T-Mobile Now Accepting iPhone 5 Preorders for $99 Down

T-Mobile's long-promised iPhone is now available for preorder. Its "un-carrier" promises, early first-quarter results suggest, are beginning to work.

T-Mobile is now accepting orders for the iPhone 5. The nation's fourth-largest carrier is the last of the top-four carriers to offer the iconic device, but it's doing so in a brand-new way.

Marketing the offer as an "un-carrier" move, T-Mobile is selling the iPhone without a contract for either $579.99 up-front or—to those who pass credit checks—for $99 down and 24 monthly payments (interest-free) of $20.

That's for the 16GB model. The 32GB model is $199.99 down and the 64GB is $299.99, both also with 24 payments of $20.

Another un-carrier move has been to separate its device sales from its data plans, which now start at $50 a month for a single line or $70 for unlimited data at 4G speeds.

At a March 26 event in New York City, T-Mobile announced that it will begin shipping the iPhone April 12. T-Mobile CEO John Legere also used the occasion to insist that T-Mobile wasn't simply walking away from subsidies and spreading out the same costs that T-Mobile's rivals charge.

"Do you have any idea how much you're [currently] paying?" Legere asked media and analysts at the event. Insisting that major carriers have been incredulous about the idea of asking consumers to pay full price for a phone, Legere leaned into the crowd to say, "It would be a great day if all you paid was full price."

T-Mobile has only just begun offering its new plans, and on March 26 lit up its first seven Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. Still, the bluster and bravado that Legere has exhibited since stepping into the CEO role in September, and the promises of a new type of carrier that's up-front and straightforward—and offers the iPhone—seems to be working.

On April 3, T-Mobile announced the preliminary customer results of its 2013 first quarter, and things are looking up.

While it lost 199,000 postpaid subscribers during the quarter, this was a 61 percent improvement from the 515,000 it lost the quarter before.

Additionally, the carrier gained 202,000 prepaid subscribers, making it the seventh consecutive quarter it had done so.

"These results display positive momentum and the first positive branded growth in four years," Legere said in a statement. "We have made material progress in stabilizing our branded business in Q1, which provides a solid foundation to build on with the new un-carrier customer offers we launched last week across America. I believe the best is yet to come!"

One hopes so. T-Mobile is close to completing a deal to acquire U.S. prepaid carrier MetroPCS. The deal will give T-Mobile new subscribers, new spectrum, and a greater share of the lucrative and growing prepaid market.

The Department of Justice, the Federal Communications Commission and the Committee on Foreign Investment have all approved the deal. It now just needs the blessing of MetroPCS's shareholders—not all of whom are pleased about the terms of the deal.

Shareholder Paulson and Co. has been vocal about its displeasure with the deal, P. Schoenfeld Asset Management—another hedge fund and shareholder—has filed a proxy statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and The Associated Press reported March 28 that shareholders Merger Fund and GS Master Trust have sued MetroPCS, alleging that the executives overseeing the deal acted "in conscious or reckless disregard of their duties."

Legere, at the March 26 event, said he was confident the deal would go through.

T-Mobile will announce its full earnings results May 8.

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