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Subsidized T-Mobile Phones Will Linger On

New York — Subsidized cellphones with two-year T-Mobile contracts could be available for some time through indirect retail channels even though the carrier is focusing exclusively on selling no-contract, no-subsidy plans through its own stores.

A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed that national retailers and other cellular dealers will be able to continue offering T-Mobile’s current Classic plans alongside the new no-contract no-subsidy plans, which are called Simple Choice plans. Unlike Simple Choice plans, Classic plans require two-year contracts and feature subsidized phones.

T-Mobile didn’t specify how long Classic plans and Simple Choice plans would be available side-by-side through indirect retailers and dealers.

It’s also not clear when indirect retailers will offer Simple Choice plans. “To offer the plans/unsubsidized handsets, we have to modify some of our systems because we’re not currently set up for that,” the retailer explained. “I believe other retailers are in the same boat.”

The indirect-channel rollout of Simple Choice plans is also complicated by the unavailability of T-Mobile’s installment payment plan to the channel. The installment plan “is currently not available” to retailers and dealers that want to sell an unsubsidized phone with Simple Choice plan, T-Mobile confirmed. Under the installment plan, consumers make a down payment on an unsubsidized phone and pay the phone off in monthly installments over a 24-month period.

T-Mobile didn’t say whether the installment plan would become available at all through the indirect channel, but one retailer said, “We are working toward offering installment financing when we launch the [Simple Choice] plans.”
 Another retailer, Staples, said it doesn’t yet offer the Simple Choice plans and continues to offer the Classic plans. The company did not say when or if it would offer Simple Choice.

Although the installment plan isn’t yet available to indirect channels, T-Mobile said, consumers who want to get a Simple Choice plan through the indirect retailers could bring their own unlocked device to the store or purchase a new unsubsidized device at full price from the store. Those options are also available through T-Mobile stores.

Another option for indirect retailers, the spokesperson said, is to sell a device with a T-Mobile Classic plan.

As for whether Classic plans will remain alongside Simple Choice plans in indirect stores for an extended period, one retailer said, “We will follow T-Mobile’s lead.” That retailer plans to offer Classic and Simple Choice plans, “but the assumption is that they [T-Mobile] are moving toward these value plans/unsubsidized phones. The thought is that they may phase out Classic plans.”

Here’s all that the T-Mobile spokesperson had to say in response to questions:

 “Yes, the T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan will be offered through T-Mobile retail, online and at national retail and dealers. T-Mobile’s Equipment Installment Plan (EIP) is currently not available via national retail and dealer stores; instead, customers may bring their own device, or purchase a new device at full price to pair with Simple Choice, or purchase a device via T-Mobile Classic plans.”

T-Mobile hasn’t returned a request for additional information.