Small business owners, you may want to pay attention to the new subscription that T-Mobile and Apple just announced today. Called Business Unlimited Ultimate+ for iPhone at $50/month/line, new customers with 6 lines will receive:
- Unlimited text, call and smartphone data domestically
- 200 GB of hotspot data per month
- Unlimited Wi-Fi on select flights from American, Delta, and Alaska Airlines
- Unlimited text and data while overseas, including 5GB of free high-speed data per month
- Each employee on a new line gets a new iPhone 13. All the lines get Apple Business Essentials, which includes device management, 24/7 Apple support, and iCloud backup and storage into a single subscription, and Apple Care+. The two Apple services in total cost around $13 per device per month.
T-Mobile business customers can add Apple Business Essentials and/or Apple Care+ separately without a group plan and pay the standard subscription fees set by Apple.
In addition to the new Ultimate+ package, T-Mobile already has 3 existing small business plans. Compared to Ultimate+, Business Unlimited Ultimate (BUU), the highest among the existing plans, offers 100GB less in hotspot data per month, no iPhone 13, no Apple Care+ and no Apple Business Essentials. On the flip side, it does have Microsoft 365 Business 1 Basic and 1 Standard license ($25/month value) and usually costs $40/month/line ($30 now as a limited-time offer). Since each iPhone 13 costs at least $700, small businesses likely find net benefits from Ultimate+, even though they will have to pay more every month for each line.
What I really don’t like so far about this deal is that there are plenty of terms & conditions that can catch customers off guard. T-Mobile makes it clear that $50/line/month doesn’t include taxes and fees, but stops short of explaining in details and an easy manner what those fees are and when they are applied. I get it. It’s hard to make any website appealing while displaying page after page after page of terms and conditions. However, companies usually obscure the important details and “force” customers to accept the terms and conditions before making a deal. I am afraid this won’t be an exception to the rules, based on the reputation of these companies.
What’s in it for T-Mobile?
The press release from the communications giant is that Ultimate+ is the first and only wireless plan in the country as of now that offers Apple Business Essentials and Apple Care+. I looked at the websites of Verizon and AT&T and indeed no plan can match the latest offering from T-Mobile. What Apple brings to the table will help their partner stand out from competition and attract small business customers. However, I remain skeptical of how much T-Mobile can benefit from Apple Business Essentials. Here is why.
To have at least 6 employees who actually NEED 6 new iPhones and data to do their job, a small business has to reach a certain scale. A team of two or three entrepreneurs likely won’t be the target audience of this wireless plan. Even if a small business meets the scale requirement, the expense won’t stop there. A phone is NOT the primary technology tool to work. You need a laptop or a PC. Apple Business Essentials only offers the maximum value when all the devices are in the Apple ecosystem. Hence, it will cost a small business more to cover Apple Business Essentials for the additional hardware, let alone the Apple Care+. In that case, a business owner will wonder if it is really necessary to shell out at least $300/month for Ultimate+. Or will it be better to just cover Apple Business Essentials for the laptops? Those who can justify the expense will even have to have a bigger operations scale. The higher the required scale, the less I think the impact that this new service will have on T-Mobile.
What’s in it for Apple?
This partnership with T-Mobile provides Apple with another channel to grow Apple Business Essentials. It’s logical to combine a device management subscription with a wireless plan. Instead of spending money and growing the workforce to market the subscription, through this collaboration, Apple can leverage T-Mobile salesforce and marketing efforts. After all, T-Mobile is the second biggest carrier in the country and has the scale as well as resources that Apple requires.
Then, why not Verizon or AT&T? I don’t know how Apple executives made this decision, but one possible reason is the advantage in 5G that T-Mobile has over its rivals. Contrary to AT&T and Verizon , which prioritize download speeds at the expense of coverage, T-Mobile is willing to lower the top speed in order to widen their availability. This approach leads to the highest customer satisfaction with T-Mobile 5G connection.
Know for its obsession with user experience, Apple doesn’t want spotty 5G services to ruin their device users’ experience. From the user experience and marketing channel perspective, I can see why Apple chose T-Mobile. But there could be plenty of other reasons, namely T-Mobile being the only carrier willing to bend to Apple’s will. Nonetheless, as an Apple shareholder, I am happy to see Apple’s push into the SMB world. This won’t be their last move.