Curious about trying T-Mobile, but unsure if you'll get decent LTE service? Well, the carrier's new T-Mobile Test Drive service may be the answer you're looking for. Announced as part of its Uncarrier 5.0 event, Test Drive lets customers interested in T-Mobile try out the carrier's network using an iPhone 5s with unlimited data for seven days free of charge.
To sign up for Test Drive, simply visit T-Mobile's website, enter the appropriate information, and in a few days you'll receive your iPhone 5s. There's no money down needed or any obligations. Once the trial period is up, users just drop off their phones at any T-Mobile store.
The move is meant to not only attract new customers, but ensure those who are interested in becoming T-Mobile users, can use their devices in their areas. Some 46 percent of wireless consumers who recently signed on with a carrier say they want to leave, while one in 10 actually pack their bags within 30 days.
T-Mobile, which also announced that it has expanded its Wideband LTE into 16 markets and now has 325 LTE markets covered, is hoping to show that its new network is large enough to meet the needs of its users. Still, the carrier's LTE footprint is far smaller than the likes of Verizon and AT&T, which both cover more than 500 cities, and Sprint which has more than 340 LTE markets.
This is the fifth of T-Mobile's "Uncarrier" events, each one further distinguishing the company from the other three carriers. At the first Uncarrier event in March 2013, T-Mobile announced it was doing away with two-year contracts. Later in July, it introduced its JUMP plan, which lets consumers upgrade their smartphone up to twice a year for an additional $10 per month. In October at its third Uncarrier event, it launched a new international plan, which allows subscribers to travel abroad and use their standard data plan without having to pay any increased fees.
Most recently, the fourth Uncarrier event held in January at CES 2014 was the amusingly named Get Out of Jail Free Card. With this initiative, T-Mobile announced it would pay early-termination fees--up to $300 for a device, and $350 per line--for consumers looking to switch from AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. This proved so compelling that AT&T started a similar program of its own, offering up to $250 per device and $450 in account credit.
The larger question remains if these initiatives will remain in place should the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint go through. Will the combined entity feel the need to continue such programs to win consumers from AT&T and Verizon, or will it try and use its clout in different ways? All these programs still can't hide the fact that even a combined T-Mobile and Sprint will still be smaller in terms of consumers, coverage, and data speeds than AT&T and Verizon. But changing the pricing models and structure of contracts step by step could goad the other carriers into adopting more consumer-friendly policies.