200MB of free data, for as long as you own your device."
What happens when a user goes through the 200MB?
"We handle it the same way we handle overages—we don't have any," said Sievert. "When you've used up your free data, it stops. There's no chance of you getting an unexpected bill."
More nuanced than just stopping, it will also offer users a chance to buy some data.
T-Mobile offers daily passes that include unlimited data with 500MB of high-speed 4G LTE data for $5, or a weekly pass with 1GB of LTE-speed data for $10.
For its voice customers, T-Mobile offers an "always on" tablet plan starting at $10 a month for 500MB of LTE-speed data, and an extra $10 for each additional 2GB increment.
"Tablets are where the world is going, and we want everyone to be able to participate," said Legere.
"We won't rest," he added, noting that T-Mobile has plenty more un-carrier announcements to come. "I think there's a ton of opportunity to make the industry work for you and make it respond [to what customers want]. What we're doing is going to change the industry, for the positive."
In regard to questions about whether the new iPads will work on T-Mobile's LTE and HSPA+ networks, Legere confirmed that they will. "These devices were created with our networks in mind," he said. "If something says they won't work on all of our networks, it's a mistake."
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