Game Changer Awards: T-Mobile Uncarrier

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The U.S. wireless market is broken, and T-Mobile is here to save it —at least that’s the idea behind the carrier’s audacious Uncarrier initiative, which is shaking up everything from how you pay for a smartphone to how soon you can upgrade and in what countries you can use your device without paying through the nose. Unveiled in early 2013, the program took off with T-Mobile’s decision to do away with traditional two-year wireless contracts in favor of its monthly Simple Choice plans. 

The carrier also separated the cost of new smartphones from wireless plans. And let’s not forget that T-Mobile is offering unlimited data — something AT&T and Verizon have eliminated. But T-Mobile didn’t stop there. In July, the carrier also announced its JUMP plan, which allows users to upgrade their smartphone as often as twice per year for an additional $10 per month.

MORE: 5 Best T-Mobile Smartphones

“T-Mobile is very deliberately choosing to do things differently as a carrier, and the whole Uncarrier branding is designed to reflect that,” said Jan Dawson, an independent analyst. “There aren’t substantive differences between the carriers most of the time, and T-Mobile has kind of shaken things up by really being different.”

In October, T-Mobile took direct aim at AT&T and Verizon with its new international plan, which allows subscribers to travel abroad and use their standard data plan without having to pay any increased fees. Overseas gouging has been a major pain point for U.S. business travelers. All told, T-Mobile has reinvented nearly every aspect of its business. And that’s all part of the plan.

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The Uncarrier initiative has already resulted in subscriber growth to the tune of 2.1 million users in the second and third quarters of 2013 — the first sign of growth to T-Mobile’s user base in nearly two years. Contrast that with Sprint’s third quarter 2013 loss of 360,000 customers. Uncarrier is also forcing the competition’s hand. Shortly after T-Mobile unveiled its JUMP program, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon announced similar programs of their own.

Although T-Mobile’s Uncarrier initiative has certainly helped attract new customers, it’s still the smallest of the big four carriers. And while T-Mobile’s LTE network now reaches 233 cities, AT&T and Verizon boast far larger LTE networks. That being said, T-Mobile is continuing to build out its infrastructure, which will be strengthened by the addition of MetroPCS, which T-Mobile merged with this past spring.

Based on the number of customers T-Mobile has gained since it began its Uncarrier initiative, Dawson said, “It’s clearly working so far.” There are, however, some lingering questions. For instance, T-Mobile seems to be taking more subscribers from AT&T and Sprint, which suggests that T-Mobile may be attracting the most price-conscious customers, Dawson said. “If they [T-Mobile] can keep attracting attention with more big moves,” Dawson added, “then they should be able to keep this momentum going.”

Game Changer Award Winners 2013


SMARTPHONE: Motorola Moto X
The Moto X is the first smartphone that lets you perform voice commands without touching your device.

CAMERA: Nokia Lumia 1020
The Lumia 1020 packs a 41-megapixel sensor and lets you zoom in on photos after you take them.

TABLET: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
Amazon has reinvented tech support with the Mayday button on its new tablet.

GAMING: Oculus Rift
This jaw-dropping virtual reality gaming headset literally puts you inside the action.

WEARABLE TECH: Google Glass
A wearable breakthrough, Glass lets you snap pictures, get directions, speak to text and a whole lot more.

PC PERIPHERAL: Leap Motion
Leap Motion can read your hand gestures for doing everything from gaming to exploring the universe.

SMARTWATCH: Pebble
Pebble is taking smartwatches mainstream with an e-paper display, useful apps and a low price.

APP: Vine
Vine is a whole new way to communicate and tell stories via 6-second videos that are a cinch to share.

ENABLING TECHNOLOGY: Intel Bay Trail
Intel’s powerful but efficient new CPU gives 2-in-1 tablets and laptops more speed and battery life.

AUTHOR BIO
Daniel P. Howley
Daniel P. Howley
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining Laptopmag.com. He also served as a news editor with ALM Media’s Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.
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