Seattle — T-Mobile is breaking again with traditional carrier practices by offering consumers an iPhone 5s to test drive for seven days with unlimited domestic use at no charge on the company’s LTE network.
The carrier said it expects at least 1 million people to take a test drive during the first year of the program.
Separately, T-Mobile launched two initiatives to offer consumers free music streaming without incurring data charges.
The try-before-you-buy program will relieve consumers of the stress of committing to a carrier before knowing how well the network will work for them during a typical day, said president/CEO John Legere. “While the carriers ask you to buy blind, the ‘uncarrier’ gives you transparency,” he said during a press event here.
The program will also give consumers an opportunity to experience recent network improvements, including the addition of spectrum in 16 markets to accelerate peak download speeds to almost 150Mbps. The speed is said to enable 90-minute HD movie downloads in less than three minutes. T-Mobile is deploying spectrum previously held by MetroPCS, which T-Mobile purchased.
The carrier also said it expanded its Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) service to 15 markets, reaching more than 100 million people, to deliver higher-fidelity HD Voice service with faster call setup times. T-Mobile expects to expand VoLTE nationwide by year’s end.
Because T-Mobile’s LTE network has been built in only the past 1.5 years, said chief technology officer Neville Ray, “We built it for the way people use smartphones and tablets today, and we built it with a mobile Internet architecture, so we could roll out new technologies faster.” The network has been designed to be “data-strong and concentrated where people use data the most,” the company added.
The T-Mobile Test Drive program works like this:
Beginning June 23, people will be able to sign up can sign up at T-Mobile.com/TestDrive, then a few days later receive an iPhone 5s for unlimited seven-day domestic use. Once the test period is over, consumers return the phone to any T-Mobile store.
Credit or debit cards are required to participate, and the phone must be returned in seven days to avoid a $699 charge, plus tax.
As part of its music initiatives, T-Mobile teamed up with Rhapsody for the June 23 launch of the Rhapsody unRadio streaming service, which offers ad-free music streaming and unlimited song skipping. The service is free to subscribers with unlimited LTE service and $4/month to other T-Mobile customers. unRadio will be available initially for iOS and Android devices and on the Web.
Starting now, customers on T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plans will be able to stream multiple music-streaming services without incurring data charges. The services include Pandora, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, iTunes Radio, Slacker and Spotify. Samsung’s Milk Music and the coming Beatport music app from SFX will also stream without data charges.
In unveiling the Test Drive program, the company claimed its customers are using more wireless data on average than the other major national carrier customers. T-Mobile said its subscribers use 61 percent more data than Sprint customers, 69 percent more than Verizon users, and 100 percent more than AT&T users.
T-Mobile also claimed that its customers enjoy more network capacity per customer than customers of the other national carriers. The company said it offers 70 percent more network spectrum per customer than Verizon, although Verizon has a lost more customers than T-Mobile.