Mike Isaac

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Yep, T-Mobile Will Eventually Offer the iPhone — At Full Price

T-Mobile announced Thursday that the company will begin to offer the iPhone to its customers in 2013, finally securing the massively popular smartphone deal after years of being the only one of the big four U.S. carriers not to offer the device.

“What was missing? It’s very clear,” said John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile U.S.A., at a conference on Thursday. “A certain number of customers wouldn’t come to the store if we didn’t have the iPhone. … We worked very hard for a deal that makes sense for us.”

Legere didn’t nail down an exact date, instead saying the device will be offered to customers at some point next year.

Part of the problem T-Mobile has had in getting the deal done was in the carrier’s very infrastructure. The company uses a different spectrum band for its high-speed data network, which would have required Apple to do more heavy lifting to accomodate T-Mobile’s network.

Instead, T-Mobile has made strides in rejiggering its entire U.S. network, which will make it better suited to host the iPhone. Cellular tower by cellular tower, T-Mobile has been systematically upgrading their network to work with the iPhone’s spectrum.

As recently as September, T-Mobile made a push to onboard owners of unlocked iPhones to the company’s network, pairing the phones with a recently announced “Unlimited” data plan.

T-Mobile also plans to make major changes in its pricing structure in 2013, eliminating the subsidy model long used in the cellular industry. So instead of getting a $400 price cut on your handset when buying the phone, T-Mobile asks that you pay the full price. That’s not exactly cheap — often upwards of $400 to $600 for high-end devices — but it’s cheaper than the current industry standard, which lets you buy the subsidized phone up front, but locks you into a contract with higher monthly rates.

Legere didn’t get into the nitty-gritty on how the company would get around offering unsubsidized phones come 2013, a challenge considering customers often don’t recognize the value in paying more money up front for cheaper rates over the long term.

But he did drop a few hints. “You may pay $99 for the most iconic device in the world,” Legere said, likely alluding to Apple’s iPhone, “and then you may [pay] $15 to $20 a month” thereafter with your monthly bill. So in essence, it’s a sort of layaway program, eventually paying the full cost of the hardware but over time rather than all at once.

T-Mobile already offers this kind of pricing with its current “value plans” — one of two types of plans it offers to contract customers.

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