T-Mobile offers to pay off Verizon customers' Pixels and iPhones

T-Mobile's Signature store in Times Square, NYC
A T-Mobile store in Times Square, New York. (T-Mobile)

T-Mobile is taking direct aim at Verizon customers who own the Google Pixel or a newer iPhone.

The No. 3 U.S. mobile network operator is offering to pay the balance of handset charges up to $1,000 for Verizon customers who carry the Pixel or Apple’s iPhone SE, 6S or 7 when they switch to T-Mobile. The promotion, which is branded #GetOutoftheRed, launches May 31, and T-Mobile didn’t say how long it would be available.

In addition to the monetary incentive, the carrier hopes to convey to potential switchers how simple it is to move their phones from one carrier to another.

“For years, carriers have led you to believe the phones you buy from them only work on their network,” T-Mobile said in an announcement. “That’s how it used to be, but no more. T-Mobile is getting rid of the friction that customers experience when switching from Verizon—no more giving up your device, buying a new one and transferring your photos, contacts and apps.”

Switchers must first pay off their phones and receive T-Mobile’s payoff in the form of a digital prepaid MasterCard that typically arrives within 15 days, the carrier said. And participating customers must insure their phones with T-Mobile’s Premium Device Protection Plus, an insurance offering that costs $15 a month.

The campaign is T-Mobile’s latest attempt to steal market share from Verizon in an extremely competitive environment during the stretch run of the second quarter. Verizon lost 289,000 net postpaid phone users in the first quarter, as it was slow to respond to unlimited-data offerings from T-Mobile and Sprint, while T-Mobile maintained its remarkable momentum by adding 798,000 postpaid phone customers.

And T-Mobile continued to criticize Verizon’s network performance in the wake of the launch of unlimited plans that appear to have stoked mobile data consumption. T-Mobile executives said last month that Verizon’s LTE data speeds slowed 14% after it joined the unlimited bandwagon in the first quarter.

“But there’s good news for U.S. wireless customers,” T-Mobile’s announcement read. “Unlike the carrier networks, the Un-carrier network was built for unlimited. So, even though T-Mobile customers’ data usage leads all others, T-Mobile’s lightning fast network actually got lightning faster during that time.”

In addition to the Verizon promotion, T-Mobile said it will pay off the phone balance or early termination fee of users who switch from AT&T or Sprint starting May 31, without requiring a trade-in. And it said customers with at least two lines of its T-Mobile One plan can get two additional lines of service for the price of one through a bill credit.