I have to buy a device?

By Michael Goldstein

This has become the one obvious hurdle people need to clear before falling madly in love with Ting, so I want to address it as clearly and thoroughly as I possibly can.

Yes. You have to buy Ting-issued devices on our site before you can enjoy our monthly service plans.

Now, there tend to be two distinct responses to this.

I already have a device. Can’t I bring it over?

We wish you could. Believe me. We have made a very important business decision to view ourselves as a utility. We sell minutes, megabytes and texts. We see devices as vehicles that allow you to use our service. We do not make money on them. In fact, we are investing a bit to make them more affordable to you.

We actually would also love for people to be able take devices they bought at Ting elsewhere if they are not happy. Yes, we would lose money on a lot of these customers. But it would make our “no contract” claim that much more powerful and, we believe, ultimately engender a lot of loyalty. (“If you love someone, set them free!”)

Unfortunately, there are barriers that have been erected to prevent people from bringing devices from one provider to another, even providers on the same network. We will lobby, haggle, hack and do anything we can to try to change this. We expect you will do the same. But for now, we do not have a solution.

But I never buy a device! Why don’t you give me the device and I will make a commitment to the service?

And this is exactly what we mean by bringing clarity and control to mobile service!

When you get a subsidized or heavily subsidized device from one of the major providers and sign a long-term contract, you are absolutely paying for that device. The price, plus a significant premium, is buried in your monthly service. You are simply getting financing…at terrible rates. The only difference is that it is not being presented to you that way and you really have no idea exactly what sort of premium you are agreeing to. Please do not believe that any business (particularly one that has to offset huge marketing and network operating expenses) would ever give you a device for free.

At Ting, we want to deal with this in a much more straightforward manner. Look at the price of the device. Look at how much you will save each month on your service. Figure out for yourself if you like the whole deal. We are pretty sure your total spend after one or two years (typical contract lengths) will be much lower than what you would spend on the same device plus service elsewhere.

We know cash flow can be an issue. Paying as much as $545 upfront (for a sweet world phone, for example) can be tough, even to save $50+ a month going forward. But we don’t want to get into the business of financing, either covertly or transparently. It’s not what we do. And we urge you to consider smarter ways to finance your purchase (including your credit card, which is hardly a low cost lender) than financing it with a phone company.

We are challenging conventions here. And we are asking people to behave rationally, always a risky business move. But, again, we believe strongly that clarity and control will ultimately lead to better decision making, better value and a better overall experience.

EDIT: We’re offering regular device updates here on the Ting blog. Previously, we didn’t want to talk about our device lineup efforts before they bore fruit for fear of disappointing you. We’ve since realized that wasn’t very Ting of us. Please take these device update posts for what they are: an update on our efforts to get the latest and greatest devices. Not a set in stone device roadmap. With that said, please do take a look if you’d like to know what we’re working on on the device front.

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