Why would anyone buy a full price phone from T-Mobile?


    While T-Mobile's international offerings have made this less important, I still prefer having a phone that is not SIM locked to a carrier. As I understand it, if I buy, say, an iPhone directly from Apple with a T-Mobile SIM card, the phone will come unlocked. If I buy the same phone from T-Mobile the phone will be locked to T-Mobile even if I pay full price for the phone up front, and T-Mobile has restrictions on getting the phone unlocked. Never mind that it was bought at full price, is fully paid for, and belongs to me. Same phone, but different restrictions depending on where you buy it.


    I can remember not long ago when I actually had staff in a T-Mobile store tell me to go elsewhere to get a new SIM card or a pre-paid phone because it was cheaper. I'd hoped  T-Mobile had moved beyond this.


    It strikes me as remarkably stupid to have a situation that encourages your customers NOT to shop at your own stores. (And it resulted in at least one very angry post on this forum by a foreign visitor who paid full price, then T-Mobile would not unlock his phone for his return to his home country. That alone is giving me pause about T-Mobile. Can there never be any flexibility?)


    - A prospective customer

      All replies

      • gramps28

        Some customers cannot afford to pay full price for a phone

        so the use the equipment installment plan.


        As for unlocking Tmobile phones are to be activated on the Tmobile network

        not bought on vacation and taken back to their home country for use.


        Since all Tmobile phones can be used for prepaid use.


        This is from their terms and conditions.


        If you purchase a T-Mobile Device that is sold for use on T-Mobile Prepaid Service, you agree that you intend it to be activated on our Service, and do not intend to, and will not, resell, modify and/or export the T-Mobile Devices, or assist someone in these activities.

          • all41_14all

            I think you've missed the point. If someone wants to pay full price for an iPhone, it's more flexible to buy the phone from Apple than from T-Mobile. This is not about financing a phone (which Apple will also do, although maybe not at the same interest rate as T-Mobile).


            And in the case of the foreign visitor I mentioned, he did activate and use the phone on T-Mobile. And because he bought an iPhone he paid full price for it, as Apple does not allow anyone to sell an iPhone at a discount (at least not at full price). I would not be surprised if some of T-Mobile's Go Phones are sold at some discount to T-Mobile cost, but this does not apply to the iPhone.


            And given that there are lots of other outlets that sell iPhones (Amazon, Best Buy, etc.) it does not seem to me that T-Mobile suffers from any particular burden in carrying them. If they were such a loser to carry, then other outlets wouldn't carry them.


            But the main point is that T-Mobile has set up a situation where it's better to buy a product elsewhere than from its own stores. This is likely to have a negative impact on customer loyalty. I'd argue Apple has proven that doing a good job with your own stores builds customer loyalty.

              • gramps28

                Last phone I bought was the Moto X because of the price not because it comes unlocked. When I go to

                Mexico I will just swap out my sim to my HTC One S to take advantage of the WIFI calling feature since Tmobile

                has the Simple Choice International plans. No need for me to set up a prepaid plan for a week.


                A lot of people want to use branded Tmobile phones and are willing to pay the price because they need to use the WiFi calling feature enabled on those phones.

                  • all41_14all

                    I've heard of WiFi Calling before but not really focussed on it. It certainly sounds like a great feature. We go to a place in the summer with very spotty cellular coverage, but we have internet with WiFi. I'd love to have a mobile phone that could roll over to using the WiFi in that situation. I also like that that will work internationally.


                    So I agree that if there is a phone exclusive to T-Mobile that can't be bought unlocked elsewhere then it makes sense to get it there. But if the same phone (for example, any iPhone) can be bought elsewhere without restrictions, I think T-Mobile is making a mistake to add restrictions. The iPhones sold unlocked by Apple are identical to the ones sold by T-Mobile, except for the T-Mobile SIM lock.


                    And, to add a wrinkle to the idea of buying a T-Mobile branded phone, the phone I have now, a Nokia 6133, was a T-Mobile phone that I bought used, unlocked, to use on AT&T. I then paid someone to flash the firmware to that of the international model, the Nokia 6131, to remove restrictions that T-Mobile had on the phone. So it's not always the case that the T-Mobile model of a phone is the best one out there. US carriers tend to put restrictions on our phones that carriers in other countries, particularly Europe, don't do.

              • stevetjr

                The other reason I suspect they do it is that carriers don't make any real profit on the hardware and are probably lucky to break even when you take into account the marketing, support (software & hardware) and inventory costs.  The are really into selling their service and just sell hardware as an evil necessity.  Some of the carrier CEO's have complained that they end up doing a lot of the marketing for the manufactures and end up eating costs which really should be on them.  So to discourage people from just coming to get an phone because they happen to have stock and then not have a phone available for a customer who really wan'ts service they put the 40 day on their network restriction to discourage the just buying from them with no intention of using their service.


                I believe the T-Mobile phones are more popular around the world since they tend to have pretty much the most frequency support of the US carriers devices plus T-Mobile is pretty recognized name internationally.

                • jfuente11

                  all41_14all wrote:


                  ... If I buy the same phone from T-Mobile the phone will be locked to T-Mobile even if I pay full price for the phone up front, and T-Mobile has restrictions on getting the phone unlocked.


                  Same thing if you get your iPhone from AT&T, Verizon or Sprint right? Other carriers do offer the phones for free or discounted and we do know that T-Mobile does not. But come to think of it. First is that T-Mobile is not competing with the Apple or any other manufacturer. To the other carriers they do so let us look at it this way.


                  Even though other carriers will tell you that the phones they offer are discounted or free, you may eventually pay up to two times what the carrier actually pays for them. I mean you will get a discounted phone then will be in contract with a rate plan for 24 months. 18 months in contract will allow  you to upgrade and get a new phone by renewing the existing contract that you have to another 24 months. Why 18 months? Because by that time, with the amount you are paying for the rate plan the carrier had already got even with the price that they used to subsidized your phone. If you will not do any upgrade till the end of the 24 months then you are like overpaying your phone since the rate plan was overpriced so that companies can recuperate the amount for the discounted phone.


                  Now what T-Mobile did is that they lowered the rate plans to what it's worth and phones will be full price. The good thing though is that you will have an option to purchase the phone in installment of up to 24 months plus there will be no contract anymore. That being said there is no way that you will be overpaying for your phone.

                  • jfuente11

                    all41_14all wrote:


                    ... But the main point is that T-Mobile has set up a situation where it's better to buy a product elsewhere than from its own stores...



                    It is not the case if you are planning to use your phone with T-Mobile service. I mean based on Non-T-Mobile phone & software disclaimer Non-T-Mobile phones without the AWS 1700/2100 band will not work on on T-Mobile's 3G / 4G network due to band limitations. In order to connect with the 3G / 4G network, a device needs to use both of the AWS 1700/2100 bands (not just one or the other).


                    Nobody is forcing you to purchase your phone from T-Mobile anyway and you have an option to use whatever phone you like to T-Mobile as long as it is network unlocked. I believe that this is where flexibility comes in.


                    Remember, they are not competing with Apple, or Amazon or ebay. T-Mobile is not a phone manufacturer but a service provider wherein you can use your phone.

                      • all41_14all

                        Not quite sure why everyone keeps going off on tangents. I'm not talking about phones that don't support T-Mobile. And I'm not talking about phones bought under contract. I'm comparing buying a phone that works on T-Mobile, paying full price for the phone, buying at T-Mobile vs. another store. My own personal experience is with iPhones. There are likely other phones that are in the same situation, but I have not researched this.


                        The statement about "It is not the case if you are planning to use your phone with T-Mobile service." doesn't make any sense with regard to the iPhone. The GSM version of the iPhone 5C or 5S is identical whether sold by T-Mobile, AT&T, Apple, or any other retailer. (This may not apply to the iPhone 4S, but I don't think T-Mobile sells that phone.) The only difference in the phones is the (software) SIM lock. All of these phones are fully compatible with AWS, including the ones sold by AT&T.


                        T-Mobile is most definitely competing with other outlets to sell iPhones. Again, if selling them was such a bad deal, why does anyone else sell them? If Amazon and Best Buy sell them, it can only be because they can make money on them. If they, or Apple, sell an unlocked iPhone, they are not getting any rebate from T-Mobile, so there's no subsidy from the carrier to the seller. They can sell at the same price as T-Mobile, but without restrictions on the phone.


                        And again, I think its a bad policy to discourage your customers from buying from your own store. Saying "no one forces you to buy at T-Mobile" isn't the point. T-Mobile is hurting its relationships with customers, especially those who do buy at T-Mobile, then find out that they got a worse deal by doing so. It certainly makes me question the company's commitment to its customers.

                          • jfuente11

                            It is simple. Stop comparing apples with oranges. T-Mobile is not competing with Apple. Here's the picture. Apple sells the phones to the service carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint etc.) and part of the contract is that it should be locked to their respective networks. Now what carriers do is to subsidized the phones then sell it with contracts to their rate plans. In contract so that they can recuperate whatever it costs them to subsidized the phones. Bottom line is, there is no free phones since you are paying the phone's cost with the rate plan for the next 24 months. If (to use your own words) "T-Mobile is hurting its relationships with customers, especially those who do buy at T-Mobile" then so be it. AT&T and Verizon which are their competition are doing the same thing anyway and that is what only matters.

                              • all41_14all

                                Only one problem with your comment, but it's a big one.


                                I am not talking about phones being sold with a subsidy. I am talking about phones sold and bought at full price, with no subsidy. "Free phones" (whatever you meant by that) has nothing to do with this.


                                Since you bring up subsidies, in the case of the iPhone, I could actually get one unlocked by AT&T for less than what I can from Apple. If I buy a (subsidized) 16 GB iPhone 5S from AT&T for $199 under a two year contract (which I qualify for), then pay off the subsidy ($325) AT&T will then unlock the phone for me (and, I'd no longer be subject to the contract). I'll have paid $524 for the phone. If I buy the same phone at full price from T-Mobile I'd pay $648. T-Mobile is NOT subsidizing the phone's price. T-Mobile would unlock the phone for me after I've had service for a while. In both cases I end up with an unlocked phone that is fully paid off.


                                I could also buy the same phone from Apple, unlocked, with a T-Mobile SIM, for $649 and avoid the unlocking hassles. Again, I have an unlocked phone that is fully paid off.


                                I've ignored setup/activation fees: AT&T is $36, T-Mobile is $10, and Apple is $0, and taxes (which should be the same in each case). If I add the activation fees I get:

                                AT&T: $199 + $325 + $36 = $560, with hassles to get the phone unlocked, and some time on contract.

                                T-Mobile: $648 +$10 = $658, with hassles to get the phone unlocked.

                                Apple: $649, phone comes unlocked.


                                But my original point was between T-Mobile and Apple (or Amazon, or Best Buy or anywhere else that sells unlocked iPhones). (I'm checking what AT&T does if you buy a phone at full price - $649 in my iPhone example.)


                                I assume that there are phones from other manufacturers that are T-Mobile compatible that can be bought elsewhere unlocked, but I've not investigated this.

                                  • jfuente11

                                    all41_14all wrote:


                                    Only one problem with your comment, but it's a big one.


                                    I am not talking about phones being sold with a subsidy. I am talking about phones sold and bought at full price, with no subsidy. "Free phones" (whatever you meant by that) has nothing to do with this.



                                    There are no subsidized/free phones at all if you will just take a closer look. All of the phones that carriers offer are the same, it is just that T-Mobile decided to be transparent about it. Again T-Mobile is a carrier competing with the prices of another carrier's pricing and services. Apple is a manufacturer.

                                      • all41_14all

                                        The industry uses the term "subsidy" to refer to phones sold at a discount from the retail price, where the carrier then recoups the discount through a higher monthly price for the contract plan. Trying to redefine the word "subsidy" to say it does not exist won't make it go away. The other type of plan, which T-Mobile has (and AT&T has now copied) sells phones on an installment plan, essentially financing the phone. While I agree that the effect is much the same, you are not correct to say that subsidies do not exist.


                                        Apple may be a manufacturer that sells at retail, but, as far as cellphones are concerned, Amazon, Best Buy and dozens of other places that sell unlocked phones are not manufacturers. You appear to be completely ignoring my point.


                                        T-Mobile may be a poor retailer (for example, having higher costs to run a store than other retailers), and therefore prefer to encourage customers who want to pay full retail price for a phone to buy them from another retailer. I believe that this weakens T-Mobile's connection to customers. You may believe otherwise.


                                        If T-Mobile is not competing to sell phones, why does it sell them at all? Why doesn't it just sell mobile service, and tell people to buy their phones elsewhere? If it is selling phones because this helps them sell mobile service, then why do this in a way that annoys customers compared to the customer buying the same phone with fewer restrictions elsewhere? My guess is that few enough people pay full price for a phone that T-Mobile thinks it can get away with this. Which is why I started this discussion. But it's ludicrous to say this isn't part of how it competes.


                                        If everyone always wanted to buy unlocked phones at full price, do you think T-Mobile could get away selling them locked when other retailers sell them unlocked? Do you think they'd stop selling phones, or change their policy so they could still sell phones by selling them unlocked? Either way, if they reacted to what customers want and what other retailers do, then I'd say they are competing with those other retailers.


                                        That not every customer cares about this does not invalidate the argument for those who do.