T-Mobile's Legere Badgers The Big Boys

T-Mobile, the No. 4 mobile carrier that has given new life and meaning to the old Avis adage of “we try harder,” fired another round yesterday — particularly at favorite target AT&T — at its “Uncarrier 4.0” press event at the Consumer Electronics Show. It is offering a “get out of jail free” card to its competitors’ customers, as Geek Wire’s Todd Bishop live blogged.

“In perhaps the most daring move yet,” writes Brian X. Chen in the New York Times, T-Mobile CEO John Legere confirmed speculation “that it would cover the termination fees for individuals as well as up to five lines per family for consumers who leave their carrier.” And the deal goes a bit further than most observers were suggesting it would. “Customers can receive up to $650 in credit after trading in their phone,” Chen writes.



“This industry blows. It's just broken. It needs change,” Legere told the assembled, according to a piece by John Brodkin in Ars Technica. The bluster is all part of the carrier’s insurgent marketing strategy, as is gleefully obvious to reporters on the beat.

International Business Times’ Thomas Halleck has compiled the “11 Best Quotes” from Legere at CES. Here’s another gem: “We are either going to take over this whole industry, or these bastards are going to change, and the whole industry is going to shift. I don’t give a g--damn which. I can’t wait to watch the peckers scream and cry.”

“Legere clearly knows what he is doing,” writes BGR’s Zach Epstein. “The nation’s No. 4 carrier was barely an afterthought in the press a few short years ago and now the media just can’t get enough of Legere and his antics. Known for letting loose with profanity during press conferences and bashing AT&T every chance he gets, Legere has made quite a name for himself.”

Droid Life’s “Kellex” is among those bloggers who have been ahead of the broad outlines of the buyback story, starting with their calling attention to a Tweet by Legere on Dec. 17 that it is “time to eliminate another customer pain point.” 

In asking readers what they thought Legere meant by that, Kellex reminded us that “we have already seen [T-Mobile] attempt to rid the world of contracts, remove subsidies from phone bills, introduce innovative new upgrade plans, hand out 200MB of free data to all tablet owners, and give away free unlimited data across the globe in over 100 countries.”

He also got early confirmation on the new T-Mobile initiative Tuesday night when he spotted “an ad popping up on tech sites” that promised “we’ll pay for your family’s termination fees.”

AT&T tried to preemptively scoop T-Mobile last week with a release that said it would “give up to $450 worth of credits to T-Mobile customers who abandon the carrier and switch to AT&T,” as Ars Technica’s Brodkin put it at the time. 

Legere and AT&T are more than the Hertz and Avis of the digital age, with the professional competition turning into the kind of personal animosity you most often see in the arenas, and putting greens, of sports. 

In a widely reported incident, Legere was escorted out of an AT&T party Monday night.

He claims he just wanted to see musician Macklemore perform,” writes Karis Hustad in the Christian Science Monitor. “In reference to the incident, he played a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song as he walked up to the stage at the event on Wednesday.”

“Legere is used to pissing people off, but said he usually does so from a safe distance,” wrote re/code’s Ina Fried, who cornered him after the ejection. “He also pointed out that AT&T spent a small fortune on the party, noting he could have cut prices quite a bit with all the money AT&T spent.”

Not coincidentally, perhaps, “at roughly the same time Legere was being tossed from the party, AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega was onstage at the Audi keynote announcing AT&T had won a deal to replace T-Mobile as the provider of wireless services for the German automaker’s vehicles,” Fried writes, citing an unnamed observer as the source.

Lucky for all parties involved that societal norms have shifted over the centuries, and what was once settled at 20 paces with instruments such as these are now handled by dueling tweets and hashtags such as #shipsinking.

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