T-Mobile is making updates to Jump, its $10-a-month program that lets subscribers upgrade their devices every six months, instead of the industry standard of every two years.
T-Mobile introduced Jump in July, and not long afterward, AT&T and Verizon Wireless responded, introducing Next and Edge, respectively.
With the update, T-Mobile says customers will be able to upgrade their smartphones or tablets whenever they want, as often as they want.
"Whether you're looking to upgrade to the new iPad Air or Mini or the latest Android tablet, these devices are now included," T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert wrote in a Feb. 25 blog post. "That's not the case with AT&T or Verizon's more limited plans.
Subscribers who want to update a device can trade it in and receive a "full credit on all remaining payments on the old phone or tablet," for up to half the original cost of the device. In most cases, T-Mobile expects that users will pay little to nothing to upgrade.
"I want to emphasize that we'll pay what your device is worth," Sievert added. "If your trade-in is worth more than what we would otherwise pay under the program, then we'll credit you the difference. Not true with Verizon's Edge program."
Jump is also, said Sievert, the only upgrade plan from a major carrier to offer "virtually complete" protection for devices, covering them in instances of theft, loss, accidental damage or mechanical breakdown.
"Being way out front with our revolutionary upgrade has given us the awesome advantage of taking everything we've learned ... and rolling that forward into the program's ongoing evolution," he added.
T-Mobile Pursuing the Tablet Market
On Oct. 23, T-Mobile introduced an offer of 200MB of free data a month to anyone with a tablet that can connect to its network. That means its customers and AT&T's. The motivation for this decision, said T-Mobile CEO John Legere, was to encourage more people to connect their tablets to cellular networks, like they do their smartphones, instead of relying primarily on WiFi.
The reason 90 percent of tablet buyers choose a WiFi-only model is they're nervous about the costs they'll accrue, Legere said on a phone call with the press.
"People have a fear of, 'What's going to happen if I turn this on?' Just like they do with international roaming," said Legere.
A week earlier, T-Mobile had announced that Simple Choice plan users would no longer be charged an extra cent for international text messaging or data use.
"In our true fashion, there are no strings attached," Legere added. "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."
During the call, T-Mobile also announced that it would also be selling tablets for no money down.
Both strategies have worked. Announcing its fourth-quarter 2013 earnings results Feb. 25, T-Mobile said that during the quarter it added 69,000 postpaid mobile broadband devices, which were primarily tablets. That compares to 5,000 units during the third quarter.
The 69,000 figure also doesn't include the people who paid $10 for a T-Mobile SIM card, to take advantage of the 200MB of free data and who otherwise aren't T-Mobile subscribers—so the figure is conservative. But those uncounted users are still very valuable to T-Mobile.
"The vast majority of people who come in [to the tablet offer], they use it as a way to check out the network," Sievert said on the call. "We expect not only to get conversion to tablets but also to get conversion to phones, because this is a great low-risk way for somebody to come out and test our network and realize that it meets all their needs."