By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Bellevue, Wash. – T-Mobile is trying to be disruptive again, this time in the tablet market.
The company is getting more aggressive in tablets with a series of programs that include free 200MB of 4G LTE service per month to tablet users for the life of their tablet, even if the tablet was purchased through another carrier.
T-Mobile is also extending its trade-in program to tablets for the first time, even if the traded-in tablet is a Wi-Fi model, and the company will for the first time offer a $0 down-payment option for its tablet installment-payment plans. All tablets will be eligible, whereas only select smartphones are eligible for $0 down payment plans. The carrier described the $0 option as an “introductory” offer and didn’t say when or if it would expire.
Also to boost its tablet data usage, the carrier is expanding its tablet selection to include the new iPads, previous-generation iPad Mini, Google’s Nexus 7 and Samsung Tab 2 10.1. In tablets, the carrier currently offers only the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1.
The new programs go into effect Nov. 1 when the iPad Air becomes available on the T-Mobile LTE network.
The free 200MB data offer, which excludes data roaming on another carrier’s network, will also be added to current T-Mobile subscribers’ plans. The 200MB covers about 800 Instagram photos, more than 2,500 emails or 200 minutes of streaming music, said T-Mobile U.S. CEO John Legere, who pointed out that 90 percent of tablets sold to date have nee Wi-Fi models.
When users hit the 200MB cap, data speeds won’t be throttled back to 2G, but users will be prompted on their tablet to choose a one-day 500MB plan for $5 or a one-week 1GB plan for $10. Those plans will throttle back speeds to 2G if the LTE caps are breached. Under these plans, users are entitled to unlimited 2G data to prevent overage charges.
Consumers who are T-mobile voice customers are also prompted on their tablets to opt for “always-on” tablet plans that start at $10 a month for 500MB of LTE data, plus unlimited low-speed data after hitting the LTE cap. Additional LTE data will be available in 2GB increments at $10 per increment.
The free data offer will encourage people scared about high and unpredictable data charges to begin using cellular data, making them more comfortable with stepping up to T-Mobile data plans, said chief marketing offficer Mike Sievert.
In announcing the $0 down option for tablet installment-purchase plans, the company said the Google Nexus 7 will cost $16/month over 24 months when it becomes available Nov. 7. The previous-generation iPad Mini will cost $17.91/month for 24 months. The new Mini will cost $22.08/month to start. The iPad Air will cost $26.25/month for the 16GB model, and the Samsung Tab 2 10.1 will cost $19/month. The Tab 2 10.1 currently is available with a $99 down payment and 24 monthly payments of $15.
The older iPad Mini and new iPad Air become available Nov. 1, The new iPad Mini with Retina display will be available later in the month.
In extending its trade-in program to tablets, T-Mobile cited examples of trade-in credits, including up to a $152 credit for a 16GB iPad 3 and $130 for a 16GB iPad 2.
In other tablet matters, the company said it will offer the 128GB versions of the two new iPads but that it “might take time” for them “to be widely available,” said Sievert. Consumers will be able to order them on day one of availability to get them when available.
In other comments, Sievert likened other carriers’ shared data plans to bait and switch because, though users connects a tablet to a shared-data plan for a specific amount of money per month, the charge doesn’t include any data, which much be shared from a family’s existing bucket of data.
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