Much as Apple’s unveiling of a larger iPhone is an opportunity to lure customers away from rivals, cellular carriers view the arrival of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus as a ripe chance to do the same.
T-Mobile stands to gain the most as a relatively new carrier of Apple products. The company first started carrying iPhones only since March of 2013.
“We don’t have many iPhone customers as compared to the other big carriers, so we see this as a huge switching window opportunity for us,” says T-Mobile spokesman Clint Patterson told ElderlyTech.
T-Mobile is offering to buy out existing cellular contracts for up to $650 per family, offered in the form of a MasterCard debit card. While Patterson wouldn’t say how many new customers the program has lured since the iPhone 6 went on pre-sale Friday, he pointed out that a month after initiating the buy-out plan T-Mobile gained 2.5 million new customers. In August, it hit 2.7 million for the month.
“People are getting fed up with these long-term contracts with all their restrictions,” says Patterson. “People love their smartphones, but they hate their carriers. We just feel we have to earn your business month to month.”
Patterson says the buy-out plan has no expiration date.
While Sprint is offering a similar buy-out program, it expires on Oct. 31. Consumers who want to make the switch get a prepaid Visa card loaded with $350 to pay off an existing cellular contract.
Those new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus customers must then commit to Sprint’s two-year, $50-a-month Simply Unlimited plan, which is a $10-a-month savings over the regular pricing.
“We also allow you to turn in up to three phones on one line, credited to you or toward your phone bill based on your company’s stated value of that phone,” says Sprint spokeswoman Marci Verbrugge-Rhind.
She added that she couldn’t disclose how many customers had so far taken advantage of the company’s contract buy-out offer, which launched Aug. 22.
With all this jockeying back and forth whenever a hot new phone is released, it begs the question if long-term contracts might all soon go the way of the rotary phone.
“The trend is definitely people moving away from a tiered agreement,” says Sprint’s Kristen Wallace, noting that the carrier now offers iPhone 6 fans the option of leasing their smartphone much as they would a car.
Sprint’s new iPhone for Life Plan allows customers to lease a 16GB iPhone 6 for $20 a month for 24 months and a 16GB iPhone 6 Plus for $25 a month for 24 months. Qualified customers pay zero out of pocket at lease signing for the phone. At the end of 24 months, customers can either get the latest iPhone, or buy their existing one.