Home - , , - Is T-Mobile's SCORE! a Good Deal or Just Another Name For A Contract?

Is T-Mobile's SCORE! a Good Deal or Just Another Name For A Contract?

T-Mobile launched what it's calling another "uncarrier" move this week. It's named SCORE! and it lets both prepaid and postpaid customers upgrade to a new phone as often as every six months. 


SCORE! members can update to an entry level smartphone every six months or a higher end device every 12 months. The upgrades are limited to specific phones chosen by T-Mobile. Currently prepaid users upgrading after six months get a free Alcatel onetouch Evolve 2 Android phone. 

The Evolve 2 is a a pretty basic device, no LTE, 4 inch screen and just 512 MB RAM. But it only costs SCORE! users $5/month or a total of $30 after six months. T-Mobile charges non-SCORE prepaid customers $79.20 for the Evolve 2, but BestBuy currently has it on sale for $59.99, so SCORE! users would save $29.99 or $49.20. 

After 12 months SCORE! users can get a somewhat better free phone. Current free options are the $126 Alcatel onetouch Fierce 2 or the $168 LG Optimus L90. Both are a modest upgrade over the Evolve 2 with bigger 4.7 or 5 inch screens, better cameras and faster quad-core processors. However neither supports LTE, which is surprising as T-Mobile offers inexpensive LTE capable phones like the LG Optimus F6, ZTE ZMax and the Nokia Lumia 635 which are not available to SCORE! users. In addition, the L90 is currently on sale by T-Mobile at the closeout price of $49, which is a better deal than paying $60 and waiting 12 months to get the same phone through SCORE!

In addition to free phones, after 12 months of SCORE! payments, T-Mobile lets customers buy flagship phones at a discount. Currently available discounted phones include the Nexus 6 for $549.99 (reg $649.92). the Samsung Galaxy S5 for $499.99 (reg $609.60) or the Samsung Note 4 for $599 (reg $749.76).

I see SCORE! as a way to lock non-contract customers into a commitment to stay with T-Mobile for six or 12 months in return for a $50 to $150 discount on a new phone. The $5/month SCORE! fee is non-refundable so if you leave T-Mobile before you qualify for a free phone discount you lose the money you paid for SCORE! In addition, T-mobile decides which phones are free or discounted under SCORE! There's no guarantee that phones that are SCORE! eligible now will still be available under the program six or 12 months from now.

To me SCORE! only makes sense if you are committed to being a T-Mobile customer for at least the next 6 months, want to upgrade your phone every 6 or 12 months and aren't very fussy about what phone you upgrade to. The limited phone selection is the biggest problem I have with SCORE!, especially as T-Mobile seems to be using it to clear out non-LTE phones.

SCORE! strikes me as a rather inflexible and limited re-invention of the old sign a contract for a subsidized phone model.. Given the many great deals on phones and the way prepaid carriers are routinely offering users free phones, account credits and cash rebates to customers who switch operators, I don't find SCORE! very attractive. I'd rather put $5/month in the bank and keep my options open to upgrade my phone on my terms, not the carrier's.

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  1. To me, it is like a back-door contract. Something to tie you to paying one of the companies for a long duration.

    What you quote

    "I see SCORE! as a way to lock non-contract customers into a commitment to stay with T-Mobile for six or 12 months in return for a $50 to $150 discount on a new phone"

    sure sounds like a sort of contract to me, even if not as brutal as the typical contract one finds with the post-paid carriers.

    And, from my point of view as a very long time pre-paid customer, it flies in the face of the pre-paid "ethic" so to speak, of customers willing to flit away at a moment's notice to an entirely different carrier, MVNO, or postpaid plan if the one they are at starts to rot or another one starts to smell better...

    In your conclusion, you said

    " I'd rather put $5/month in the bank and keep my options open to upgrade my phone on my terms, not the carrier's. "

    Yes, and your "alternative plan" allows you to change your mind at any time, even decide to use the money to buy candy instead of a phone. All your choice, and I doubt you are losing any value at all compared to Score!

    Good discussion topic.

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    1. Overprices? They have the best deals. $100 for four lines! Verizon is $110 for TWO lines! Where have you been?

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    2. I agree, Verizon is crazy expensive, although you can get two lines for $90 ($45 per line) on Verizon Prepaid if 1GB - 1.5GB per line works for you, but you can't compare Verizon coverage with T-Mobile's. On the other hand AT&T's Cricket has the coverage and the price, 5 lines for $100, 2.5GB per line and No taxes.

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  2. Another $5, T-Mobile's plans are already overpriced. Maybe if this was included with all their plans at no additional cost they might attract some new customers but T-Mobile needs to add better phones for Score! to make any sense.

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    1. Their pricing is great for family plans. Especially considering it only cost $10 a line after the first 2. AT&T and Verizon charge $40 per line on contract with their newest plans, and 15 per line after data bucket fees for off contract of 10 GB or more 25 per line for less than 10 GB. I pay for 6 smartphones (1 unlimited the rest 2.5 GB) for the same price I was paying ATT 2 smartphones and a dumb phone.

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    2. Check out Cricket's group save plans, $100 for 5 lines, each line with 2.5GB on the AT&T network. No taxes and fees like you pay on T-Mobile, with Cricket you pay $100 that's it. And No contracts.

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  3. Dub this one "unprepaid"

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  4. This was a boneheaded move by T-Mobile.

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    1. It seems unappealing. But boneheaded? Not sure. It's not like they are going out on a limb with this and risking $$$. In fact, there's a chance a lot of people will pay into it, and never use it. Extra money without a lot of effort for T-Mobile.

      It is probably unappealing to all of us reading this. But I really doubt it will hurt their bottom line. Who knows. all us wags without MBA's might have no idea what we talk about and the Unprepaid Plan will be a huge success for the company.
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      Dennis, I see a lot of "members can..." in your article. That is what leads me to believe that many might pay into this and never exercise their option to get the phone. More money for T-Mobile.

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  5. The screen grab says "exclusive pricing on *all* of our hottest phones" all being the few phones T-Mobile chooses to offer. Isn't this false advertising?

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    1. Not sure there, bud. I'd wait to accuse them of that until I test the temperature of each phone being offered with a lab-level thermometer.

      I would bet that some of the burner-level T-Mobile devices get pretty toasty after being plugged into a charger for 12 hours, while the Galaxy S4's are cool as cucumbers.

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    2. OP above may have missed the second headline under the one quoted:
      "Take a look at just a few of our featured phones below."
      When you read the two sentences together, the five phones listed in the 12-month group are probably just examples. A quick call to Tmobile could clear this up.

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    3. Anon Feb 1 at 8:18 am
      Maybe you didn't read Dennis' article, specifically "The upgrades are limited to specific phones chosen by T-Mobile." While T-Mobile is advertising "exclusive pricing on all of our hottest phones." It can either be all phones or limited to specific phones, not both.

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    4. Haha. Now you have changed the T-Mobile terms. It's all their hottest phones, not all phones. Not necessarily a conflict at all; see the first reply above ;-)

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    5. Perhaps not, but saying "exclusive pricing on *all* of our hottest phones" instead of "exclusive pricing on *some* of our hottest phones" or "exclusive pricing on *selected* phones" is misleading advertising.

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    6. The fine print on the T-Mobile page says that after 12 months you can get $100 off any phone.

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    7. This article doesn't mention that you can get a $100 discount on any phone of your choosing after 12 months, are you sure?

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    8. What T-Mobile page is that? The page announcing SCORE! says: "After 12 months, SCORE! delivers exclusive discounted pricing on every phone, including all of our 4G LTE smartphones."

      The SCORE! terms and conditions page says; "Sample pricing tiers and other Program benefits can be accessed at http://explore.t-mobile.com/phone-upgrades-score and are subject to change by T-Mobile in its sole discretion without notice. Device selection will be subject to availability and all devices may not be available in all locations or may be available only in limited quantities."

      T-Mobile is saying that after 12 months you can get an unspecified discount off any phone. However, T-Mobile also says they can change the rules at any time.

      I think T-Mobile probably will do the right thing and give you a discount (not necessarily $100) off any phone after 12 months. But they left themselves lots of wiggle room to deny discounts or only give same ones on popular devices

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  6. Silly, but I guess there are some people out there that will take the bait and t-mobile wants them.

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  7. SCORE! has nothing to do with device protection or JUMP! either.

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  8. Cricket has better coverage for less. Buy a new Moto g or X, Oneplusone, ZTE Max or a dozen different refurbed phones off ebay and you will have better for less.

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  9. Obviously, when Legere says "SCORE", he means that he put one over on you again.

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  10. T-Mobile seems to be grasping for new deals that will "score" for them using the spaghetti strategy--throw it up to the ceiling and see what sticks. Recent deals have just further confused the market and seem to be nothing more than shells for store salespeople to play the shell game with customers. It's hard to see how they can compete doing this. My two cents would be to go the opposite direction, which I thought is what they were going to do with their "uncarrier" moves: super simple plan structure, transparent pricing that is very competitive, and win on better service. In some regions T-Mo service is fast and has reasonable coverage. Solidify those markets and gradually work on doing the same in more.

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  11. I agree with this article.

    The unknown availability and pricing of phones that will be offered 6 and 12 months from now make this a risk not worth taking. Even the paltry sum of $5 would be better allocated to savings rather than gambling on turning SCORE into a good deal.

    If they offered you $100 after 6 months and $200 after 12, that would have a much greater chance of being lucrative.

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  12. Cricket also has a 5dollar loyalty program(really $4.17) that you can't opt out of. I would rather have the discount and keep the money in my bank.

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    1. What program is that?

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  13. What happens if you pay for Score! but don't upgrade your phone for 24 months?

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  14. From T-Mobile's point of view, this program helps retain customers and increase cash flow in the short term. It is not like traditional contracts, because you can walk away at any time with no ETF. I think they are targeting customers who are not phone snobs; i.e., they do not need the latest or best models; they are not particular. People who don't shop all over the Internet looking for the best deal on the 'best' phone. Maybe people who wear out their phones fast, and don't want to spend a lot of money to replace them. By pre-paying, these customers get a discount, and a reasonable deal as long as they are not picky. Like most readers here, I won't use Score, but I don't see any problem with T-Mobile offering it. Let's not assume that most buyers are dumb and will be tricked out of their money. Score is an option that will appeal to certain buyers.

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    1. Cricket has a similar program, but it doesn't cost anything to accrue the discount. The problem is simply that you're getting the discount off of a phone that you have to buy through one particular channel. It isn't as if they are simply giving you a Visa rebate card that you an use anywhere. You'll get a $40 off a phone that may be overpriced by $30. Even paying $60's worth of installments to get a $100 discount is not worth being locked in to a carrier, in my opinion.

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  15. I only see people who know little to nothing at all about Android phones going for this plan. These are the same people who think Straight Talk is the best damn thing to sliced bread. In fact they don't give you a 4G Phone? absolutely rubbish. Now if a carrier offered 4G phones and you paid $5 extra to get a discount on all phones and a bigger discount after 24 months and you didn't have to lock yourself into a contract now that would be the way to go. No ETF and no worries if you move and decide to go with another carrier. I suspect maybe the smaller cellular companies like US Cellular may do something to compete with that for their Prepaid offerings.

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    1. Our Prog Rocker says...." I suspect maybe the smaller cellular companies like US Cellular may do something to compete with that for their Prepaid offerings."

      According to the story at Twice.com:

      "For $55 per month, customers get 2GB of high-speed data, and for $65 per month, they get 4GB of high-speed data. - See more at: http://www.twice.com/news/smartphones/cricket-us-cellular-get-aggressive-prepaid-plans/55865#sthash.bOm9vE87.dpuf"

      Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't a far worse $-for-data deal than at both Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T and related subsidiaries/companies?

      Even seems worse than Verizon prepaid.

      With a significantly worse network than the top 4 (Cape Fear, Iowa, interior Oregon), how can US Cellular compete? Is this a bad link or something?

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  16. I own an optimus l9, it isn't lte capable.

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    1. I wish it had LTE. It's a very good phone. For the record, T-Mobile HSPA+ is quite fast.

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