John Legere (Uncarrier 001)

T-Mobile has caused quite a stir announcing carrying the new iPads with no downpayment, especially the promise of 200MB of free LTE data for life for those who opt for cellular models, as long as they remain customers.

Our own Jeff Benjamin praised T-Mobile’s un-carrier move, noting no other U.S. wireless company has offered free data to iPad users.

The controversy was born after some customers complained that T-Mobile reps told them they couldn’t claim 200MB worth of free monthly data unless they were paying phone customers. Otherwise, it’s a $10 a month On Demand plan charge and T-Mobile CEO John Legere calling it an “executional mistake” didn’t help.

So, what exactly is going on here? Is the 200MB free tier a bait and switch or a legitimate offer, with some strings attached? We lay it all out for you right after the break…

According to Deutsche Telekom-owned T-Mobile itself (via Cnet), its no-money-down iPad offer indeed requires $20 monthly plan, but for new customers only. So, who doesn’t get to pay for their free data?

For starters, existing T-Mobile customers with a phone plan are eligible to take advantage of 200MB of free data without having to sign up for any additional plan.

If you’re new to T-Mobile and have bought your iPad Air – or any other tablet for that matter – full price, that is unsubsidized, you’ll also be able to claim 200MB of free data (customers can also bring in their own T-Mobile-compatible tablets).

For those wondering, T-Mobile’s $20 a month fee actually covers 500MB of 4G LTE data, of which 200MB is free, but that doesn’t kick in until after you sign up. Keep in mind that T-Mobile will shut off the data for the month on the free bucket once you hit your 200MB usage in a month.

Acknowledging that “things have been a little bumpy,” T-Mobile marketing executive Andrew Sherrard told Cnet that not everyone qualifies for the equipment installer plan, reminding folks that “even individuals wanting a smartphone under such a plan have to pass a credit check”.

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He also said forcing new customers to sign up for a $10 monthly fee was “a legacy policy” which “We’re working around the clock to get this fixed”. In addition to the entry-level 200MB “free” tier, T-Mobile is offering 2.5GB/4.5GB of 4G LTE data for $30/$50 per month.

This is what T-Mobile wrote in a media release last week:

And every T-Mobile iPad user will receive 200 MB of free 4G LTE data every month for as long as they own their iPad, even if they aren’t yet a T-Mobile customer.

I guess there are some strings attached after all, John Legere?

T-Mobile will sell you the entry-level iPad Air Wi-Fi + Cellular with sixteen gigabytes of storage  for $0 down and 24 monthly payments of $26.25 per month. The 32/64GB models require a $100/$200 down payment, respectively.

By the way, cellular iPads are not carrier-locked so you can switch simply by using another compatible wireless service provider’s SIM card.

As our Jeff noted, going cellular makes a lot of sense for a variety of reasons, such as the prevalence of 4G LTE and the assurance of knowing there’s that instant-on 4G LTE connectivity when outside Wi-Fi coverage.

For what it’s worth, T-Mobile CEO John Legere did admit a mistake and promised to fix it without making lame excuses.

For the sake of completeness, T-Mobile offers its Equipment Installment Plan (EIP) only to existing customers.

Bottom line: you must either pay the full price for your iPad Air or sign up for a $20 monthly plan in order to claim your 200MB of free data.

Un-Carrier, much?

When all is said and done, the 200MB free plan is a terrific way to introduce new customers to the T-Mobile network and it beats paying $15 to AT&T for 250MB of data.

  • jocastro

    really 200mb… lol what a rip off.. i can go through that much data in like a 1hr.

    • T_Will

      Good point! Cause it is cheaper to pay AT&T $14.99 for 250 MB’s of data.

      /s

    • Nate McKelvie

      How is free a rip off in any way exactly?

      • jocastro

        lets see 200mb for starters… its barley anything.. the companies trick you by saying its “Free” but in actuality its nothing… you cant even watch a netflix series with that much. you can barley do anything with this much.

      • Hugh Jassol

        You make no sense.

        So your only argument is that 200mb isn’t enough for free? How much would surfice you to watch “Netflix”? LOL

        The point is to lure “potential” customers by giving them a miniaml amount of free data. Many people buy wifi only ipads but would love the occssional ability to check an email when not near wifi/hotspot.

        This is a viable solution for all those individuals planning on buying an ipad outright. If you’re on the fence of buying a wifi or cellular ipad or maybe not sure what carrier to choose, than this is the perfect solution.

        If I was planning on buying a new ipad, why wouldn’t I want to spend an extra $100 bucks for the cellular model if I’m also getting a lifetime of free 200mb a month?

      • Nate McKelvie

        Exactly! I know many people that the 200mb is all they need. And it’s free, I think it’s a great thing.

      • Nate McKelvie

        It’s FREE! How can you complain? Your argument is that you can’t watch netflix with it? And where exactly can you watch netflix over cellular for free? And I don’t think they advertised it as “enough data to watch netflix” they said, it’s 200mb of free data to any customer that owns their iPad outright. I think it’s awesome. I personally need much more than 200mbs but I’m willing to pay. You sound like you have serious entitlement issues. I mean your basically saying “f*** you t-mobile for ripping me off by only giving me 200mbs of FREE DATA!”

  • chumawumba

    If only they had decent coverage

    • Kurt

      Can’t get that stupid song out of my head every time you make a comment errr

  • Nate McKelvie

    Although it is kind of lame that they made it seem like anyone could get 200mb free but it’s not really anyone, I still give them props for this. No other company is doing anything like this. I admit their coverage or network isn’t as good as verizon or att, but if they grow enough it could be, and they are trying things that no one else is doing, so kudos to them. And 200 me isn’t much but it’s at least enough to connect in an emergency, you could make an emergency skype call for example.

  • syldd

    Another thing they left everyone in the dark about was the “zero down” statement. I went to T-Mobile assuming that I could get one, but I was told that with my credit class, I would have to pay a fee in order to obtain an iPad (mind you i’m a college student and cannot afford to pay huge fees right now). They said that the only people who are eligible for the zero down offer are those with “stellar credit.”

    • Yeah, don’t want to give a $400+ device to some stranger/thug off the streets; gotta guarantee you’ll make your money back….businesses gotta make their cash back some way without chasing you.

      • syldd

        very true, i can understand that

      • therealjjohnson

        What portion of a credit score makes anyone a thug? Please advise.

      • Lol, I was just using a thug as an example. Without a credit check, T-Mobile would be giving these $400+ devices to strangers (some of which may be thugs) off the street.

        Honestly have no clue what the credit score scale is like, only know how it works (based on my bank’s credit card agreement). Just don’t spend the money you don’t own and you wouldn’t have to worry about having a bad score. Then again, the credit score is to see if you’re trustworthy to lend money to, so, it’ll kinda ironic.

  • Jerad McCarty

    You don’t have to do the 20 dollar plan you actually only have to do the $10 on demand plan which I was informed today by a sales rep in the tmobile store on on the 1800 number that you get the 200mb then once that runs out you get throttled down to 3G and the on demand lets you add data when you want so I got mine with EIP with the $10 on demand plan.

  • Still a very terrific plan, really wish we had them here in Canada, we need such uncarrier competitors here. Hopefully they make their way across the bother (without the US political disease)…only after a fight with my carrier was I able to land such TMobile-like deal.

  • Terence Ho

    Does this mean there celluar+wifi iPads can roam internationally with 2g Edge data for free too?