Every once in a while, you have to wonder why T-Mobile is still the number four carrier in the United States. The new iPhone went on sale yesterday. T-Mobile chose yesterday to announce a free phone promotion that will take place this weekend, right before Father’s Day. T-Mobile may not have anything truly comparable to the iPhone, and a free phone offer may not be enough to sway a true Apple devotee. But in light of the numerous problems early adopters are experiencing when trying to pre-order the device, T-Mobile’s announcement may just be a stroke of genius. I’ve been both baffled and amused by all the tweets and news reports flying around regarding all the iPhone pre-order problems. Really, people? When is it not like this for a new device, especially an iPhone? Remember all those people standing in line overnight to get their hands on one? Remember how gaming consoles practically become black market items the closer it gets to Christmas? What made anyone think it was going to be easy to order the latest and greatest iPhone that was supposed to change everything? Apparently, it’s not powerful enough to change ordering system efficiency. So while some people may stick it out and wait for the ordering problems to abate, others may just throw their hands up, remember that the iPhone is still exclusively tied with AT&T which just set data caps for smartphone users, and head over to the T-Mobile retail store to get a free phone. This Saturday, June 19, starting at 8 a.m., T-Mobile is offering customers free handsets when they sign up for a family plan. A family plan can cover as few as two people, and as many as five, and requires the standard two-year contract. The offer is available to both current and new customers. So if you’re already with T-Mobile on a single-user plan, you can simply add one more person—say, oh, your dad since Father’s Day is June 20—and both of you get a free phone. And they’re not talking just the basic, cheapie model phones, either. The free phone offer includes Android-based models such as the HTC myTouch 3G Slide, and the navigational Garminfone. Some of the phones covered in the offer will require a mail-in rebate, but postage is a small price to pay for a free smartphone. Once you and your dad have your free smartphones, and you’re all set up with your family plan, you’ll have to test them out. Try Starbucks. Starting July 1, the coffee chain will begin offering free Wi-Fi in all its stores. Up to now, Starbucks has offered customers up to two free hours of Wi-Fi, but customers had to either be AT&T customers (the carrier who was, and still is providing the access), or they had to purchase a Starbucks Card to be able to log in to the network. It’s amazing that it’s taken Starbucks this long to get in step with other companies like Panera Bread and McDonald’s, both of which offer free Wi-Fi to their customers with no restrictions. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather sit in a Starbucks for a couple of hours with my laptop than in a McDonald’s where I have to constantly smell fried food and put up with noisy kids. But I digress. Anyway, back to Starbucks. So, no more registration, no more limited time access, just straight free Wi-Fi from here on out. In addition, the company plans to launch a Starbucks Digital Network, which will give customers free access to pay wall sites such as wsj.com, and zagat.com. They eventually plan to add other premium sites that cover other categories such as lifestyle, music, and entertainment. The goal is, obviously, to bring in more customers. If you can access a paid site for free while sipping your latte, you’re more likely to stop in. The paid site providers gain value by allowing non-paying users access, and hoping it turns into a paid subscription for continued access at home if they like what they see. It’s an interesting experiment. If it goes well, other restaurants that offer free Wi-Fi may want to get in on the action.
T-Mobile, Starbucks offer free phones, Wi-Fi
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