Have you seen those catchy TV ads from Sprint offering to cut in half the phone bills of Verizon and AT&T customers? They portray users of the two major providers complaining about the size of their bills, followed by the customers physically cutting their phone bill in half with chainsaws, machetes, and other sharp weapons.
As thrilling as it may be to use a chainsaw or a machete on your phone bill (kids, don’t try this at home), the message is that you can save half of your mobile phone costs and maintain the same amount of shared data with unlimited talk and text. What’s the catch? Can you really save half of your bill? And why is T-Mobile not included?
Let’s address the “cut your bill in half” argument first and the respective areas of concern.
- Phones and Devices – It is true that you will get unlimited talk and text, plus the same shared data plan with line access fees included, at half of your previous cost. However, the biggest catch lies in the costs of the phones, which are not included.
You cannot bring your own phone to the deal. You will have to buy new phones through Sprint and turn in your previous Verizon or AT&T phones. There is no cash back or other discounting offer on your old phones. Further, if you do not turn in your old phones within a 30-day timeframe, you may be charged $200 for each non-returned phone in your plan.
- Auxiliary Charges – Aside from the cost of the phones, the half-off offer does not apply to taxes, surcharges, or special features such as international calling plans, insurance, apps, or premium content. Check with your Sprint store for details on other features included in your current plan and whether any of them are eligible for the half-off offer.
- Limitations – The half–price plan is only guaranteed to last as long as you stay on the Sprint devices that you purchase. Upgrades may be subject to changes in the rate. Changes in the data allowance may also alter the pricing – although in fairness, most cellular providers have similar restrictions to upgrades and data packages with promotional pricing.
- Usage Limitations – The fine print states, “Other plans may receive prioritized bandwidth availability.” Translation: Sprint can throttle your bandwidth, and therefore slow your download speeds, if they so choose.
GeekWire reports that the Sprint promotion had the desired effect in terms of foot traffic. In the first week of the deal, visitors to Sprint stores increased by around seven times the average for the industry (as compared to the prior week). It is not known yet how that translates to new customers, and whether Sprint can fend off a hard-charging T-Mobile to hold its third place status behind Verizon and AT&T.
As for why T-Mobile was not targeted, Sprint CFO Joe Euteneur simply said that customers from Verizon or AT&T were the ones most likely to switch to Sprint. There may be more to the story – perhaps a psychological effort to dismiss T-Mobile as irrelevant or something in the mechanics of T-Mobile agreements that make the deal harder to implement – but if there is another factor, Sprint is not willing to discuss it. Sprint is not ignoring their competitor completely: they recently announced they would guarantee a $200 minimum trade value for T-Mobile customers’ smartphones as well as up to $350 per line to cover switching costs.
So put down your chainsaw (please) and check into the fine print before “cutting your bill in half.” If you want to switch to Sprint from Verizon or AT&T, you may find that their Family Share Pack plan saves you more money when devices are taken into account.
The best choice for you will depend on the smartphones you prefer, the number of lines you need, the details of your plan with your current carrier, and the number and types of add-ons you use. Check into the details and do not be afraid to ask questions and negotiate. To be clear, we do not recommend the use of chainsaws or machetes in the negotiation process.