T-Mobile finally lands the iPhone: available April 12, $99 upfront

T-Mobile iPhone 5

As expected, T-Mobile USA announced at its “Uncarrier” event in New York that it’s finally become the official distributor of the iPhone, six years after Apple announced its game-changing smartphone. The company will start offering the iconic device April 12 and has confirmed it’ll work on its LTE network, which also formally launched on Tuesday. The iPhone 5, of course, also supports T-Mobile’s speedy HSPA+ covering 225 million people in 229 metropolitan areas.

Unlike AT&T, Verizon and Sprint – or most of the world’s carriers for that matter – the Deutsche Telekom-owned wireless telco will sell Apple’s device contract-free, tapping its previously mulled monthly installments in another uncharacteristic industry practice. “We’re canceling our membership to the Wireless Carrier Club,” CEO John Legere quipped at the presser.

Specifically, per T-Mobile’s press release, you’ll be paying $99.99 upfront to get an entry-level 16GB iPhone 5, without ever having to put your signature on a two-year service contract. The rest of the device’s unsubsidized price will be recovered through installment plans requiring you to drop an additional $20 over the next 24 months.

Quickly, do the math in your head: under these terms, the iPhone 5 will set you back $580 in total, a nice $69 saving over the unlocked $649 iPhone 5 on Apple’s web store…

“T-Mobile is the only major U.S. wireless company to offer iPhone 5 with no annual service contract plus unlimited talk, text and Web on a screaming-fast nationwide 4G network,” the press release reads. “And because there are no annual contracts, customers make the decision when to upgrade their devices – not the carrier.”

I like this quote attributed to T-Mobile’s CEO:

This is an important day for people who love their iPhone but can’t stand the pain other carriers put them through to own one. We feel their pain. I’ve felt the pain. So we’re rewriting the rules of wireless to provide a radically simple, affordable iPhone 5 experience — on an extremely powerful network.

Under the new sales model, the entry-level iPhone 4S is also now available from T-Mobile for an upfront fee of $70, plus $20 per month for 24 months for a total hardware cost of $550.

Likewise, the iPhone 4 will set you back just $15 in upfront payment at the time of purchase, with a $15 monthly payment for the next 24 months, resulting in a total hardware cost of $375.

T-Mobile will start accepting pre-orders for the iPhone 5 on April 5 through its web site.

T-Mobile (iPhone coming soon teaser)

Now, Apple sells the contract-free iPhone 4 for $450 and the iPhone 4S for $549. Therefore, the former is a $75 cheaper at T-Mobile. Interestingly enough, the difference between Apple’s and T-Mobile’s contract-free iPhone 4S is a meager $1.

I know what you must be wondering and here’s your answer: every T-Mobile device (the iPhone included) remain locked to the carrier’s network until it’s fully paid for through monthly installments, at which point T-Mobile will unlock it so you can take it to another carrier, if you like.

The new “Un-carrier” page on T-Mobile’s web site highlights the devices, the new Simple Choice Plan and T-Mobile’s LTE network. The Simple Choice Plan includes unlimited talk, text and 500MB of data for $50 a month.

T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan

Upgrades include unlimited data (an extra $20),  a second line (an extra $30, or $10 a month for each additional line) and more. T-Mobile’s LTE will let you talk and surf the web at the same time, it’s been confirmed.

Some of the benefits of the Simple Choice Plan:

• HD Voice – delivering nationwide crystal-clear high-definition calling and significantly reduced background noise. T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier offering nationwide HD Voice for iPhone 5.
• T-Mobile Smartphone Mobile HotSpot for on-the-go tethering Internet access. Through Simple Choice, T-Mobile offers an additional 500MB of 4G data for tethering, enabling customers to tether from their iPads, Macs and other devices.
• Talk and surf at the same time — without limits. Through T-Mobile’s Simple Choice Plan, customers can opt for totally unlimited 4G data on a nationwide network, something no other major U.S. wireless company offers for iPhone 5.

T-Mobile’s new fourth-generation Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network is now officially live in seven major U.S. cities: Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Jose, and Washington DC. T-Mobile’s 4G LTE complements its 3G HSPA+ for a seamless nationwide experience.

The carrier’s roll-out plan calls for a hundred million LTE customers by mid-2013 and 200 million people nationwide by year’s end. Go here to learn more about T-Mobile’s 4G network, including coverage map.

T-Mobile SimplE Choice Plans

“We have the only network that can deliver nationwide HD Voice on iPhone 5,” the company (rightfully) bragged. HD Voice, or Wideband Audio, is a network/device feature that uses additional bandwidth to extend the frequency range of audio signals from 300Hz-3.4kHz to 50Hz-7Khz, enabling a more natural sounding voice (the human voice is between 80Hz and 14kHz).

iPhone 5 keynote (wideband audio slide)

And as T-Mobile put an end to the decades-long practice of long-term wireless contracts, a media release explains the new “Un-carrier” attitude:

The moves include radically simplifying its lineup of consumer rate plans to one incredibly affordable plan for unlimited talk, text and web; ensuring that customers never have to sign another annual service contract through T-Mobile retail outlets; and enabling customers to get the most popular smartphones whenever they want for the lowest upfront cost. T-Mobile also debuted its blazing fast 4G LTE network service in seven major metropolitan areas.

They conveniently launched a new television commercial to re-brand the company around the “Un-carrier” tagline.


“T-Mobile has decided to stop acting like other wireless carriers who restrict people from getting what they want,” the video’s description reads.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes clip.


A few noteworthy tweets from T-Mobile.




These sure strike the nerve.

You’ll be seeing more of the same a lot in the coming days as T-Mobile amps up its nationwide advertising. The company will certainly gain the momentum and rival telcos are no doubt already running their spreadsheets to figure out whether or not T-Mobile’s newfound business model has legs.

So, what do you think?

Has T-Mobile successfully re-innovated itself as a carrier?

And is the “Un-carrier” initiative going to force AT&T, Verizon and Sprint into loosening their tight terms?