T-Mobile’s ‘Free’ iPad Offer Requires $20 Minimum Monthly Plan

iPad AirShortly after Apple unveiled the iPad Air, T-Mobile held a press conference on Twitter where the company announced their “Tablets Un-Leashed” campaign that promised no money down and 200 MB of 4G LTE data for as long as they owned their device. One tweet about the campaign promised “no strings attached, no commitments, no 2yr service contracts.” The day the iPad Air went on sale, new T-Mobile customers were disappointed to discover that “free,” in this case, means paying a monthly fee.

The disappointment is two-fold. First, T-Mobile customers were promised 200 MB of free data every month before the charges kicked in. Upon further investigation, it turned out that users would be required to have an active SIM card that costs $10 per month. According to an update on the story, as reported by CNET, the $10 monthly fee was an “executional mistake” and the company promises to address the issue, including crediting customers who were charged. However, T-Mobile sales representatives told CNET that the $10 fee applies to anyone trying to get the free 200 MB data plan.

The second disappointment has to do with T-Mobile’s promise of “no money down” on the purchase of a new tablet, including the iPad Air. It turns out that T-Mobile hid the fact that, in order to get a new tablet for zero down, customers have to sign up for a $20 per month data plan. Sure, they do get 200 MB for free, but they still have to pay $20 per month (on top of the payment plan for the cost of the tablet) if they want to walk out of the store without dropping any money on the counter.

T-Mobile’s marketing executive Andrew Sherrard told CNET that this policy is part of the company’s credit approval process. He said “even individuals wanting a smartphone under such a plan have to pass a credit check.” How it is that forcing customers onto a $20 per month data plan is related to a credit check is confusing, to say the least.

“As we roll into this new market, things have been a little bumpy,” Sherrard told CNET. “It’s not as smooth as we would want it to have been.”

Customers can still pay full price for an iPad and get the 200 MB free plan, if the sales representative at the store knows that the $10 monthly fee is an “executional mistake.” However, based on both stories from CNET, not only are you forced to pay $10 per month to get free data, but you are also forced to pay $20 per month if you want to get an iPad Air for no money down. There are more strings attached to this “Tablets Un-Leashed” campaign then AT&T or Verizon has ever had. T-Mobile should bite their tongue the next time they want to accuse other carries of having hidden fees and confusing contracts.

About Lory: Writer of all things app related, traveler of the space-time continuum, baker of really great cookies. Follow me @appaholik

  • Saad Khan

    I bought the team mobile version from the apple store. I paid in full for the iPad Air. I had no problems setting up the free data account. I did not have to put it my credit card information to receive it. Please contact me at ajooba1982@hotmail.com if you have any questions.

  • rwmgd2

    The problem lies with CEO John Legere’s comments. He stated everyone gets the 200mb free “No strings attached.” That’s the problem. There are plenty of strings attached to the deal. The EIP program for non T-Mobile subscribers is not interest free as the want you to believe. If you are forced to pay $20 a month for data just for the privilege of getting 0% financing then it is absolutely a bait and switch tactic, it’s a play on words period. By financing on the EIP program that alone makes you a customer. They run your credit and establish an account which you agree to pay over a fixed amount of time. If they would have made it clear upfront by stating in order to get free data you must pay for the device in full, which they did not, then no one would be debating this issue. The $20 minimum fee for data is essence interest because they are forcing you to buy data for privilege of financing at 0%. The total amount you would have to pay for the so called free data ($20 for 500MB + 200MB free total 700MB) is $480 over 24 months. Once the device is paid off then the real free data would kick in and the $20 would be able to drop off. So in reality the $20 a month is a finance charge of 480.00 over 24 months. Do the math, $630 for a 16GB iPad air and $480 fee to get the free data, Total $1110 over two years. It equates to 76.2% interest charge over two years. THATS CRAZY. It would be better to charge the device on a credit card and add data as needed. I had a online chat with customer service yesterday and they are so confused that they actually told me the purpose of the fee is to prevent fraud. That doesn’t make sense either as they wouldn’t extend credit if you were a credit risk. T-Mobile needs to get their act together…..or at least be more transparent regarding this issue.