I’ve been somewhat skeptical about T-Mobile’s UNcarrier initiative for a while but I really started to warm up to it Wednesday when it announced its JUMP program. Yes, part of the fun was seeing T-Mobile chief John Legere reprise his role as circus-clown CEO, as he spent a lot of time talking to dolls while trash-talking AT&T, Verizon and Sprint. But the substance of T-Mobile’s plan is genuinely a good deal for people who want to upgrade their devices every year or so. For $10 a month, you can upgrade your smartphone once every six months for any reason, whether your phone is broken, whether it’s buggy or whether you just don’t like it anymore. Even better, when you upgrade to a new device, T-Mobile wipes out the remaining balance that you have on the last device you bought through the carrier.
Even if you’re not the sort of person who needs to upgrade their device every year, you should still be encouraged by T-Mobile’s new plan because the carrier is doing a great job of creatively attacking wireless industry practices that are unnecessarily burdensome. When Legere marveled that Verizon and AT&T were both lengthening their upgrade periods for new devices, he surely spoke to many customers’ frustration that the big incumbents are making their policies more restrictive rather than less restrictive.
“They just went from 20 months of pissing you off to 24 months of pissing you off!” Legere quipped.
The big challenge for T-Mobile, though, is still improving its coverage. T-Mobile lured me in many years ago with promises of cheap wireless rates but I soon grew very, very tired of the company’s horrendously shoddy wireless service that would frequently drop my calls while providing poor indoor coverage and next to no coverage in rural areas. I suspect that past bad experiences with T-Mobile’s services are holding many people back from making the switch and it’s going to take a bit of time for the company to change public perceptions.
The good news is that T-Mobile may now finally have the resources it needs to get the job done. The fact that it’s expanded its LTE service to 116 metro areas covering 157 million PoPs already is a very encouraging sign. And T-Mobile’s coverage should only improve once it becomes fully integrated with MetroPCS, especially in urban areas where MetroPCS has traditionally thrived.
Most importantly, it’s just refreshing to see a wireless carrier make aggressive moves to shake up an industry that has for too long been complacent and uncreative when it comes to delivering new value to consumers. That may not be a “revolution,” as the excitable Mr. Legere put it, but it certainly is fun to watch.