T-Mobile stores reportedly to showcase—but not sell—Google's Pixel

EE's black Google Pixel smartphone
Google's Pixel

T-Mobile reportedly plans to showcase Google’s Pixel in some retail locations but but still can't sell the device directly to consumers.

Verizon has an exclusive deal with Google to sell the Pixel—for the time being, at least—and has marketed the high-end handset heavily during the holiday season. But Android Police reported the country’s third-largest carrier plans to leverage the handset by displaying it in stores and directing customers to Google’s online store or Best Buy outlets to purchase the phone and activate it on T-Mobile’s network.

A T-Mobile spokesperson declined to confirm the report but took issue with Verizon's claim of exclusivity.

"Verizon is spending millions to convince people that Google’s Pixel is 'only on Verizon' and it is just not true," the spokesperson said. "The Pixel works great on T-Mobile with unlimited high-speed data and a faster, more advanced LTE network. Buy one from Google or buy one from Verizon and bring it on over."

That wouldn’t be the first time T-Mobile has attempted to co-opt Google’s high-profile handset. In October the operator said it will offer $325 to customers who purchase an unlocked version of Google’s Pixel phone and then activate it on the carrier’s new T-Mobile One unlimited data plan.

“If you think you can only purchase and use the Pixel on Verizon … that’s simply not true!” T-Mobile said in a press release. However, terms of the offer by T-Mobile prevent customers from combining the discount with other offers like T-Mobile’s “Carrier Freedom,” and the offer is limited to eight devices per account.

The Pixel claimed 7.5 percent of activations at Verizon stores over a month-long period ending in late November, Wave7 Research reported, due largely to aggressive promotions from both the internet giant and the nation’s largest carrier. While that marketing push has cooled somewhat, Verizon outlets were using in-store displays to push the 32 GB Pixel (which starts at $650) and the Pixel XL (starts at $770) as well as Google’s $79 Daydream View VR.

Google spent $15 million on TV ads supporting the Pixel from October 27 through November 2, Wave7 said, and Verizon spent nearly $12 million on commercials during that time to push the phone. Verizon has maintained its exclusive rights to sell the Pixel, which debuted in the U.S. Oct. 10.

Limited supplies of high-end smartphones have dampened expectations in the smartphone market during the holiday season, and the Pixel and Apple’s iPhone 7 remain two of the highest-profile phones available. It’s unknown whether Verizon will lose its Pixel exclusivity once the holidays have passed, but T-Mobile appears to be intent on doing everything it can to leverage a phone it can’t yet sell.