updated 06:00 pm EDT, Wed May 1, 2013
CEO says Metro iPhone 'not imminent,' but is discussing options
The now-official merger of T-Mobile and MetroPCS into T-Mobile US will not immediately change options for no-contract MetroPCS customers in the way of being able to upgrade to an iPhone under their present arrangements, CEO John Legere said in an interview. While not closing the door on either changes to MetroPCS policies or a no-contract iPhone option in the future, Legere said that MetroPCS' nine million customers will not see iPhones offered anytime soon. He also mentioned that the company is discussing the matter with Apple.
When asked during an interview with AllThingsD on the topic of the iPhone coming to MetroPCS, he initially replied by saying that "the answer [to that question] is not 'no,'" but that "it's not imminent; I think that's safe to say." Early reports by stock analysts and other pundits had suggested that the merger would naturally result in iPhone options for MetroPCS customers sooner rather than later.
"Don't be confused, we're not running two companies," he said. "We are clearly going to be one integrated company that uses two [platforms] to go to market." However, there are two factors, according to the report: how T-Mobile US wants to position iOS and Android offerings, and how it wants to manage its marketing. Legere indicated that the company will move quickly to transition MetroPCS customers to T-Mobile, introducing new phones as early as next month that keep the MetroPCS branding but are compatible with T-Mobile's network.
"This is about customer migration, not network integration," he said. While a no-contract iPhone would presumably help woo MetroPCS customers to the T-Mobile network quickly, Legere signalled that the company is still deciding how to position the iPhone to MetroPCS' prepaid customers. "It's also something that involves Apple," he said, adding that T-Mobile US has "started those dialogues with our partners."
As part of the transition, Legere said that the company would aggressively target some specific cities in the quarter ahead. He didn't name the cities, but said the company would move "fast and big" in those areas. He added that both the prepaid and postpaid businesses are ahead of expectations following the new "uncarrier" branding (the details of which have gotten T-Mobile into a bit of trouble over some deceptive marketing). While not citing specific sales numbers, he added that the company's iPhone sales have "exceeded expectations."
Whether a MetroPCS-branded, no-contract iPhone will eventually appear is not clear, but the CEO did not rule out the possibility. Apple has allowed other, usually smaller, carriers to offer the iPhone without a contract, but normally only after the buyer pays the full unsubsidized cost up front.
T-Mobile's "uncarrier" plans offer iPhones without a subsidy but with an additional monthly payment over and above whatever plan the buyer chooses. The option, the company says, gives users much more flexibility in choosing a plan tailored to their use and needs rather than having to pay for an "iPhone plan" that generally costs more.