T-Mobile Stung by Customer Anger Over iPhone for BlackBerry Trade-ins

NEWS ANALYSIS: T-Mobile rushes to perform damage control after an iPhone for BlackBerry trade-in offer angers customers who remain loyal BlackBerry users.

T-Mobile had to perform damage control and so announced Feb. 18 that it will offer an expanded selection of BlackBerry devices after users expressed outrage in tweets and phone calls about the carrier's offer to accept BlackBerry trade-ins for new iPhones.

This follows a series of tweets by T-Mobile CEO John Legere to outraged T-Mobile BlackBerry customers who received letters offering to accept trade-ins of their BlackBerry devices for iPhones. In a statement provided to eWEEK, T-Mobile said it will begin offering an expanded selection of BlackBerry devices as early as Feb. 21.

The overtures to BlackBerry customers also came after BlackBerry CEO John Chen posted a blog on his company's Website that thanked BlackBerry users for their loyalty and reminded Legere of the long relationship between the two companies.

T-Mobile started promoting the iPhone for BlackBerry trade-in offer the week of Feb. 10, and user protests increased in volume over the long Presidents' Day holiday weekend. BlackBerry users took the trade-in offer as a sign that T-Mobile would no longer sell or support their favorite mobile devices.

Although the trade-in offer still stands, a T-Mobile spokesperson wrote in a statement to eWEEK that the company will also make the full line of BlackBerry devices available for sale. "Customers can purchase some of the latest BlackBerry devices from T-Mobile—including the Q10 and Z10 that we have carried since they launched," the statement said.

T-Mobile customers can buy and receive direct shipment of BlackBerry devices from more than 3,000 T-Mobile retail stores, according to the statement. "As an additional courtesy to our BlackBerry customers, we will begin offering free expedited shipping of BlackBerry devices by Friday [Feb. 21]. Customers can also bring unlocked BlackBerry devices to T-Mobile. We are happy to be a BlackBerry partner and apologize for any confusion."

Recently, T-Mobile US had apparently decided that BlackBerry devices were no longer popular with its customers. The company had stopped carrying all but one type of new BlackBerry, the Curve 9310. The much hyped BlackBerry Z10 was nowhere to be seen in T-Mobile's product listings. All you could find there was a refurbished Q10. This was apparently a choice by the U.S. branch of T-Mobile because the parent company still lists the full line.

This was a major change for T-Mobile, which had long supported products from Research In Motion, the company now simply known as BlackBerry.

It was T-Mobile that took a chance on what previously had been a fancy pager that did email and helped launch what became the dominant smartphone on the market. And it was BlackBerry, the mobile device company from Canada, that saw just how compelling a phone that did messaging could be. For years, T-Mobile sold BlackBerry phones in the United States while its German corporate parent, Deutsche Telekom, sold them in Europe.

However Apple's iPhone became something that T-Mobile just had to have on its store shelves even as BlackBerry's fortunes declined.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...