Ina Fried

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T-Mobile to Offer Lower Rate Plans to Those Who Bring Own Phone (Or Pay Full Price)

T-Mobile is rolling out a set of new “value” rate plans that cut the monthly costs for people that either have their own phone or are willing to pay full price in exchange for the lower service fees.

The move is interesting in that it cuts a long-standing tie here in the U.S. of subsidizing phones in exchange for long-term commitments. T-Mobile is far from the first to do this, of course. Metro PCS and Leap Wireless handle things similarly as do many of the prepaid arms of the major carriers.

Those who don’t want to pay the entire cost of their phone upfront can still sign up for the new value plans and pay for their phones in installments, with a certain amount upfront and then $5 to $15 per month based on the cost of the device.

The plans range from $39 a month for 500 minutes and unlimited texting to $75 a month for unlimited talk, text and Web (with up to 5GB of that data being of the high-speed variety; T-Mobile doesn’t charge overages, but throttles the speed way down once customers hit their allotted limit.) A series of family value plans are also available starting at $49.99 per line — an option that T-Mobile says can save customers hundreds of dollars, even after tacking on the cost of buying the smartphones at full price.

The new plans could particularly pay off for someone who plans to keep a phone longer than the length of a typical two-year contract. It also has some appeal to bargain hunters who get their phone off Craigslist or to families who have a phone to pass down from one user to another.

Of course, the other question is just how many people want to sign up for a unique T-Mobile plan at all considering the company is working hard to get itself swallowed by AT&T.

For its part, T-Mobile is pitching itself as a way to lock in good rates whether the deal goes through or not.

“We do get that question,” says T-Mobile Senior Vice President of Marketing John Clelland. But, he insists, “there’s never been a better time to be a T-Mobile customer.”

T-Mobile will continue to offer more traditional rate plans with subsidized devices under the “classic” moniker, selling the new options as “value plans.”

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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google