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T-Mobile's moves catch Verizon and AT&T's eyes, but is contract-free really free?

Daniel Ionescu | April 8, 2013
T-Mobile isn't the only carrier contemplating a subsidy-free future. Verizon will keep a close eye on consumer response to T-Mobile's initiative to drop contracts and phone subsidies, and if it picks up, the country's largest carrier might even adopt the model--but that doesn't mean it will necessarily be easier to switch carriers or get a cheaper deal.

And does the ability to walk away from your carrier's plans equal cellular freedom in any case? Not quite. T-Mobile won't unlock your phone for use on other carrier networks until the hardware for is paid in full. And once you do that, you may find your options sorely limited in any case; different networks are built atop different technology, so your T-Mobile phone won't play nice on Sprint or Verizon's networks, for example.

If T-Mobile's so-called contract-free alternative catches up with customers, it's indeed likely that Verizon and AT&T would shell out their own versions of the deal to remain price competitive. Unless you buy your phone up-front, however, you'll find your choices under these "contract-free" plans to be just as limited as before.


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