Apple’s New iBeacon Helps Customers Navigate Its Stores

A few weeks ago, we shared how retailers are tracking customers’ routes in their bricks and mortar stores with the mention that Apple would soon launch its new iBeacon shopping technology.

On Friday, December 6, Apple finally released iBeacon message and location services to 254 U.S. retail stores – just in time to catch those shoppers still hunting for the perfect holiday gift. The Los Angeles Times reported that Apple’s New York City flagship store is equipped with 20 iBeacon devices throughout its facility.

Through iBeacon, shoppers can receive different notifications on their smartphones or tablets depending on where they are in the Apple store. For instance, they may get information on a particular product they pass, be asked if they’d like to see if they’re eligible for an upgrade when they walk by iPhones, or get a notice when their order is ready for pickup.

The problem for a retailer like Apple is that customers must configure their iOS devices to receive notifications, pushed out by iBeacon through a Bluetooth connection. This includes downloading the latest Apple Store app. According to TechCrunch, “Every iOS device since the iPhone 4S and iPad 3rd gen is already capable of being either an iBeacon receive or transmitter, as long as it’s properly configured.” It went on to say that almost 250 million iPhones and iPads could be enabled by the end of 2013.

Why iBeacon is not as robust as it could be

The idea behind technology like iBeacon is that it could generate additional sales for a retailer by cross-selling, offering deals and promotions, and luring customers into its store. iBeacon works well for Apple by greeting customers and sharing additional information on products, but at this point, it likely won’t drive greater sales, especially if customers see no value in it.

Wrote Gary Allen of Forbes, “Before the roll-out, one of the most-promoted capabilities of iBeacon was the ability to offer coupons, rebates or price reductions to specific store visitors, based on their location within the store. A shopper in the shoe department might be reminded to buy socks, or would even receive a 10 percent off coupon for socks. At a grocery store, a shopper in the pasta aisle would be directed to the location of spaghetti sauce or French bread, both discounted.”

The problem with this feature for Apple customers is that the company doesn’t offer discounts on its products. The iBeacon can suggest a phone charger or phone cover when someone buys an iPhone, but there’s no additional incentive for the customer to make the purchase. While iBeacon technology could drive more sales at say, a Macy’s or a Best Buy, at Apple, the customer doesn’t get to enjoy the added benefit. And without an incentive, customers are less likely to enable their phones or welcome notifications.

At this point, many retailers have instituted technology-driven shopping tools, such as QR codes and iPad displays. However, Apple is setting the standard by connecting the information directly to customers instead of customers having to be active in the experience. But the iBeacon may have more legs in other retail stores that put an emphasis on sales and promotions.

Smartphones Drive Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales

Retailers like Macy’s, Kmart and Toys“R”Us stirred up controversy this year by opening their doors to shoppers on Thanksgiving. While Black Friday is considered the biggest shopping day of the year, they believed they could capture lightning in a bottle by extending offers to the night before.

While the stores were packed, it didn’t equal to a growth in sales. The National Retail Federation found that sales from the four-day shopping bonanza dropped almost $2 billion from the year before. While people still went for the social aspect of holiday shopping, they didn’t necessarily open their wallets as they have in the past.

Yet, the news isn’t all bad for retailers – especially those who have optimized their sites for smartphone use. TechCrunch reported that smartphones drove 25 percent of all online traffic and 7.2 percent of sales on Black Friday. More important, according to Branding Brand, an mobile platform design and development company, smartphone-optimized sites had 76 percent more visits and 187 percent more sales over the same time last year.

“Optimized” is the key word for the smartphone shopping experience. Shoppers want sites that load fast, are easy to navigate with their smartphones, and push notifications about special offers. Yet, too many companies fail to optimize their sites, leading users to head off to their competitors.

In a study from Branding Brand, a sample of 152 of its clients in various industries saw 9,319,715 site visitors on Black Friday and 174,111 online orders placed. The average order value was $93.20, with iOS users spending the most. Branding Brand’s data proves that individuals are becoming more comfortable with shopping through their smartphones.

The trend toward smartphone shopping extended into Cyber Monday as well. IBM Benchmark found that online shopping on Cyber Monday was up 17.5 percent from last year and that mobile devices accounted for 29 percent of all online traffic. Research firm comScore forecast Cyber Monday sales of $2 billion.

For companies like Walmart, mobile-optimized sites have been a game changer for their businesses. Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com told the Associated Press that 2013 is the “tipping point” for mobile shopping. According to the AP, more than half of Walmart.com’s traffic on Thanksgiving and Black Friday came from mobile devices.

For consumers tired of traffic, crowded malls and frenzied Black Friday mobs, smartphone shopping makes perfect sense. They can easily compare prices, find the best deals, and order gifts anywhere they are. In addition, with many retailers offering free shipping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s simply easier for shoppers to buy online.

With the lower-than-expected sales results on Thanksgiving and Black Friday as well as the increase in online shopping, it will be interesting to see if retailers open up their doors on the holiday again next year. It probably makes more sense to invest that capital into creating better optimized websites and offering online sales that allow savvy shoppers to easily shop all season long.

International Stolen Smartphone Database Launches Days Early

The rise in smartphone theft is continually growing. Every minute of every day, 100 phones are stolen throughout the U.S. According to the New York Attorney General, smartphones were stolen from 1.6 million victims in 2012 alone, costing these individuals billions in replacement fees and possible identity theft. Unfortunately, some victims are losing more than the smartphones – they’re losing their lives over the devices.

In some cases, the thieves use these smartphones for their own personal benefit, but in most instances, they are sold on the lucrative international black market. And once the phones are out of the owners’ hands, so is access to their email, social media accounts, financial accounts, and other private information.

To help combat smartphone theft in the U.S., the top four carriers – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless – met with the FCC, CTIA (the international trade association for the wireless industry) and police chiefs across the U.S. to launch a U.S. stolen smartphone database in April 2012. In November 2013, CTIA took the initiative one step further by releasing a global, multi-carrier, common database for LTE smartphones days ahead of its November 30 deadline.

Through the database, carriers can block activation of 4G and 3G smartphones anywhere in the world. Relying on IMEI serial numbers instead of carrier-controlled SIM cards, the database limits the number of outlets to which thieves can sell these stolen smartphones. Users simply have to report their information to their carrier who will enter it into the database.

The international element

However, the new database depends on collaboration with the international market. Said CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent in a press release from the organization, “As more countries and more carriers around the world participate in the 3G and 4G/LTE databases, criminals will have fewer outlets since these stolen phones would be blacklisted and could not be reactivated.”

That international element is a crucial piece that has been missing from the current database and one that is necessary for the initiative to succeed.

“While the U.S. database has been active for a year, New York City officials say it hasn’t made a real dent in smartphone thefts,” reported The Verge. “Since foreign carriers weren’t included in the original effort, organized crime syndicates are literally fronting truckloads of cash to shop stolen smartphones overseas where they can be sold without fear.”

In addition, San Francisco district attorney George Gascón has pointed out that the U.K.’s database has not slowed down smartphone crime in that country.

Gascón, like other attorneys general throughout U.S., is pushing for the smartphone killswitch, which allows a smartphone to be deactivated once stolen. Carriers argue that killswitches allow hackers to disable phones that are currently in use by their owners; Gascón defends his theory that carriers are too worried about the financial hit they would face if customers stopped taking out insurance to cover stolen smartphones.

Even a large chunk of the CTIA press release places the emphasis on customers, rather than the database, urging them to be attentive to their surroundings and purchasing apps that can deter smartphone robberies. Remarked Largent in the release, “We encourage customers to use currently available apps and features that would remotely wipe, track and lock their devices in case they are lost or stolen, and our members are continuing to explore and offer new technologies.”

Since the database is new and not yet proven, it’s important to take Largent’s advice and do everything possible to protect your smartphone and your personal information. One picked pocket or snatched purse and your personal data is in someone else’s hands.

 

Motorola Releases Its Moto G Early to Meet Demand

Motorola got technology fans excited on November 13 when the company debuted its Moto G low-cost, high-quality smartphone. The excitement only grew this week when the Moto G went on sale November 26 – over a month earlier than expected.

According to CNET, demand for the new Moto G overseas pushed Motorola to ramp up production. And because of that, they were able to get the smartphone to the American market faster, just in time for the holidays.

Motorola has already gained fans with its popular customizable Moto X model, its first smartphone collaboration with its parent company Google. Since the Moto X launch, more than one million people have visited Motorola’s site to play with the customization tool, and sales have quickly started to climb.

Moto G is considered the cheaper alternative to Moto X. The new smartphone starts at just $179 with no contract, no SIM lock and an unlockable bootloader. In comparison, most smartphones without service agreements start at $600.

The Associated Press noted that Motorola is going after pre-paid accounts with Moto G, “Under those plans, customers pay for devices up front, but are not tied to two-year service agreements. Credit-challenged customers who don’t qualify for traditional plans often sign up for prepaid accounts.”

How Moto G is changing the smartphone game

Early adopters and tech experts say low-cost does not equal low-quality. Many have praised Moto G’s capabilities, including its long battery life, its high-resolution display, and its fast processing. Reported eWeek, “The Guardian called the Moto G the ‘best budget smartphone’ and one that lives us to its ‘game-changing’ hype.” Like the Moto X, Moto G can be customized, to a lesser degree, with colorful protective Shells.

However, the Moto G also has its cons. The $179 version only comes with 8 gigabytes of storage (though users can upgrade to 16 gigabytes for $20 more), the camera is not as robust as it is on other smartphones, and the screen is  capable of high-definition video only at 720p. Furthermore, at the moment, the Moto G will only work with GSM networks, and therefore isn’t compatible with Verizon and Sprint which run on CDMA networks. However, CNET reports Verizon is committed to selling the Moto G for its prepaid brand after the first of the year.

For years, customers have had little choice – expensive phone with no contract or inexpensive phone with a two-year contract. Now, thanks to Moto G, users have the affordability and flexibility they’ve been clamoring for, but they don’t have to give up features or quality to get them. As the gift buying season progresses, it will be interesting to see where Moto G sales end up by January.

How Stores Are Interacting With Your Smartphone

With the biggest shopping season of the year now in full force, customers are whipping out their smartphones at home and in stores to do their holiday shopping. According to RetailCustomerExperience.com, 75 percent of smartphone owners use their devices as part of their overall shopping experience while one-third of shoppers access a retailer’s app in its bricks and mortar store.

While you’re tracking down the best deals, your favorite stores could be tracking you from the moment you step inside their doors. Just as their online versions track your usage, including following you across different websites to keep their products front-of-mind, bricks and mortar stores want to do the same.

In some instances, customers give permission to stores by checking in through apps like Foursquare. The store can see that visitor and automatically provide him a discount or special offer upon check-in or have him join a loyalty program to reward multiple check-ins.

On the other hand, tracking is often under the radar. According to Quentin Hardy of The New York Times, the moment you enter a store, your phone automatically pings to find a Wi-Fi network to connect to. Through software from companies like Euclid Analytics, that store can use that ping to determine the number of people coming through the doors, how long they stay, and how often they come to the store. In addition, with multiple Wi-Fi antennae, the store can use this information to track each person’s trajectory through the facility.

The benefits for stores are tremendous – the information provided can help them plan more effective store layouts, find out which displays work and which don’t, and better execute promotions. In turn, as Hardy explained to NPR, guests would receive coupons on their smartphones they enter the store or even an immediate discount on shoes if they walk by the shoe department.

Concerns about privacy

Even though the information is anonymous as the stores are tracking the signal, not the shopper, customers are concerned about the invasion of privacy. While they’re used to it while shopping online, when someone is tracking their movements in person, it feels a bit Big Brother. For instance, this summer, customers were upset when Nordstrom posted signs explaining their new smartphone tracking system. After receiving feedback from their customers, Nordstrom discontinued the experiment for the time being.

Yet, many stores are pushing forward with software that enhances the customer’s experience and their own bottom lines. For instance, BGR reports Apple will soon launch its new iBeacon location tracking technology in its retail stores. The iBeacon is similar to a GPS and can trigger actions when a customer with a smartphone walks by its sensors, such as providing direct access to information on a certain product through the Apple Store app.

Remarked writer Chris Smith, “In the future, the technology could be used to track customers waiting for Genius Bar appointments, send notifications about the repair status of an Apple product to customers walking by the store, show product-related ads and deals and even offer support for purchases with enhanced security.”

When it comes to tracking, customers aren’t quite ready to give up a sense of privacy in order to receive bigger deals in return. In their eyes, saving money isn’t worth knowing that their favorite stores are tracking their movements from the front door to the cash register, regardless if they’re anonymous or not.

Who Is Killing the Smartphone Kill Switch?

In the battle against smartphone theft, many manufacturers have the ability to add a “kill switch” to their phones, which allows a user to disable his or her phone after it’s stolen, making it unusable and worthless to thieves. The Apple IOS7 operating system, for instance, offers both “Find My iPhone,” which locks the device, and a kill-my-phone feature that keeps someone from using the phone altogether.

On November 12, 2013, 31 state attorneys general sent a letter to Google, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung, encouraging them to implement a kill switch on their phones to combat theft. According to CBS News, more than 1.5 million smartphones were stolen last year – New York has seen thefts rise 40 percent while San Francisco reported smartphone thefts make up 50 percent of their robbery reports.

The problem is, the five biggest wireless carriers in the U.S. won’t back the request. San Francisco district attorney, George Gascon, who has been in talks with Samsung on installing kill switches on their phones, said that based on emails he received from a Samsung executive, carriers are concerned with losing profits they make on insurance programs and the costs of replacement phones.

Remarked Gascon to CBS News, “We’re talking about a $60-billion-a-year industry, and about half of that seems to be attached to the replacement of phones that are being stolen. So we’re talking about a lot of money here.”

Critics of the kill switch also point out the technology is not yet robust enough to lead to a rapid implementation. If the proper software and apps are enabled., most smartphones offer users the  capabilities to remotely wipe a phone, preventing thieves from getting to personal information. However, the SIM cards of smartphone brands like Blackberry and Microsoft can be replaced and the phones returned to factory settings to be sold on the black market. Experts are also afraid hackers could disable phones, and users would not have the ability to reactivate them.

As an alternative to the kill switch, CITA, the international trade association representing the wireless community, has established a nationwide database that can deactivate smartphones which have been stolen and stop smartphone theft. However, critics counteract that the responsibility for smartphone recovery lies with the victim, and in many cases, stolen phones are sold on an international market which the database doesn’t cover.

In Samsung’s case, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint all refused to approve the kill switch. Gascon remarked their rejection could lead to a rise in smartphone thefts and possibly threaten the safety of robbery victims.

“Corporate profits cannot be allowed to guide decisions that have life-or-death consequences,” he remarked to The New York Times. “This solution has the potential to safeguard Samsung customers, but these emails suggest the carriers rejected it so they can continue to make money hand over fist on insurance premiums.”

Until there’s no longer a market for stolen smartphones thanks to a universally-required kill switch, there is a chance your mobile device could be at risk at any time. Therefore, you need to protect yourself by locking your phone, installing anti-theft apps and keeping records of your serial numbers and other pertinent information.

The Battle for Snapchat

It’s a scenario every single one of us only dreams about, but a decision that could be a tough one to make.

You’re a 20-something entrepreneur whose business makes no money – yet, Facebook and Google both come calling with billions of dollars in hand. Do you sell to the highest bidder or hedge your bets that you’ll soon be running alongside them?

This week, for Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, founders of Snapchat, the answer is the latter – and they’re being both applauded and criticized by experts in social media.

Remarked Jeff Macke, writer at Yahoo Finance, “A college dropout running a company with almost no assets, no revenue and a mountain of legal problems, Spiegel is betting Snapchat can transcend the stigma of the ‘next big thing’ and become an industry unto its own…either one of the most brilliant entrepreneurs ever, or a delusional fool.”

What is Snapchat worth?

Snapchat-logo-430x430As one of the most popular social media apps, Snapchat allows users to send photos and video messages which disappear after the recipient views them. Unlike traditional text messages, it offers a higher level of security and privacy as there’s no record of the message. In February, users sent 60 million messages a day by smartphones and tablets – by November, that number has raced to 350 million a day.

It’s no wonder Facebook – who also bought another popular photo-sharing site, Instagram – came calling with $3 billion cash offer. Shortly thereafter, Gawker reported that Google came courting as well with a $4 billion offer, including its insistence that Snapchat would remain a standalone app. Although both offers were well within investor’s valuation of the company, Spiegel turned them down.

While passing on the offers seems crazy to many, the Washington Post pointed out it’s important to remember that Google turned down a bid from Yahoo in its early days and is now worth $287 billion. Facebook, which also turned down numerous offers, is now worth more than $100 billion.

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was 22 when he turned down a $1 billion offer from Yahoo to buy Facebook,” wrote the Post’s Matt McFarland. “He has done just fine since. When you have a product with a great upside, don’t sell it to someone else. Spiegel might only regret what he could have built with Snapchat. He is wise to learn from the history of the man sitting across the negotiation table from him.”

Spiegel sees a similar future for Snapchat. Instead of building revenue just around advertising, Snapchat will also offer applications like virtual goods and games to make interaction more robust for users. In addition, Snapchat is the more private of the social networks, allowing users to communicate confidentially instead of putting their information out in the world to see – a swift departure from the other social media sites and one that will continue to grow.

As Facebook continues to lose its lucrative teenage and young adult market to Snapchat, it’s no surprise it wants a piece of the pie. However, Snapchat must grow this user base substantially in order to secure the investors and revenue it needs for long-term success.

Smartphone Giants to Battle in Court This November

This month, two of the biggest names in mobile are going head-to-head in court over issues of patent infringement that have touched some of the world’s most popular smartphones and tablets. And it’s not the first time – or the last – that they will face off regarding intellectual property.

Last year, a jury found that 26 Samsung products infringed on six Apple patents. Apple accused Samsung of copying the look and feel of its iPhones and iPads for its own Galaxy Prevail, Infuse 4G, Galaxy Tab, and other mobile device models. The company proved in court that consumers would have bought their products if Samsung hadn’t produced such similar mobile devices. Although Samsung countersued for $421 million, it received nothing from Apple in its case.

CNET reported that Apple demonstrated Samsung had no products that resembled the iPhone or iPad until both products were released while Samsung counteracted that its research into touch-screen phones and giant screens were in the works long before Apple launched the iPhone.

“In the trial, which lasted about a month, Apple’s executives and designers detailed their design processes and compared Apple’s products with Samsung’s to illustrate how the products were similar,” noted Brian X. Chen of The New York Times.

Apple was awarded $1.05 billion due in part to the loss in sales caused by Samsung’s alleged infringement. However, in March, Judge Lucy Koh vacated $450 million off the judgment and ordered a new trial because she believed the jury miscalculated the damages. Although Samsung must still pay $600 million, they could owe much less or much more than $450 million in royalties and damages once a new jury takes a look at Apple’s alleged lost profits.

The single award doesn’t put a huge dent in either manufacturer’s overall finances, but sets the precedent for cases moving forward. Currently, the companies are involved in multiple disputes, including a March 2014 trial which will take a closer look at Samsung’s Galaxy S III smartphone which at one point, according to The New York Times, was a bigger seller than the iPhone.

Said Shara Tibken of CNET, “A few hundred million dollars means very little financially for Apple or Samsung, which generate billions of dollars a year in profits. But where the retrial could be key is setting up appeals. It also could create precedence for further cases related to patent infringement in the new mobile world.”

The upcoming court case isn’t the only battlefield in the Samsung/Apple war this fall. Previously, both companies had products banned by the United States International Trade Commission because of patent violations. However, in October 2013, the Obama administration cleared Apple of the allegations, but maintained the ban on select Samsung mobile devices due to touchscreen actions and headphone plug-ins that were patented by Apple.

Jury selection for the trial begins November 12, with a verdict expected around Thanksgiving. Whatever the result is and whatever Samsung may have to pay, the verdict will shape how juries look at smartphone patents long into the future.

How Smartphone Cameras Are Taking the Focus Off DSLR’s

Because improved smartphone cameras take better photos than ever before and apps allow us to edit our images, even the most inexperienced photographers are posting and sharing quality photos online.

What’s convenient for the consumer is problematic for the standalone camera industry. While it’s no surprise the smartphone’s more capable cameras are taking a bite out of the entry-level point-and-shoot camera market, they’re also eating into DSLR camera manufacturers’ profits.

According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), DSLR sales dropped 9.1 percent over last year, and both Canon and Nikon have lowered their forecasts for the fiscal year. In addition, Tamron, a maker of lenses, saw its shipments drop 22 percent during the first three quarters of 2013.

The smartphone versus the DSLR

While professionals and serious hobbyists are going to stick with DSLR’s, many consumers who considered the high-end cameras now wonder if they need all the bells and whistles. A DSLR has significant advantages over a smartphone camera, including better sensors and interchangeable lens for enhanced photo quality. They’re also taking advantage of features popular in smartphones, such as geotagging and social sharing.

However, many consumers are content with a smartphone camera’s capabilities as well as its convenience. Why haul around a camera bag when you can just pull a smartphone out of your pocket to catch a quick shot? Other features and benefits that have increased the smartphone’s popularity include:

  • Enhanced quality – Smartphone camera quality has improved significantly over the past two years. “Many of today’s leading smartphones offer not only high megapixel counts, but astounding software that lets them shoot in a wide variety of different modes,” noted InformationWeek. Nokia’s Lumia 1020, for instance, offers a lossless zoom and controls similar to a DSLR.
  • Immediate sharing – Because of social media, consumers want to share their images instantly. In just seconds, they can shoot a photo, edit it from their phones, and post it to Facebook. While some DSLR’s offer social sharing, most still require users to upload the photos to their computers before sharing.
  • Simple storage – People rarely print their photos anymore. Instead, they house them on digital album services or share them on social media sites such as Instagram. Since online photos don’t need to be as high-resolution as printed photos, there’s less demand for DSLR cameras.
  • Easy editing – Built-in features and online apps make editing photos simple, even for the most inexperienced novice. Google+, Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram all have editing options almost anyone can use.

While the DSLR industry has been affected by the rise in smartphones, it still sees significant growth among those who value quality over convenience.

Said Canon spokesman Takafumi Hongo to WSJ, “Taking photos with smartphones and editing them with apps is like cooking with cheap ingredients and a lot of artificial flavoring. Using interchangeable-lens cameras is like slow food cooked with natural, genuine ingredients.”

However, as smartphone manufacturers continue to enhance their cameras to appeal to consumers’ immediate desire to share, post and tag, the smartphone/DSLR battle promises to be an interesting one to watch.

How the Fourth Largest Network is Gearing Up to Take the Lead

When a wireless provider beats industry forecasts by 47 percent, outsells the second and third largest cell networks, and transforms the traditional cell phone contract model, consumers sit up and take notice. And more important, these consumers race to the retail store to get a piece of the action.

After years of financial losses, Forbes noted that T-Mobile experienced a  7.4 percent growth in the third quarter of 2013, generating more than $6.7 billion in sales for the company. The company added 648,000 new long-term net subscribers – more than 200,000 than what industry analysts predicted. In comparison, AT&T added 363,000 subscribers and Sprint 360,000.

Reported ZDNet, “In spite of the relatively slow three-month period for smartphone sales – the awkward quarter before the lucrative December period – T-Mobile was still able to power through by selling 5.6 million smartphone units.” The growth marks the second consecutive quarter of increase since T-Mobile became a public company.

What’s fueling T-Mobile’s growth?

The biggest reason for the bump, according to experts, is that T-Mobile has separated itself from the standard cell phone plans. With its Simple Choice service plan, it eliminated the annual service contract while offering unlimited text and data in 100 countries for no additional charge. This summer, it launched its Jump! Program in which customers can upgrade their phones whenever they want.

TMobileIn addition, since the provider began offering iPhones in March 2012, sales have continued to grow. ZDNet reported that iPhones now make up 15 percent of T-Mobile’s sales. ZDNet also noted T-Mobile’s acquisition of MetroPCS  helped spur sales as 1.5 million MetroPCS customers were added to its network.

The results of the third quarter have T-Mobile adjusting their overall year numbers. According to the Associated Press, T-Mobile expects to add 1.6 million to 1.8 million of “good credit customers” in 2012 – an increase of its previous prediction of 1 million to 1.2 million subscribers.

It’s numbers like these that are changing how competitors, experts and customers are looking at the fourth largest wireless provider. As the Associated Press wrote, “Craig Moffett, a telecom analyst with MoffettNathanson, reiterated that the latest report underscored the need to take T-Mobile seriously. Before coming out with various plans to break industry practices, T-Mobile was largely regarded as an afterthought.”

Over the next few months, expect to see more cell networks change their contract policies in order to stay competitive in a market in which customers are heading toward providers that offer convenience, flexibility and immediate upgrades.