T-Mobile Will Offer Free Data On Tablets For Life — So What’s The Catch?

T-Mobile wants you. It wants you so much it’s dangling the bait of free data service for the life of your tablet as it tries to expand its customer base beyond phones. But as with any company that’s out to make a buck, of course there’s got to be a catch, right?

Yes, there is a catch, by way of limits: The new Tablets Un-Leashed program isn’t going to let you zip along at high speeds gobbling data: It includes 200 megabytes of high-speed data per month, which is about what you need to upload 800 photos to Instagram, send over 2,500 emails or stream 200 minutes of music, T-Mobile says in a press release.

Customers will also have to purchase a $10 SIM card for their device, but do not have to be T-Mobile phone customers.

“Tablets are supposed to be un-tethered like smartphones, but it hasn’t worked out that way because people know carriers will charge them an arm-and-a-leg for mobile data,” John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile said in today’s press release. “Carriers figured out a long time ago that they could make money – a lot of money – by forcing customers into restrictive, overpriced data plans. We changed it for smartphones and we’re changing it for tablets.”

Most tablets are included in the offer including Apple’s iPad, Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire, as long as they work on T-Mobile’s network.

So what’s in it for T-Mobile? It’s likely hoping that the first free chunks of data will inspire customers to purchase more by way of one of its other service plans. Thus far, most tablet owners seem to stick to using their tablets on Wi-Fi, but once they live life on the outside with their fancy new LTE devices, perhaps the thinking is they’ll crave more of that.

The company also announced a spinoff of its smartphone trade-in program starting Nov. 1, where customers can bring in “qualifying” tablets — you’ll apparently have to ask at the store about which tablets are eligible to trade in — and receive a discount on either a new Google Nexus 7 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 2, with the iPad air coming soon, the first time T-Mobile will offer the Apple device.