T-Mobile Score Program Offers Actual Smartphone Discounts (some patience required)

by Matt Klassen on January 27, 2015

T-Mobile knows that the real money in the mobile world comes from data use, and users are more likely to consume data on a feature-rich modern smartphone, as opposed to more antiquated models or, gasp, a feature phone. To that end, the UnCarrier is rolling out a new promotion, called Score!, aimed at getting smartphones into peoples’ hands, without the onerous burden of contracts and subsidies.

Simply put, the Score is a program that users can enrol in, paying $5 a month for participation, which in turn allows customers to unlock savings and other deals on any of the company’s smartphones down the line. The program works in 6-month increments, meaning it will require some patience to reap the benefits, but once enrolled users are able to upgrade to an entry-level smartphone for free (again with no contracts or subsidies), or wait 12 months and receive discounts on all of T-Mobile’s smartphone catalogue.

While not as revolutionary as some of T-Mobile’s other UnCarrier promotions, the great thing about the Score program is that the savings are actually there, meaning that unlike other T-Mobile promotions that purport to do things differently yet continue to hide costs along the way, with a little patience customers can save money and receive an unlocked, no-contract smartphone as well.

T-Mobile has been rolling out promotions at a fairly steady rate over the last year or so, aimed squarely at attracting customers back to the perennial fourth place finisher in the American wireless market. While the promotion has succeeded in bringing back the customers, the promotions have come with a cost, hurting T-Mobile’s bottom line along the way. That said, it seems that the company’s UnCarrier philosophy has impacted the market in a significant way, forcing the other carriers to respond in kind, a boon for wireless subscribers across the country.

But having done away with contracts and subsidies, T-Mobile finds itself in a sticky predicament, how to get expensive smartphones into people’s hands, even when those people can’t afford to pay for the smartphones up front. To wit, an unsubsidized iPhone 6 costs about $650, out of reach for the average American.

In response T-Mobile created the Score program, a way for customers, with a little bit of patience, to save money on those high-end smartphones, or, if they choose, simply get a lower end smartphone for free, simply by enrolling in the program and paying a small, flat monthly fee.

“It’s yet another breakthrough improvement over the old-school carriers’ restrictive service contracts, hidden subsidy costs and slooooow upgrades,” T-Mobile’s often-outspoken CEO John Legere said in a statement.

For example, if a T-Mobile customer was part of the Score program, at the 6-month mark they could upgrade to an Alcatel OneTouch Evolve 2 for free, no contract and no subsidies. The phone usually retails for $79, so factoring in the cost of Score and customers would save about $49 in this case. Or, as T-Mobile explains, a Score user could upgrade to a Samsung Galaxy S5 for $510 after 12 months in the program, instead of paying the full $610 price. That constitutes savings of $40 after the cost of being in the program.

Now granted these aren’t world beating savings, but truth be told, such things don’t exist in the wireless market. While every bundle, program, deal, or promotion may seem attractive at the outset, there are rarely any savings in the long term. Truth be told, it’s rare to see a program that puts money in customers’ pockets without somehow taking it back again further down the road. Of course T-Mobile is hoping to recoup its investment in the Score program through customers using data on their new smartphones, but that itself remains the customers’ choice and that is something truly revolutionary.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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