Rounding up change: T-Mobile, cell-phone subsidies and baseball, plus Target’s online price match

The tech times, they are a-changin’:

• T-Mobile CEO John Legere tells Reuters the wireless carrier will end cell-phone subsidies in three to four months, around the time it begins carrying Apple’s iPhone. Legere talked about these changes last month at an analyst conference, but his comments at the Consumer Electronics Show this week reveals the approximate timetable of the moment of truth.

Will U.S. consumers be willing to pay more upfront for their cell phones in exchange for lower bills over time? (In T-Mobile’s case, Legere also tells the New York Times Bits blog that one of the company’s appeals as an “uncarrier” is its no-contract, unlimited plan.) Another question is whether other U.S. wireless carriers will follow T-Mobile’s no-subsidy path. The CEOs of top carriers Verizon and AT&T seem to be of mixed mind about it, at least according to the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog. Their concern: whether consumers used to paying $200 or under for their cell phones are ready for a change.

• Big baseball trade: T-Mobile has been busy. It announced Tuesday at CES a deal with Major League Baseball dugout to supply dedicated encrypted cell phone systems for dugout-to-bullpen communications. (For non-seamheads, the coaches call the bullpen to tell relief pitchers to warm up.) ESPN says baseball teams will have a choice to continue to use the old landline phones — which have their technological shortcomings — but the Samsung Galaxy S IIIs from T-Mobile will be docked in the bullpen, ready to be called upon.

“This is baseball’s continued push into the digital age,” Tim Brosnan, MLB exec, told the New York Times. “It’s also about a very aggressive wireless provider that sought us out to create this unique communications platform.” The league will test the system this upcoming season.

• And in case you missed it, Target said Tuesday that it would be matching competitors’ online prices all-year round. One of the nation’s largest retailers will match prices from places such as, as well as the websites of Wal-Mart and Best Buy, as the online retail wars heat up. The move is also seen as a way to combat “showrooming,” the growing practice of shoppers going to stores to check out an item in person but buying it elsewhere online. Will it work? It seems like a win for shoppers, especially those willing to do some legwork. But some analysts told the Associated Press fluctuating online prices could provide complications, and that there’s potential for the policy to be “profit-draining.”


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  • d seo

    Silly me, but I don’t think the proper term is subsidies try term loans. With interest rates at all time lows these guys should be making a ton of money on the spread of what they are charging. Maybe their credit scoring will improve, but I really wonder about the sanity of those abandoning the term loan business

  • sd

    T-Mobile had something called “Value Plans” which either let you BYOD or buy your phone outright in exchange for saving maybe $20/month for similarly-featured plans. You also could buy your $$$ phone and pay it off in 20 equal installments.

    It could be argued that the difference is minor since the monthly dollar amount for phone and coverage was essentially the same as the “subsidized” plan. But at month 21 and for however long you chose to use that phone or bring on your own replacement device, the device payment goes away and T-Mo is much cheaper than the other carriers, who charge you the same $X a month whether you have the phone for a year — or three.

    I would guess T-Mo is going to offer the same kind of installment plan; a $599 iPhone is not going to have many takers compared to a $199 subsidized iPhone because most Americans can’t do the math.

  • Mr. Canoehead

    Since the 80s I’d heard of “showrooming” as SHABE: “Shop Here And Buy Elsewhere”.