T-Mobile Won’t Count Streaming Music Against Data Caps; Offering Loaner Phones

tmotestdriveIf you’re constantly streaming songs from Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify or other services on your phone, it can eat away at your monthly data cap pretty quickly. In an attempt to lure music-lovers to its wireless service T-Mobile announced last night that it will no longer count data from these and other services against users’ 4G LTE allotments.

In addition to the three services mentioned above, T-Mobile lists iHeartRadio, Slacker, and iTunes Radio as services users can enjoy without having to worry about having their monthly data dinged. The company is taking an online poll to let users vote on what streaming service(s) — like Amazon Prime, Google Access, Rdio, Beats, etc. — should be added to the list. People can also vote on Twitter by using the #musicfreedom hashtag.

“As a committed music freak, I’m personally outraged at the way the other guys are using the music you love to lure you into over-priced plans with sweet ‘promotional offers’ that quickly roll into higher prices or trigger those absurd overage charges,” said T-Mobile CEO and President John Legere. “Music should be free of all that. Music should have no limits.”

Existing T-Mobile customers apparently don’t need to do anything to activate this option. The only condition is that you must have a data plan worth at least $50/month, meaning the bargain Simple Starter plan is not eligible.

Earlier this year, AT&T launched a Subsidized Data program, where certain content companies agreed to foot the bill for users’ data when accessing their online services, though none of the companies involved in that offer anything as bandwidth heavy as streaming audio.

It’s unclear whether the streaming services in the T-Mobile announcement are subsidizing the data or if T-Mobile is just eating that data itself in the hopes of signing up more customers. In the end, the effect for the consumer is the same regardless of who is paying for the data.

It does, however, bring up the question of potentially unfair competition. One could argue that T-Mobile is effectively pushing its customers to use these services and discouraging users from using services not involved in the discount.

In addition to the streaming music news, T-Mobile announced on Tuesday that it is offering 7-day loaner phones to potential new customers so they can test the service out without having to leave their current provider.

It works like this. You sign up for the Test Drive program online. T-Mobile sends you a new iPhone 5S to try out for 7 days with an unlimited data plan. If you don’t like it, return it within 7 days to a T-Mobile store.

BUT, be cautioned that T-Mobile puts a $700 (plus tax) hold on your credit/debit card when you sign up for the program, so if you miss that 7-day deadline, your card will be charged the full retail price.

Additionally, if the iPhone is returned with a cracked screen, damaged screen display, water damage, active Find My iPhone feature, or can’t be powered on, you’ll be hit with a $100 fee.