Friday, June 26, 2015

Bullet Point Analysis: Jump! on Demand - more than just device leasing

WHAT IS IT?

Jump! on Demand is T-Mobile’s variation on Sprint’s device leasing idea that started with the iPhone (i.e., iPhone for Life).  The lease term is for 18 months and users may trade-up up to three times (or upgrade to different smartphones [“superphones”]) in a year.  An enterprising customer can milk six upgrades within this term at months 1, 2, 3 and then in months 13, 14 and 15 (or variations).  

Jump! on Demand’s availability begins on June 28, 2015 and to kick the program off, a limited time promotion of an iPhone 6 (16 GB) at $15/month will be the go-to market poster child.  While this shares the Jump! moniker (Un-carrier 2.0), there isn’t any direct connection aside from the theme of quick device upgradability.

ANALYSIS

From a macro view, just copying Sprint’s leasing scheme isn’t enough based upon T-Mobile’s in your face/pro consumer market positioning. The big consumer benefits are:
  • 18 month term vs. the Sprint norm of 24 months
  • Ability to swap smartphones.  Customers may swap three times in a year (12 months) at AND a maximum of six times in 18 months.
  • When a customer upgrades or swaps a smartphone, they receive a new, not refurbished, smartphone. 

WHAT’S IN IT FOR T-MOBILE?
  • Customer retention: Every carrier’s base have those early adopters who want the latest and greatest.  Jump! on Demand appeals to that base with up to six swaps in the short 18 month lease term.   This in essence furthers these customers’ device addiction.  Additionally, the Jump! on Demand’s device portfolio contains the most desirable flagship ‘superphones’  (for now, i.e., iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy S6, Galaxy Note 4, LG G4).
  • New customer acquisition: Any way to get a flagship device for cheap will draw attention. Coupled with plan promotions and lower pricing against the big two carriers, Jump! on Demand is a big and important weapon in the T-Mobile marketing arsenal. 
  • Overall net additions: In the Q1 earnings call, T-Mobile increased their postpaid net add guidance from 2.2/3.2M to 3/3.5M. Note also that they added 1.1M postpaid customers in 1Q15 and that they intended to ‘front load’ the adds.  Of course front load could mean three quarters instead of the first half of ’15.
  • Better vendor pricing leverage:  Though the price may be a wash from the customer facing view, large carriers with more scale look to limit their device acquisition costs. If a carrier can drive more volume, lower per unit price usually bears fruit, which helps in the whole profit picture.


WHICH COMPANIES WILL FEEL THE MOST IMPACT?

·      In the following order:

1.     Sprint – because the company is an alternative value leader against T-Mobile and those customers who are drawn to the once unique leasing scheme has been topped.  This also moves the focus for specifically those “Cut Your Bill in Half” Verizon and AT&T customers onto T-Mobile.  If the decision makers are device centric and price sensitive, then T-Mobile will be a prime consideration.
2.     Verizon Wireless – T-Mobile is specifically gunning for Verizon because that’s where the majority of the industry’s postpaid users are.  The Never Settle for Verizon campaign (a Test Drive [Un-carrier 5.0) on steroids) kicked off on May 5th with a trial period from May 13th to the 31st was extended until June 27.  Extending a switching campaign usually means that it is working.   
3.     AT&T – T-Mobile has historically targeted AT&T back in the same GSM technology days. I place AT&T last since of the big two, Verizon is the bigger fish in terms of postpaid base. Moreover, AT&T’s retention efforts have paid off tremendously in uber low churn metrics.  The aggressive $0 Next messaging has also been widely by AT&T as a key component of customer retention.

  • Apple stands to gain in terms of T-Mobile volume based upon specifically the $15/month promotion.  Normally $27.08/month, T-Mobile’s $12.08 discounting is akin to a subsidy but T-Mobile PR cringed at that word.  Regardless of whether it’s filed as a marketing cost, the discounting is real.  Perhaps like in a car leasing analogy, a lower monthly price may be had with assigning a higher residual at lease end.
  • Samsung, LG and possibly HTC may likely see more flagship device volume movement since Jump! on Demand calls for new and not refurbished devices. Logically, if there is the possibility of long term device swapping, more units should be in the pipeline. However, the iPhone promotion may increase the volume gap in Apple’s favor.
  • Refurb and secondary market companies will sell increase business volumes. Though it’s logical that ‘used’ devices will feed the insurance side and some will find its way into MetroPCS, the secondary market whether domestic or international will see some benefit.


COMPETITIVE RESPONSE?
  • There are now two national players offering leasing. AT&T and Verizon may hold off but they cannot ignore this device payment approach. The concept is simple and by all accounts from Sprint’s initial success, customers like it.  T-Mobile adopting the approach validates the concept in the marketplace.  AT&T and Verizon will have to respond and it has to be before Q4.  If not, they will be even more vulnerable.
  • Sprint will need to modify its leasing approach, at a minimum expanding the term options, also before Q4. Matching the number of times to upgrade also needs careful consideration and figuring out a positive business case. Sprint has already stated that they can get favorable device pricing given SoftBank's global buying power.  Sprint needs to have a plan in place if it is to keep its positive net add momentum of which device leasing plays a crucial role. 
  • Aside from national players, regional players may or may not join. Large regional carrier US Cellular joined the equipment installation plan fray.  For that carrier, an EIP is now competitive tablestakes against competitors, and a component of returning to positive postpaid net adds (after a couple of years in the negative territory).   


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