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IDG News Service - T-Mobile US will let its customers switch phones twice a year under a new service announced Wednesday, the company's latest move to set itself apart from its larger rivals.
The new plan, called Jump, will let consumers upgrade their phones more frequently and will include protection against malfunction, damage, loss or theft for US$10 per month plus taxes and fees, T-Mobile said. It was one of several pieces of news the company announced Wednesday at an event in New York.
Instead of having to wait until the end of a two-year contract or finish paying off a device in monthly installments, subscribers will be able to trade in their existing phones for a new model at a T-Mobile store as often as twice per year, once they've been on the Jump plan for at least six months. They'll pay the same price for the new phones as new customers. The program will come online Sunday, but may not be available at all stores, T-Mobile said.
Also on Wednesday, T-Mobile said its LTE network now reaches 157 million U.S. residents, ahead of the company's stated target of 100 million by midyear. The high-speed network is now available in 116 metropolitan areas. The company's buildout is on track to reach 200 million people in more than 200 metropolitan areas by the end of this year.
T-Mobile also gave some details about two phones it will be launching soon. It will start selling the Android-based Sony Xperia Z in T-Mobile stores starting July 17, for $99.99 down and 24 monthly payments of $20. The Windows Phone Nokia Lumia 925 will go on sale at T-Mobile stores the same day, for $49.99 down and $20 per month for 24 months.
The carrier's Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 tablet, already on sale, will get an over-the-air upgrade to LTE in the coming weeks, T-Mobile said.
T-Mobile also introduced a four-line service plan for families that will offer unlimited talk, text and Web use and 500MB per month of high-speed data for $100 per month plus taxes and fees. It won't require a credit check or a contract and will be available starting July 14, the carrier said.
T-Mobile, the country's fourth-largest mobile operator, recently expanded by buying MetroPCS, but it will fall farther behind its nearest rival as No. 3 carrier Sprint is acquired by SoftBank and takes over Clearwire. The company has also suffered many subscriber losses over the past several months, with gains in prepaid customers offset by declines in postpaid subscribers. In the first quarter, T-Mobile finally turned that around, gaining 202,000 prepaid customers while losing 199,000 postpaid.
That underdog position has made T-Mobile a scrappy competitor, trying new ideas ahead of its bigger rivals.
In March, the company introduced plans that let consumers pay for a new phone in installments rather than sign a two-year contract. Though these plans require subscribers to pay off the device if they cancel their service early, the monthly hardware payments end after two years, while regular subsidized phone plans stay at the same rate. T-Mobile's plans can cost less over time, according to TechHive.