Shortly 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.