T-Mobile’s aggressive new smartphone promo includes high-profile iPhone X

iPhone X, 3D sensors
Apple’s iPhone X. (Apple)

T-Mobile once again is looking to poach customers from its rivals with an aggressive new promotion focusing on some of its high-end handsets—including Apple’s iPhone X.

And once again it’s taking the lead in what is typically a sleepy post-holiday first quarter.

The nation’s No. 3 wireless operator launched a buy-one-get-one deal on twelve flagship phones from Samsung, LG and Apple for users who port in a line and buy both phones on the company’s monthly installment plan. Switchers who trade in a qualifying phone and buy a Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, LG V30 or LG V30+ will get a free model after the mail-in rebate; those who buy a Galaxy S8+, Active or Note 8 are eligible for as much as $750 back.

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Similar deals apply to Apple’s 8, 8 Plus and—notably—the iPhone X.

“We just kicked major tail in Q4 and 2017, and we’re not letting up the pressure one little bit,” said T-Mobile CEO John Legere in an announcement. “Another 5 million people joined the uncarrier last year, and we’ve got fantastic deals not just for them and our other loyal customers, but for anyone fed-up with the carrier nonsense and ready to join team magenta.”

Customers buying a single phone can receive $150 back on the Samsung and LG devices plus the value of the trade-in. And T-Mobile is taking specific aim at Verizon subscribers. Offering rebates of as much as $650 to pay off their Google Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+ and iPhone X when they move from the nation’s largest operator.

Carriers generally excluded the iPhone X from the holiday promotions due to limited supplies of the ultra high-end phone, which resulted in artificially high demand and led to a relatively calm competitive environment in recent months.

The high-profile phone was “in high demand and in short supply,” outgoing Sprint CFO Tarek Robbiati said during an investor conference last month, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. “So, you don't see–we haven't seen so far extravagant aggressive promotional activity across the sector.”

It remains to be seen, of course, whether T-Mobile's rivals will follow suit with their own iPhone X discounts or risk losing customers to yet another bold move from the company.

“No question, all eyes remain on 1Q promotions, which rocked the market a year ago (especially with iPhone X supply now adequate for a full quarter),” DeutscheBank analysts wrote in a research note earlier this week. “That said, we expect the current theme of revenue/margin stabilization to continue, given: (1) elevated investment cycles facing each of the carriers (ie: carriers need to earn a return on their capital), whether it relates to LTE densification/coverage expansion, or early 5G builds, and (2) slowing volume growth for nationals, as cable MVNOs take more share (ie: pricing and margins become more important levers to retain profitability, especially as other carrier segments like Enterprise and Wireline/Video remain pressured).”