In just seventeen months as T-Mobile CEO, John Legere has seen his “Uncarrier” strategy add 4.4 million subscribers.
Uncarrier is an awkward name for a carrier who does not behave like one. So if you’re on T-Mobile, you won’t have a contract, you’ll have cheaper bills because there are no more built-in phone subsidies, upgrades are less restrictive and more affordable, they’ll unlock your phone with less hassle, and you’ll even get (quite slow) unlimited global roaming. And if you’re not on T-Mo, then John will pay you to switch from another carrier.
It all sounds wonderful and I suppose it is. Before Legere, we were politely treated like schmucks by everybody. Once T-Mo started giving customers more freedom, the other carriers reluctantly joined in.
But that’s well documented. And it’s not hard to document it because Mr Legere is an extremely active tweeter, frequently calling out his peer at AT&T Randall Stephenson and pulling off a PR masterstroke by getting thrown out of an AT&T party, gaining national headlines in the process. Legere loves to re-tweet T-Mobile love-ins from customers and admirers, as well as re-tweet his own employees who have been encouraged to take in-store photographs with happy customers who have dropped their wireless carrier to join the Magenta Revolution.
But like any good marketeer, Legere will deflect the not-so-good things. For example, he was noticeably quiet last week about announced changes to the early-upgrade program, Jump!. He’s usually all over Twitter, kicking metaphorical sand in the faces of his lame competitors. But John knows it’s not as good a deal as it was so he knows when to keep schtum. You also won’t see him go head-to-head with the elephant in the room.
John hasn’t made friends with everybody though. T-Mobile have been doing their best to rid themselves of Blackberry for a while. It’s probably no surprise since interest in their phones have been waning for years now. But while other carriers still give their customers the choice of trying out and buying a Blackberry phone in-store if they wish, T-Mobile have taken deliberate steps to sideline the company’s product.
Speaking as someone who flips phones twice a year, I tend to jump (pun probably intended) between Android and Blackberry every year. Over the last two and a half years I’ve gone from the first Galaxy Note to the Blackberry Bold 9900 to the Galaxy S3 to the Blackberry Z10 and to the Galaxy Note 3. I’ve even used Apple and Windows Phone. I’m fairly agnostic.
Since I’m on the Jump program – perfect for someone like me – I was all set to pick up the Blackberry Z30 as my next phone in April. The problem? T-Mobile don’t carry it. And they won’t carry it. The demand for the phone has led to a petition and a campaign directly addressed to John Legere.
But T-Mo even went further than sidelining and ignoring their Blackberry users – they started trolling them.
Now you can call Blackberry users sensitive if you like. But the bottom line is that these are Legere’s customers, they pay money for their phones and their service and they are all still waiting for T-Mo to issue a software update that even Verizon began rolling out.
Legere’s response? Well, promising actually.
BlackBerry users, I'm hearing you loud and clear. Let me work with the team and get back with you.—
John Legere (@JohnLegere) February 16, 2014
But what did it amount to? Nothing. A wishy-washy, say-nothing cop-out that patronized Blackberry users by telling them they did not have to give up their devices. Bless them.
Legere is absolutely entitled to say we won’t sell any more Blackberry phones. But the problem is, he won’t say it. He won’t explain where the 10.2.1 update is, why he can’t find shelf space for Blackberry and he won’t clearly state “we will not carry the Z30 – please go to Verizon if you want it”.
People like Legere are a breath of fresh air but it doesn’t take much for someone who is so “out there” to fall out of favour. The changes to Jump, this ridiculous press release and his alienating of a small but enthusiastic paying user base, may suggest that the honeymoon period is coming to a close. For Legere perhaps he feels he is near the end anyway if Sprint end up buying T-Mo. I think that would be job done.