Hey T-Mobile, let's cut the trash talk and stick to business

Hey T-Mobile, let's cut the trash talk and stick to business

Look, let me say at the outset that I like T-Mobile. They're the scrappy underdog of the "big four" wireless carriers in the U.S. They've shaken things up for the wireless market with their "Uncarrier" plans and they deserve a lot of credit. But I really wish they'd dial back the smack talk a bit, because I think it's starting to get in front of their message.

For years the corporate culture of the U.S. wireless scene was dominated by a bunch of guys in suits and ties who didn't really stand apart from one another. For the most part, they still don't.

Then T-Mobile hired John Legere and all hell broke loose.

This guy has personality to break the bank. He doesn't think twice about dropping f-bombs on stage or telling the competition how much he thinks they suck. And he won headlines at CES this year for getting bounced from AT&T's party. I admit that I thought it was a hoot and wrote about it, too. I get a big kick out of the guy. He's a Boston boy, too (you can hear it in his soft r's sometimes), so I admit that he has some home court advantage with me.

T-Mobile desperately needed a guy like Legere, and a vision and a plan, because without both, they were screwed. The Feds turned down AT&T and T-Mobile's bid to join up in late 2011. T-Mobile's own wireless network was in shambles. Customers were leaving in droves.

A little more than two years later, it's like night and day. Sure, T-Mobile doesn't have the same nationwide coverage as rivals AT&T or Verizon, but they're quickly building a 4G LTE network and packing on hundreds of thousands of new customers each quarter. They've reversed the exodus of customers, and they're growing.

I switched over to T-Mobile in April of 2013 and haven't looked back. In fact, I've been increasingly happy with the service — I've seen coverage and speeds improve quite a bit since then. But it still needs work.

What I like the most, as a former AT&T customer, is the T-Mobile bill that's half of what I paid AT&T. I can live with spotty coverage that still too often drops to EDGE or makes my iPhone say "No Carrier" all together, because I put enough in my pocket each month to fuel up the family minivan.

In fairness, T-Mobile isn't the only carrier that offers patchwork coverage in my region, and when I venture into the city from my exurban home, I get very good LTE coverage. But every time I report on T-Mobile, I can count on a string of comments from people complaining about the same issues that I see, so I know I'm not alone.

You gotta get people to pay attention, and Legere does that in a big way. He's brash and he's loud, just like T-Mobile's TV ads — complete with high-impact black and white video and rock music soundtrack over T-Mobile's trademark magenta logo and type. I'm afraid that extrovert personality may be poisoning T-Mobile's message a bit. Sometimes I think T-Mobile's marketing department takes it a bit too far. Case in point:

On Tuesday T-Mobile posted a fake press release to poke fun of an AT&T promotion that the company launched after T-Mobile's started its own "Contract Freedom" offer, in which T-Mobile will pay your family plan's early termination fee to switch to their service.

The press release includes a fake quote from AT&T Mobility president and CEO Ralph de la Vega, and even refers to AT&T's "dismantling" of its "Death Star." (For the uninitiated, AT&T's spherical logo has long been the source of humor, especially in marketing and branding circles, for its uncanny resemblance to the killer satellite from Star Wars.)

There are also some choice quotes from Legere and T-Mobile chief marketing officer Mike Sievert, congratulating themselves for shaking up the competition so much.

Now, T-Mobile notes that the press release was "written with tongue firmly planted in cheek," but it comes off as adolescent and smarmy. The front of the 1,100 word-or-so press release is a mish-mosh of trash talk and silliness about AT&T, burying the lede about T-Mobile's own plan.

My message to T-Mobile is this: You guys have an attitude and a message, and that's allowed, but stop acting like the cock of the walk, at least for now. Your marketing plan seems to be getting in front of your network buildout, and as one of your customers, that makes me nervous.

What I want to see from T-Mobile is simple: Less talk, more action.

How about you? Have you switched? Are you tempted? Is T-Mobile's take-no-prisoners attitude a turn on or a turn off? Sound off in the comments — I want to know what you think.

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 62 comments. Add yours.

TechyMexican says:

The fact that you took your time to mention T-Mobile, made them really happy.

Peter Cohen says:

And the irony of that isn't lost on me, believe me - I thought about it several times as I was writing this. But my message remains the same.

BeyondtheTech says:

It's a cutthroat world and the only ones that takes prisoners are the wireless carriers that still offer contracts. Personally, the press release was a bit much, but the sharks in the suits of the other carriers deserve it, and the audience needs a wake up call. Only news outlets, competing companies and financial firms read press releases, not the general public and the consumers who are still severely misinformed and naive.

shinuyuki says:

I don't give a shit. I love that they are fighting.

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steviet02 says:

They do something -> Someone writes about it -> They love it
They do something -> Someone writes about it -> They love it
rinse and repeat.... it's positive reinforcement for them regardless of YOUR message.

Kind of funny that you loved him getting the boot from an AT&T party, write about it, now you want them to adhere to some arbitrarily calibrated level of trash talk. If their numbers are increasing because of the publicity they won't listen to people that helped spur them on and will now attempt to try to take them down.

Peter Cohen says:

"Kind of funny that you loved him getting the boot from an AT&T party, write about it, now you want them to adhere to some arbitrarily calibrated level of trash talk."

I loved the AT&T party incident because Legere played AT&T like a pro - if he didn't get kicked out, he made them look like idiots for letting him in. If he got kicked out, he'd have a PR field day. Either way, he didn't lose. It took brass ones to do, and it was masterful manipulation.

This example today isn't masterful manipulation - it's sloppy and sophomoric.

steviet02 says:

I hear ya, but thats the point. When you reinforce someone's 'brass ones' they get bigger and bolder. I would put forward that 'crashing' a competitors party at a huge show is sophomoric too, again it's your compass that deems that ok and today's antics not. Thats what I meant about being arbitrary.

fdalbor says:

All I can say is LEAVE THE GUY alone. He has done more to help the consumer than AT&T has done in the eight years I have been with them. (yes I am a AT&T customer, but when my plan is done so am I). I don't care if he runs around naked waving a T-Moble pink flag. The man has been effective, let him keep on, keeping on.

J Daniel White II says:

" ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY, BEYOND A SHADOW OF A DOUBT " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/

steviet02 says:

If you live in a fringe coverage area your viewpoint may change.... Quickly.

J Daniel White II says:

My constituents range from Rochester N.Y. { Top of the state } to Smithtown L.I.N.Y. { about as far south as one can get } I get no complaints except those that are still on Sprint or Verizon ,,

Premium1 says:

Id switch once the coverage improves. For now I travel too much to rely on spotty coverage and luckily I'm grandfathered into unlimited Verizon LTE for another 2 years. Maybe by then they will have their network built out more, outside of large cities

iSRS says:

Peter, as a fellow Mass native, I am with you on all counts.

What is your take on the Sprint merger/acquisition?

I wrote a note to the commissioner of the FCC to voice my concern over allowing such a move, for what ever good it will do.

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Peter Cohen says:

I'm ambivalent about all the takeover rumors - Sprint, Dish, etc. I'm sure they're considering any offers because they're required to for their shareholders. But my suspicion is that the DoJ and FCC would be even more resistant to a T-Mo takeover now, given how disruptive they've been to the wireless industry.

iSRS says:

That was my thought, too. Actually stated their growth and "disruption" mentality as positice results of their action with AT&T

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shouse3 says:

I would love to switch but I travel too much and can't have subpar service. I do love what they are doing.

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abaggy says:

Having been a 10+ year customer I have to say I like the brash, no holds barred approach. I do agree, he does get overly aggressive (for my taste) at times, but I think they're still feeling out the boundaries. If Legere didn't push the envelope I don't think they'd be where they are now.

MikhailT says:

I'm okay with what they're doing. They're a small company trying to fight in one of the most competitive businesses there are. I'm still with ATT but everything that T-Mobile has done lately makes me want to join them sooner. The trash talk is exactly what's driving me over. The fact that many folks are still upset about how they're getting screwed by the big two companies and seeing T-Mobile trash talk those same companies is probably why they're doing this.

It's not like they're not building up their network because they're focused on trash-talking, they're doing both at the same time and why not?

J Daniel White II says:

" SO TRUE ! ! " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/ " STILL GOING STRONG & GROWING " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/

keiffus says:

Amen! T-Mobile should be focusing on improving coverage and less trash talk. I appreciate the savings, but whats the point of savings if I can't get a signal when I need it?

CVCONDE says:

I am switching this Friday. Went to T-Mobile store last Friday to order two iPhones which should arrive tomorrow. After I moved last year to a new location only 1-mile from my prior home, I had No Service in my building for AT&T (neither did anyone else in the bldg, or the one next to us). AT&T of course said get a Microcell (for $200, which I had to fight to get reimbursed). After 20 calls with "technicians" to no avail, I am finally moving to T-Mo, which does get service in my building (along with Verizon and Sprint).

The EFT reimbursement and trade-in credit sealed the Deal, along with the fact I won't have to deal with the Microcell (which required almost daily reset and access to high speed internet). That along with $90/month savings over AT&T and free (albeit slow) International Data Roaming and $.20/min vs $3.00/min calls.

I travel every week for work, so I will hopefully get decent coverage (since my travel is to major cities). If not AT&T will pay me to come back (as noted in a full page ad in the WSJ today).

J Daniel White II says:

\,,/(òÓ,)\,,/ " ANOTHER ONE BITE'S THE DUST " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/ GOODBYE AT&T - I travel from N.Y. to L.A. / Huston to Tampa and I have to admit I've had no problem's plus the fact that T - Mobile to T - Mobile customers are always free no matter what plan your on .

Richard Devine says:

As a Brit I don't pay too much attention to T-Mo U.S, but I have to admit to having a chuckle at CES when Legere talking about making "these peckers cry." ;-)

asuperstarr says:

We need more people like Peter that express facts. Your comments were on point and is something definitely to consider. I have been seriously thinking about switching. But these points are something to consider. Great report!

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mech1164 says:

I understand your point about being more refined than this was. That said I to want to see more of this. He is exactly what people want out of him. Does he go to far at times? Yes probably. Does it matter to the people he is trying to get? Not in the least. These companies need to be kicked and hard in the gonads. He's doing it with a smile.

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J Daniel White II says:

"ABSOLUTELY " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/
" BOU'T TIME " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/

steviet02 says:

Knock the caps and glyphs off, you're looking like a tool... Maybe you're legere?

J Daniel White II says:

ޏ₍ ὸ.ό₎ރ QUITE WINING \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/

Derrick4Real says:

I'm fine with trash talk. Keep it it up. Their attitude is a turn on not a turn off. I love it.

BenRoethig says:

I'd switch in a heartbeat if they served his part of the country. We're left with a two-bit half-owned affiliate called iWireless. T-Mobile has yielded some very positive results for the wireless industry. However, I'm worried they might be getting too big of a head from it all.

richard451 says:

I can understand where Peter is coming from but I am a big fan of anyone trying to shake up the duopoly that is the us cellular market. That said, this ceo is a bit much and is quickly becoming a clown

J Daniel White II says:

For years AT&T treated people with their plastic corporate attitudes. It's about time they woke up and stopped ripping their customers off . I personally left AT&T & took up T - Mobiles Offer on all 4 of my phones & They did just fine by me . even upgraded all 4 of my phones .I liked it so much that at the time of this writing My entire Organization switched over. { That's 250 subscribers just on my side alone } So my reply to you is get real & quite wining or are you sponsored by AT&T .

CrzyP says:

Isn't trash talking a part of business?

steviet02 says:

When has ATT or VZ done any trash talking?

Bob Brown6 says:

Thx Peter Cohen, agree w/you totally, as a Central IL TMO 1 year customer(who wanted an unlocked phone with cheaper bills.) I knew what what I was getting into.
I live with the lesser coverage, since it works in most of the Peoria, IL metro area

Coverage---atrocious outside the larger metros....
Once you get 30-45 minutes West/Southwest of Chicago Illinois on I-80, I-55, I-57, you cannot get ANY data coverage. That is unacceptable, for major Midwest interstates.

yacoby54 says:

Speak for yourself. Some of us love this and think it is hilarious. You never see this in business and getting to watch first hand this dude publicly melt down is fantastic.

Gus2259 says:

I've been with Verizon for years but I can't wait for the day when T-Mobile has good coverage in my area. It really infuriates me that to upgrade to a iPhone 5s five from a iPhone 4, I had to give up my unlimited data plan or play full price for the phone. All these plans are given with the idea that as long as you stay with them they will not be changed. Yes it does say in the written contract they can be changed however for years nobody ever took that stance. But both AT&T and Verizon have slammed all the people who had unlimited data plans.
As for his tactics being over-the-top I would have to say no. They are getting peoples attention to the plan so that they will switch. If they come off like the "corporate suits" approach like AT&T and Verizon no one will be listening to the message. If it works don't fix it.

vinny jr says:

I agree with everything you have said but I don't think their coverage has slowed down at all. According to airportal.de they are constantly adding new towers and adding LTE. I think John Legere likes to come off as a street smart whiz but IMO he's a freaken genius. No one has been able to do what he's done to T-Mobile especially in such a short time. I have been a T-Mobile customer for a long time. My reasons for going to T-Mobile wasn't cost but faster data speeds. T-Mobile is faster, much faster and real unlimited data without throttling is unbeatable. Keep doing what you're doing but PLEASE stay the hell away from Sprint.

J Daniel White II says:

"ABSOLUTELY " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/ - And stay away from Sprint like the Bubonic Plague

Taz89 says:

See nothing wrong, as long as it puts t-mobile in your thoughts then i say carry on with this.. T-mobile are finally showing the US consumers what a retarded world they are living and how they basically getting ripped off by the likes of at&t and verizon so in my books T-mobile carry on with what your doing and end the bs carrier crap

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J Daniel White II says:

" SO TRUE ! ! " \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/

IIJBII says:

I like that he's different but agree it's a little much.

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BrockS. says:

He got my attention, and I have been using Sprint's service for almost 14 years. I don't see a problem with it because that's what it is designed to do. I went into to a TMobile store yesterday to discuss moving my phones over from Sprint. Even as a corporate customer they said their current promotion stays in effect. While their coverage is somewhat lacking in the area I live, where I do business it is strong. Their plans beat Sprint's easily, my only consideration at this point is the cost involved of buying new handsets. In the long run I save.

IIJBII says:

He can be brash and shake things up, but, reality is he's the figurehead for a corporation. He represents a brand and has a board to answer to. I highly doubt they support their CEO swearing on stage.

Steve Jobs had a side but was professional when it came to public appearances. I think he's walking a fine line but it seems to be working.....for now.

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Analog Spirit says:

I'm currently on AT&T and would love to switch back to T-Mobile and save some money. But T-Mobile's network lacks adequate indoor signal penetration, and I need that, especially at work. When I was on T-Mobile my coverage and outdoor signal were solid, but I would lose all signal as soon as I entered a building. I don't have that problem on AT&T. So I'd gladly switch back to T-Mobile once they get their new low-frequency spectrum up and running and fix that.

As for Mr. Legere's antics, well, while I think he could be a little less confrontational and chill out a bit on the trash-talking, he does keep things interesting and I appreciate what he's doing to shake up the industry in a way that benefits the consumers. He makes things happen and gets things done, and I like that.

drokssilva says:

There penetration has much improved in LTE areas. Do you have tmso LTE were you live?

Sent from a Starbucks in the middle of the Sahara desert.

Analog Spirit says:

Yes, their LTE is available in my area (L.A./SoCal area), and as I said, their coverage is pretty solid around here. But I would lose all signal as soon as I entered a building; I mean, my signal would literally die right at the door. And it sucks because I'd much rather be on T-Mobile but the lack of indoor signal penetration is just not going to cut it for me.

That's why I'm going to have to wait til they get their new 700 MHz (LTE band 12) spectrum up and running so that, theoretically, I should be able to get a signal indoors. It'll probably be another year before that happens. Of course, I'm going to need a new phone for that because AFAIK no current phones support that LTE band. But that's OK because I've been wanting to get rid of this dying Nexus 4 anyway.

JON151 says:

I like the trash talk, let's have more!

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J Daniel White II says:

{ COMMENT 2 10:26 PM }

WOW ! 45 comments and 40 agree with the actions of T - Mobiles CEO.What is that telling us as a
{ "MOBILE NATION" } Maybe its time the plastic , phony, corporate image gets reviled for what it really is . Just maybe people are catching wise that their being ripped off big time not just on service but the price of their hardware. Just got to love corporate- capitalist America what ever the market will bare & fools will be fools . What a price to pay for bragging rights on a piece of plastic, ))) HAILS \,,/(òÓ,)\,,/ (((

sectime says:

That picture of the CEO is a great impersonation of Jack Nicholson in The Shining.
Here's Johnny

Analog Spirit says:

That'd be hilarious if John Legere rolled with that and started a new ad based on it. I wouldn't put it past him.

yourvillaint says:

Like many people I live in an area that only the big two cover well. I would like to see my bill go down and I've been paying attention to Tmobile and it's CEO. I have some worries no one seems to want to notice. One DT still wants to unload Tmobile USA personally I feel SoftBank as a parent could be a good thing as long as Son takes a hands on role and leave Legere in a real leadership role. It will be a hard merger to sell to regulators but not impossible. But here is where I start to think maybe Legere job is to polish up tmobile USA to be sold. Come in get people excited run a big campaign get some attention. Really yes Tmobile has changed some things in the wireless industry here in the states but it's big claim that you always hear from the people is no contracts. Yes the word contract is not used and if you bring your own device that certainly holds true. But if you take their current offer you have to get a new tmobile phone without a contract but with a monthly payment of around $20 something for 24 months and if you choose to quit the balance remaining balance is due at that point. Really how is that any different than an ETF and a contract. They still do unlimited plans big win for those that can get tmobile service. John Legere may actually care about wireless customers and some of his antics are fun. But I think people should tread carefully. It's not like we haven't seen slick salesmen before.

neurodave says:

I'm extremely tempted to switch. My contract is over in 6 months, so I won't mind paying the ETF as I'd make it up in savings in just 2 months of savings with T-Mobile. I am just so iffy because of their coverage, at least in the NYC area.

J Daniel White II says:

Hi - Had to answer you since I'm from N.Y. I travel from Long Island to Queens,Brooklyn, Bronx, & Manhattan on a daily bases and had no problems, just the other day while sitting on Mulberry St. In Manhattan I got a call from a friend in buss who was in Oakland Calif. and had no problems at all with reception. Hope this helps your decision making .

neurodave says:

Thanks for that tidbit of information! I decided to bite the bullet and ported my number over from Verizon to T-Mobile. I kept my iPhone 5s from Verizon since it's unlocked, and while they tried hard to get me to trade me phone in and they would pay my ETF with Verizon, I respectfully declined. My ETC is only about $160, and this phone is word 2-3 times more than that. I have to say that the speeds aren't as high as Verizon, where I would generally get between 60-80Mbps down and 10 up, but at an average of 28 down and 28 up, I won't complain. However, I notice that while LTE is available everywhere in my area, it is rather spotty in real life. In my house I get 3-4 bars of LTE, go outside and it drops to 4G, walk down the block back to LTE, go into my local coffee shop 4G. The 4G itself is rather slow, but seeing as I've cut my cellphone bill by 59% and now also have unlimited international calling (which my mom is already abusing) then I won't complain. Let's see what happens in the long run!

J Daniel White II says:

Glad I could help, let me know how it works out. :-)

SCPaul says:

It's great, if you're in an area that has service. Around here, their coverage sucks balls.

chaoticbuddhist says:

I had been a loyal T-Mobile fan since they were Voicestream in the 90's but it wasn't until I switched to AT&T in 2009 that I suddenly began to like my wireless service.

I understand that everyone likes who they like and T-Mobile for some isn't T-Mobile for all, much like my love of AT&T is sort of an unpopular opinion, but T-Mobile just has NO coverage where I live in Seattle making it not only a bad choice, but not a choice at all..

rockerchick says:

I can't switch to possible spotty service. I did that with Sprint for 2 years. It raise my blood pressure daily (I'm sure) to have shitty phone service. I am gladly giving Big Red my money (twice as much) to not have one single solitary issue with my service.

arunbala says:

The fact that I am not on ATT mobile share and still on the traditional plan actually makes ATT cheaper, as hard as that is to believe, than T-mobile. First of T-mobile coverage in my neck of the woods (western suburbs of N.VA, DC outskirts) is only just building up and too slowly for my taste. I pay ATT $110 for 2 on contract iphones with a corporate discount that knocks 20% off $100 primary line (550 family minute + 5GB data plan) + $30 for additional iPhone line. Whereas with T-mobile I'd have to get the $70 primary line with unlimited 4G data and an additional $30 for the 2nd line no corp discount. On top of this i'd have to fork over the unsubsidized phone EMI of $30 per line per month for a grand total of $160. In this case if I am ok with being stuck for 2 yrs on the same phone, ATT's subsidies actually work in my favor and their plan works out way cheaper. I could go with the Prepaid $30 T-mobile plan of unlimited data with limited minutes. But I'd have to live with a significantly poorer network and I lose international roaming and ability to tether - some of the more uncarrier features of T-mobile. Not compelled to switch yet.

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Jay Mobile says:

Where I live Tmobile has good coverage (NJ) I had been with them since they were voice stream but switched to sprint awhile back stayed with them for a few years and eventually ATT for the past 5 years. I am tempted to switch back to tmobile the price points are tempting but whenever I try to leave att just keeps sweetening the pot for me to stay. I have a truly unlimited plan (for me at least) and have to thank tmobile b/c when I mention tmobile to att they drop my price and keep me happy

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