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200MB of Free Data: Clearing Up Confusion Over T-Mobile’s Data Plans

by Todd Haselton | November 4, 2013November 4, 2013 2:45 pm PDT

T-Mobile NYC - Magenta

I just got off of the phone with T-Mobile’s chief marketing officer Mike Sievert. We set up the call after I emailed T-Mobile’s press relations department suggesting that the company’s new financing and 200MB data plans weren’t clear to myself or to consumers.

For starters, when T-Mobile announced its 200MB of free data for life for “everyone,” the company led me to believe that this applied to literally everyone, including people who were signing up for 0-percent financing. It does apply to them, I suppose, but not in the same way it applies to people who bring their own tablets or buy the device outright. The company’s original press release combined the 0% iPad Air financing and free data for life into a single headline and a single announcement, so that alone made things confusing enough.

“There are one or two reporters (I presume I’m one of them – ed.) that are animating on this and creating a perception of lack of clarity,” he said. “Which by the way, we didn’t help the fact that on launch day there were some glitches here and I think we’ve acted very quickly to correct this. We didn’t help matters that on launch day some customers were charged $10 per month for free data. That’s absurd. That’s something that was a launch day glitch and that we very rapidly resolved.” I was still confused about the financing pricing, however, and Sievert helped clear that up.

I thought, and I’m certain I’m not alone, that I could buy an iPad Air with $0 down and 200MB of data per month without any other payments aside from those required for the equipment installment plan. I was wrong.

Here’s how it works: If you sign up to pay $20 for 500MB of data each month, which is the minimum required if you finance, that’s a total of 700MB per month (500MB paid, 200MB free). I argue that’s actually 700MB (or whatever your base plan is, plus 200MB of “free” data) at a discount, but, T-Mobile and I will agree to disagree on that point, since I can’t offer Sievert or the company a better way to offer 200MB free. To me, though, if that data is really always “free,” then why can’t T-Mobile offer it to customers on a 0 percent financing plan? It’s free, right?

Things change up a bit if you’re willing to pay full price, or bring your own device to T-Mobile. The SIM card is a single $10 fee, but then you do get 200MB of free data each month. That data then shuts off when you’re finished using the allotment, and you can opt to buy more data whenever you want. To me, that’s the attractive plan that consumers should want.

Unfortunately, T-Mobile’s site still doesn’t reflect these changes for new customers yet. You can’t, for example, just buy an iPad Air outright right now for $630 without choosing a data plan, which starts at 500MB for $20 per month.

“I think we’ve got a little work and we’re making revisions there,” Sievert said. “You should follow that logic as you click through on the website. The 200MB is associated with that tab that you bought. We’re changing that choice where you move it from various amounts [of data] from left to right. There’s a way to clarify that further. Clearly it’s implicit if you buy that tab you’re getting 200MB. We’re going to get that clarified… The only time you need to have a paying service relationship with us is if you want to finance that tablet, which is our long standing practice on our financing deals.”

For now, T-Mobile and I have agreed to disagree on the clarity of the announcements and what the website reflects, and that’s fair. As a service to our readers, however, we wanted to at least clear things up.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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