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T-Mobile tries to steer unlocked iPhone users to '4G' phones

updated 03:55 pm EST, Tue January 24, 2012

T-Mobile hopes to discourage iPhone unlockers

A leaked strategy document from T-Mobile has shown TMoNews that the carrier is actively trying to discourage the large number of unlocked iPhones on its network. Incorrectly referring to the devices at the "iPhone 4G" and "4G S," the staff memo insists that T-Mobile users are getting a "poor" experience by being on the carrier's EDGE (2G) network. Moving to one of its '4G' phones like the HTC Amaze 4G or Radar 4G will be free them from being "stuck in the 2G slow lane" with Apple's device.

The briefing is accurate in explaining why the current iPhone doesn't work on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. As currently designed, it doesn't have the 1,700MHz and 2,100MHz bands T-Mobile and a handful of other North American carriers use, kicking it down to EDGE. The slower speeds, just a fraction of the 42Mbps peak on T-Mobile's current network, makes video streaming virtually impossible and rules out most larger downloads.

Despite the education, the memo is primarily self-serving to the company. By moving customers to devices with native 3G, it not only gets the revenues from their device purchase but will often lock them into a two-year contract that the unlocked users don't have. They also face a bigger sacrifice if they leave, since they might again lose 3G if they unlock and try to switch to AT&T.

The apparent resistance to iPhone users may be more of a stalling tactic. T-Mobile has hinted that the iPhone 5 may work on its 3G and could take care of the last major, national US carrier without an iPhone deal. T-Mobile has regularly had a two-sided message where it tries to disparage the iPhone in marketing only to express a desire for it in corporate discussions.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Inkling

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Jul 2006


    Rather foolish

    This article makes it sound like T-Mobile is engaging in some foolish thinking.

    Quite a few of us like both iPhones and T-Mobile's cost-conscious plans. We like iPhones for the apps that run on them, and only a small percentage of those apps need high-bandwith data. We either don't need data plans at all or we don't need the speed to stream video. I don't need 4G for Accuweather or OneBusAway to work.

    In my case, the only time I need a digital plan is when I'm driving someplace and in that case, I'm not watching video, so EDGE would be fine. And when I get almost anyplace I go, I have WiFi that's faster than anyone's cellular.

    For the present, T-Mobile needs to target a different sort of iPhone user, one that is not being well-served by AT&T or Verizon. When it gets 4G on bands an iPhone can use, then it can compete directly.

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