T-Mobile Cuts 4G Tablet Prices, Offers More Free Data

Operation Tablet Freedom is an "assault" on the old tablet model, T-Mobile said in its second of three major announcements.

T-Mobile, on its second of three days of major announcements, continued on its mission to make tablets more convenient and affordable with the introduction of "Operation Tablet Freedom."

As of April 12, T-Mobile customers can add a tablet to a postpaid voice plan for no additional cost.

Further, T-Mobile is offering tablet users 1 GB of free 4G LTE data every month through the end of the year. Added to the 200MB of free data a month it began offering in October, that's 1.2GB a month.

Come 2015, customers who have voice service and "want to keep enjoying that tablet freedom," said T-Mobile, can do so starting at $10 a month.

Additionally, T-Mobile is welcoming anyone with a WiFi-only tablet to bring it to T-Mobile and trade it in for an LTE-enabled model. It will pay an instant credit for the tablet (based on what it says the tablet's worth) that can be applied toward the price of a T-Mobile tablet. And, as part of "operation," the prices of 4G-enabled tablets have been lowered to those of their WiFi-only counterparts.

For example, T-Mobile will sell the 4G LTE-enabled 16GB Apple iPad Air for $499, the price of the WiFi model, instead of its usual $630. The 4G LTE Samsung Tab 3, normally $312, can be picked up for $200, the price of the WiFi-only version.

T-Mobile has also announced it will pay the early termination fees (ETFs) of anyone who wants to switch to T-Mobile but has a tablet under contract with another carrier.

"With this announcement, T-Mobile's launching a full-on assault against the restrictions and pain points that keep tablet owners from experiencing life beyond the WiFi zone," CEO John Legere said in an April 10 statement. "The un-carrier is all about solving pain points, and today, we're eliminating every reason to be stuck on an unconnected WiFi-only tablet."

In a blog post the same day, Legere was more candid. "We solve [problems] and force broken systems to change. You can't count on the stumbling, arrogant guys to do it. They're more about charging you overages on your data to maximize their profit—and impose more pain," wrote Legere. "They're about suffocating change. The un-carrier is about building the movement and fueling the revolution."

T-Mobile's un-carrier moves—doing away with two-year contracts, enabling users to upgrade devices more often, and getting rid of international roaming fees on data and text messaging, among others—are indeed working. T-Mobile added more than 1.5 million customers during the fourth quarter of 2013 and more than 4.4 million during all of 2013. (In 2012, by contrast, it added 1 million.)

But it was slow to begin selling tablets, and it has added tablet users in only modest numbers.

During the fourth quarter, T-Mobile sold nearly 69,000 tablets, up from 5,000 during its third quarter. But Verizon Wireless, by contrast, sold 625,000 tablets during its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter.

In October, T-Mobile made its first move to get more people using LTE-enabled tablets, introducing "Free Data for Life," its offer of 200MB of free data per month, for any tablet that can connect to its network.

"People have a fear of 'What's going to happen if I turn this on?'," Legere said at the time. He added, "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. It's time to stop the silliness."

T-Mobile Chief Marketing Officer Mike Sievert, in an April 10 blog post, repeated the idea.

"Imagine a world where your smartphone was only connected via WiFi, how useful would it be," said Sievert. "That wouldn't make any sense, and neither does a WiFi-only tablet. With Operation Tablet Freedom, we're making [a] 4G LTE connected tablet with T-Mobile the only sensible way to buy a tablet."

T-Mobile kicked off its three days of un-carrier announcements with the introduction of Simple Starter, its new lowest-priced service plan. For $40 a month, users get unlimited talking and texting and 500MB of data at 4G LTE speeds. There are no overage fees; once a user exceeds 500MB, the service moves to a slower (non-4G) network.

T-Mobile is saving its grand finale for Monday, April 14. On Twitter, Legere hinted, "Wed was #SimpleStarter, today is #OperationTabletFreedom, tomorrow is the best #GS5 day, Monday, day 4...What's your guess. #Hint it's BIG!!"

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