What Android users lose in T-Mobile
The email alert shocked me, to say the least. “AT&T to Buy T-Mobile USA in $39 Billion Deal,” the headline read. Well [expletive], I said. I was reading the alert on a T-Mobile phone, which I’ve been using for about a year now. While I knew that no changes would come for many months, since this deal will probably take some time to satisfy regulators, it still represents a disappointment of sorts. I’ve been quite a fan of T-Mobile since becoming a customer. A move to AT&T will not be pleasing. Android is certainly losing a quality partner in T-Mobile. Maybe the T-Mobile brand will stick around for a while after this deal becomes official. Maybe we’ll continue on our sweet rate plans for another year. But it won’t be long before AT&T completes its consumption of T-Mobile and we’re all operating under the old Ma Bell brand. True, AT&T has stepped up its Android selection ever since it lost exclusivity on the iPhone, but they’re still nowhere near the level of T-Mobile. It’s going to be a shame for the future of Android.
Take the Nexus series for instance. Last year, when the Nexus One dropped, T-Mobile was the primary carrier. True, it was available on AT&T, but I defy you to find me someone with an AT&T Nexus One. T-Mobile offered a subsidy, putting the handset on the same level as others. While many handsets released in December 2009 have fallen behind the times, the Nexus has not. I still find that it stacks up to most new 3G handsets. T-Mobile was also the first, and currently still the only, carrier to offer the Nexus S. And, of course, there was the G1 two and a half years ago. Is AT&T going to keep at the cutting edge of Android development in the same way as T-Mobile? I’m not so sure. With AT&T, T-Mobile customers will also lose their rate plans. With my Nexus One I have an unlimited text and data, plus 500 voice minutes, for $80 per month. That’s a good deal in my mind. The comparable plan with AT&T costs $85. That might not seem like a huge difference, but when you account for having 50 fewer voice minutes and infinitely less data
, the two don’t balance out at all. AT&T has a 2GB cap on data usage, which will certainly impede some T-Mobile data customers. If you go over 2GB, you’re paying at least $95/month. This brings up a larger point about the merger. With Verizon as its primary competition and with Sprint a distant third, what incentivizes AT&T to provide quality plans? Cellular companies have already hooked us on their services. Can you do without your smartphone? Now that they have us hooked, they’re consolidating at the highest level. What are you going to do if AT&T raises price? Go to Verizon? Why would Verizon lower prices if the third alternative is Sprint? And what’s to stop Verizon from gobbling up Sprint? Then we’d have a serious non-competitive mess on our hands. The constant refrain from the big telecoms is that competition is strong. But anyone observing knew that wasn’t true. It’s even less true with AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile. There is less and less reason for big telecoms to provide robust services at a reasonable price. They have all the cards — i.e., all the spectrum — and there is little room for further competition. Sorry, T-Mobile customers. Enjoy your current services while they last, I guess.