T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) just released a series of new Simple Choice plans that are aimed directly at smartphone users who don't want any voice minutes, and instead just want texting and data.
According to an early report by TMoNews, the carrier now offers six such plans, each with unlimited texting, on its GSM devices. Customers can get 2 GB of high-speed LTE data each month for $20, 6GB for $35, 10 GB for $50, 14 GB for $65, 18 GB for $80, or 22 GB for $95.
But don't expect to hear much about them. The company is reportedly making the plans available on request at its stores, but it isn't promoting them online.
Data-only plans have been around for a while for tablets, but T-Mobile's new plans are specifically for smartphone users. The carrier isn't the only one tapping into the data-only smartphone user market, either: Sprint (NYSE:S), AT&T (NYSE:T), and Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) all have their own data-only offerings.
What T-Mobile's competition offers
Sprint offers data-only plans that can be used with smartphones and start at just $15 for 1 GB of high-speed data, then go to $35 for 3 GB, $50 for 6 GB, and $80 for 12 GB. Based on this pricing tier, T-Mobile's new plans are better deal for consumers. Sprint's plans are only for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers, while anyone can sign up for T-Mobile's plan.
Verizon launched its own prepaid data-only plans back in October. Verizon's lowest tiered data-only plan starts at $15 for 500 MB, then $20 for 1 GB, $35 for 2 GB, $60 for 6 GB, and 10 GB for $100. The problem is, the lowest-priced plan is only available by the week (not month) and the other plans are for two months, instead of one. So you would pay $35 for 2GB, but you have to spread that data out over two consecutive months. Verizon's plans seem to be more aimed at tablet users, but I went through the process online and was able to add smartphones to the plan as well.
AT&T's offers its own data-only plans as well, which start at $15 per month for 500 MB, then go to $30 for 3 GB, or $50 for 5 GB.
Many of T-Mobile's competitors tack on an extra device connection fee each month, which then leaves wireless customers paying significantly more than if they chose T-Mobile's new plans.
But T-Mobile's not just interested in undercutting the competition's prices, it's looking to jump on a growing trend of smartphone users who only want data on their phones.
Why T-Mobile added these new data-only plans
While calling is something a lot of people still do with their smartphones, younger customers are spending less time doing do so. According to a report released by the Pew Research Center in January, "Younger adults are especially likely to reach for their phone for something other than calling and texting."
T-Mobile is trying to get an early start on this trend. The phone, of course, can still be used to make calls via Skype, Google Voice, or another VoIP app without having to pay for a more expensive plan that includes voice minutes. And as The Wall Street Journal noted, you can still dial 911 from the phone.
I doubt the new plans will add much to T-Mobile's bottom line any time soon. I think the move is more of a strategy to feel out how many of its customers are looking for something like this. It offers more options to those who ask for data-only, while not exactly promoting the idea to existing customers, who are perfectly content paying for voice service.
T-Mobile has added more than 1 million net customer additions each quarter for the past 11 consecutive quarters, and these new plans are likely another step in proving to its customers that it's going to continue to offer the most plan options, at some of the cheapest prices -- even if it's being a bit quiet about advertising them right now.