Operators play Cupid with free phones, cheap data

Forget the roses and candy: T-Mobile and Verizon are turning on the Valentine's Day charm with special phone and data service promotions aimed at technology lovers.

On Feb. 11 and Feb. 12, T-Mobile retail stores will offer any of the operator's phones for free to buyers signing up for a qualifying two-year contract. Customers can select from T-Mobile's portfolio of 30 devices, no phones excluded, though the phones will only be available while supplies last. Even the T-Mobile Springboard 4G tablet will be offered for free with a contract. The Android-based tablet's suggested retail price is $429.99, though the operator has recently been selling it for $249.99 after an instant discount and rebate.

Existing T-Mobile customers who have been with the operator for less than 18 months cannot get in on the pre-Valentine's Day specials, but they are being offered the chance to migrate to a less pricey monthly Value Plan. T-Mobile will charge migration fees based on the time remaining on a customer's current contract, with customers who have had a contract for seven months or less needing to pay $200 to shift to a Value Plan. Savings can add up over time, however, as a Value Plan with unlimited data, talk and text costs only $59.99 per month vs. a comparable Classic Plan, which costs $79.99 per month.

T-Mobile has been working to keep its data offerings competitive both on price and performance. Its HSPA+ 42 network covers 184 million POPs in 175 markets, while its HSPA+ 21 network serves 217 markets with 200 million POPs. The company is pondering future deployments of HSPA+ 84 or possibly even LTE.

Meanwhile, Verizon (NYSE:VZ) is reintroducing its double-data promotion on Feb. 10. The limited-time deal, which was offered through the 2011 end-of-year holiday shopping season, increases the caps on Verizon LTE customers' data plans at no additional charge. For example, a new Verizon LTE subscriber will get 4 GB of data - rather than 2 GB - for $30 per month. The promotion is only available for new customers who buy a Verizon LTE smartphone or existing customers who upgrade from a non-LTE handset to an LTE smartphone.

Verizon is working to shift as many customers to its LTE network as possible and says all of the smartphones it sells going forward will include LTE support.

For more:
- see this PC Magazine post  
- read this T-Mobile press release
- check this Los Angeles Times story

Related articles:
Verizon revives double LTE smartphone data promotion
T-Mobile likely to deploy HSPA+ 84 but not ruling out LTE