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T-Mobile May Be Ending Sales of Prepaid Phones at Best Buy, Walmart and Target

Phones and phone cards by Clean Wal-Mart
It looks like T-Mobile could be ending sales of branded T-Mobile Prepaid phones at national retailers, aka big box stores. Wave7 Research is reporting that T-Mobile has halted shipments of prepaid phones to Best Buy, Target, and Walmart.

I've saw evidence of the change at my local Target yesterday. Four of the six pegs that usually hold T-Mobile Prepaid phones were empty. The two phone models that were in stock had "Clearance" stickers on them and were marked down. The LG K7 was $62.98 (reg $89.99) and the HTC Desire 530 was $90.98 (reg $129.99). Spot checks of other Target stores using the Brickseek Target Inventory Checker also show very low T-Mobile inventory and discounted prices at all the Target stores I checked.

One the other hand,  T-Mobile Prepaid phones still seem to be readily available online from Best Buy and Walmart. Best Buy shows seven T-Mobile phones available online and Walmart has 12 models available. However, not many of the phones sold online by Walmart and Best Buy are available for immediate pick up in stores in my area.

I believe that T-Mobile is trying to shift prepaid sales from national retail to its own branded and franchised T-Mobile and MetroPCS stores. T-Mobile is definitely on a branded retail expansion kick. According to Wave7, T-Mobile is opening 400 new T-Mobile and new 1000 MetroPCS stores this year.

I have to wonder how well T-Mobile's apparent strategy of driving customers from national retail to its own stores will work out. I believe that people who buy prepaid phones at big box stores fall in to two categories. 1) Impulse buyers who grab prepaids for their kids while shopping for school supplies and small appliances and 2) savvy shoppers who research phones and carriers and look for the best deals. I can't see either type of  customer shopping for a prepaid phone at a T-Mobile store. I can't see the impulse buyer dropping into a MetroPCS store either, but the savvy shopper would if the price was right.

Regardless of what's happening it looks like this is an opportunity to pick up a T-Mobile phone on clearance at a Target store. Using the Brickseek Target Inventory Checker I found the following T-Mobile devices marked down at Target stores. A word of warning, these deals are in short supply with availability at any given store averaging about 10%. Use the Brickseek checker by entering your zipcode and the DPCI number (after price in listings below) to verify availability before heading to Target.

ZTE Avid Plus LTE Android phone $20.98 (reg $69.99) 080-15-0100
Samsung Galaxy Core Prime LTE Android phone $26.98 (reg $89.99) 080-15-0038
Coolpad Rouge LTE Android phone $27.98 (reg $39.99) 080-15-0039
ZTE Z64 Hotspot $34.98 (reg $49.99) 080-15-0033
Coolpad Catalyst (aka Ocas) LTE Android phone $41.98 (reg $59.99) 080-02-1328
LG K7  LTE Android phone $62.98 (reg $89.99) 080-02-1321
HTC Desire 530  LTE Android phone $90.98 (reg $129.99) 080-02-1322

Image: Phones and phone cards (CC BY 2.0) by Clean Wal-Mart

15 comments:

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  1. Dumb idea! Do they realize how long the line is, at T-Mo and MetroPCS stores!? This is going to benefit T-Mo MVNO that are still selling SIMs at the retail stores.

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  2. T-mo's phone, plan and paygo pricing are actually pretty terrible, so this doesn't bother me one bit.

    Cricket's still a much better deal, what with their heavy subsidies and large bill credits.

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    1. Cricket has a significantly better Network than T-Mobile as well. This might change in a few years, but for right now T-Mobile is not that good compared to it.

      What do you lose out on with Cricket? All these applications and services that will not stream at 8 megabits per second.

      There must be a huge list of these. But I have not been able to find out a single thing on this list. It is a deep dark secret, unlike the secret T-Mobile $30 plan.

      Chirp Chirp.

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  3. Can't you just get this online? That seems like the only option, with Metro PCS Etc storefronts being so rare.

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  4. I just seen the new Alcatel Pixi 4, can not remember which screen/display size for $40 at my Walmart. Also LG K7 was recently added in the last 6 weeks.

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  5. T-Mobile COO mentioned their desire to switch to online sales and self-activation. The BYOD sim activation kit is all I need.

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  6. Regardless of what's happening it looks like this is an opportunity to pick up a T-Mobile phone on clearance at a T-Mobile store."

    Perhaps you meant "Target"? Easy typo given all the T's.

    Also, to answer Anonymous @ 2:41 PM, there's MetroPCS stores everywhere in my locality, including in our Downtown. They might not be as eye-catching as other carriers, but are there.

    Finally, no more WalMart availability could close the door on the $30 100 min/unlimited text/5 GB plan.

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    Replies
    1. This Walmart, T-Mobile to Offer $30 'Unlimited' 4G Prepaid Plan came about on October 16th 2011. Coming up on 5 Years. Targets' Brightspot emerged in October 6th 2013. October seems right for changes at Big-Box retailers.

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    2. @jason MetroPCS stores are almost always located in very undesirable neighborhoods. In N Cal, it's mostly in really shady areas, ones you can you get robbed or shot at... "d pick Target or Walmart location over MetroPCS store locations.

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  7. So the $30 5GB plan may now be an online exclusively only.

    Dennis, any idea if SIM kit availability is going to be impacted? Best Buy (and I believe Target) sell SIM cards for $4.99 that, unlike the ones on t-mobile.com, are unactivated. Plus, .com's regular price is $20 and though they go on sale every once in a while, they come activated and you have to wait for shipping.

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    1. ALL Walmart T-Mobile SIM Kits at all Walmarts'in my area are now clearanced priced. All current model T-Mobile Prepaid phones are all also clearanced priced. Not seeing much yet with supposed changes at BestBuy in my area.

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  8. This just seems like yet another sign of the demise of brick and mortar stores. The best phone deals are found either online or at dealers. When was the last time the lowest price on a phone could be found at a big box store?

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    Replies
    1. I've gotten incredible deals at Walmart and Best Buy. Current phones for at least 70% off.

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  9. T-Mobile shifting from national retail was a given, it was just a matter of when it would happen. The expected increase in sales and activation volume just isn't there compared to the people that go in specifically looking for postpaid phones.

    Having previously worked for Target's mobile vendor in MarketSource, I can say with authority that T-Mobile prepaid was the lowest volume seller in prepaid next to Sprint Prepaid in-store, which no longer exists. Every T-Mobile prepaid phone I sold was a postpaid replacement, not a new prepaid activation.

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