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T-Mobile Plans ‘Smartphone Equality’ Program

Bellevue, Wash. –T-Mobile is breaking with the carrier tradition of offering the best phone and tablet deals only to people with the best credit scores.

Beginning January 25, the carrier said it will offer its best deal to any subscriber who has paid on-time for T-Mobile service for 12 consecutive months. The deal covers up-front payments for an unsubsidized device as well as financing terms, including $0 down on a new smartphone with no interest on an installment-payment plan.

The Smartphone Equality program applies to T-Mobile subscribers with a monthly prepaid or postpaid voice plan. They’ll be able to get immediate credit for previous consecutive months of on-time payment, so many existing subscribers will be eligible immediately for the best terms, the carrier said.

Rival carriers “spent billions advertising sweet prices and plans, free iPhones, zero down or some other screaming deal,” said CEO John Legere, but “one out of every two people walks into a store only to find they don’t qualify because they’re not `well qualified.’”

A total of 63 percent of Americans have a less than the perfect credit score, he noted.

Legere said the company can make the change because “our relationship with [our] customer is actually a better predictor of future behavior than their credit history.”

In addition, he said, “this initiative will lower the barrier for millions more Americans to get a smartphone,” which he called “anything but a luxury.”