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T-Mobile Is Still Turning Its Back on BlackBerry

By Steve Symington – Feb 22, 2014 at 2:45PM

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T-Mobile has expanded what it's calling a "great offer for BlackBerry customers" -- but it's hardly good for BlackBerry.

If the recent deluge of angry comments from BlackBerry (BB -6.92%) loyalists are any indication, T-Mobile US (TMUS -1.17%) appears to have stumbled into a veritable beehive this week.

The thing is, these bees seem to have lost their stingers.

Sticks and stones ...
It all started when 
T-Mobile sent out a mailer last week, offering subscribers the chance to upgrade to Apple's (AAPL -0.80%) iPhone 5s for $0 down.

That wouldn't have been so bad all by itself, but the mailer specifically labeled it as a "GREAT OFFER for BlackBerry customers."

Worse yet, T-Mobile went further to target BlackBerry's bread-and-butter customer base, suggesting they could "switch to iPhone 5s and get powerful communications and productivity apps -- with the ease of use that Apple is known for."

This doesn't come as a huge surprise, considering T-Mobile decided to stop stocking BlackBerry smartphones in its stores last September. And though you can still order BlackBerry's older Q10 or Z10 on T-Mobile's website, you're out of luck if you want to find the latest Z30 and Q30 models.

What's more, it's not as though BlackBerry has provided outsized incentives for T-Mobile to sell its new phones, anyway. BlackBerry sold only 4.3 million smartphones in Q3, of which nearly 75% were older BlackBerry 7 devices.

Meanwhile, Apple moved 47.8 million iPhones in its most recent quarter, of which around half were Apple's older iPhone 4 models.

"Inappropriate and ill-conceived"
Unsurprisingly, last week's move also drew the ire of BlackBerry CEO John Chen, who responded in a blog post Tuesday to both thank his loyal customers and make it clear his company was "outraged."

Chen went on to call T-Mobile's promotion "inappropriate and ill-conceived," and then closed by addressing the un-carrier directly:

Finally, to T-Mobile, I would like to remind you that our long-standing partnership was once productive and profitable for both BlackBerry and T-Mobile. I hope we can find a way forward that allows us to serve our shared customers once again. Notwithstanding the current challenge, we remain very excited about BlackBerry's future.

The next day, T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to Twitter to offer a tongue-in-cheek olive branch to the struggling smartphone maker:

Apple, BlackBerry duke it out for T-Mobile's business.

Image source: Author screenshot, Twitter.

Sure enough, later Wednesday, T-Mobile's chief marketing officer, Mike Sievert, wrote a blog post of his own, upping the ante by offering "$200 toward a new BlackBerry or any of our other state-of-the-art smartphones" (emphasis mine) to anyone who brings an "old, working BlackBerry." In addition, T-Mobile's offering anyone who opts for a new BlackBerry Q10 or Z10 an additional $50.

On one hand it seems fair enough; after all, T-Mobile did throw in a little something to appease BlackBerry fans this time. But T-Mobile is still slanting the bulk of its incentives toward other smartphone-makers' devices, and that extra $50 for choosing a nearly year-old smartphone nobody wanted to buy in the first place isn't exactly all that appealing.

Then again, something tells me T-Mobile knew exactly what it was doing when it sent out the initial offer. With little to lose in drawing sharp criticism from not only BlackBerry loyalists -- most of whom were unlikely to make the switch anyway -- but also of the company's new CEO, T-Mobile has effectively created more visibility for its final promotion than it ever would have received otherwise.

If one thing is clear in the end, however, it's that T-Mobile is still turning its back on BlackBerry.

Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Twitter and owns shares of Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Stocks Mentioned

Apple Stock Quote
$146.63 (-0.80%) $-1.18
T-Mobile Us Stock Quote
T-Mobile Us
$150.62 (-1.17%) $-1.79
BlackBerry Stock Quote
$4.84 (-6.92%) $0.36

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

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