T-Mobile is expanding its popular family mobile plans with a new target audience—it's now offering specially discounted T-Mobile One Unlimited 55+ plans for $60 combined for two lines for families of two people, including at least one who is 55 years of age or older.
The new monthly 55+ plans, which include unlimited data, text and voice, were unveiled Aug. 7 and are priced $40 lower than T-Mobile's recent promotion offering two lines of service for $100 a month, which has been available since February. The $60 rate is 40 percent lower than the $100 rate available to customers who are under age 55.
The $60 two-line 55+ rate incorporates T-Mobile's autopay feature, which automatically bills a customer's credit card or bank account each month. If autopay is not authorized, the service costs an extra $5, or $65 per month for two users.
The 55+ service is also available for single users, with the first line of service at $50 a month with autopay, compared with $70 a month with autopay at the company's standard rates. The second line can be added on the 55+ plans for $10 a month. Under T-Mobile's standard non-promotional rates, it normally costs $120 a month for two lines with autopay—giving 55+ plan customers a savings of 50 percent compared to the normal rates.
Customers choosing the 55+ phone plans can use their existing 4G LTE smartphones if the devices are GSM network-capable, or can purchase new phones using T-Mobile monthly payment plans. Any GSM-capable smartphone is eligible to be used with the 55+ plans. Customers can check to see if their devices are compatible with T-Mobile's network by visiting a special webpage and entering their device details.
The new 55+ plans are only available for families of two people and don't permit the addition of extra phone lines. Users must go to a T-Mobile store with a photo ID to show proof of their age to sign up for the phone plans. Only the primary account holder must be over 55—the additional user can be any age.
T-Mobile said it is offering the new plans aimed at seniors to counter existing senior phone plans from competitors that offer fixed minutes of talk time, low or non-existent mobile data allocations, and "dumbed-down" handsets that lack modern features. Some 93 million Americans are over the age of 55, and most use smartphones an average of 149 minutes a day—almost as much as Millennials, who use their phones an average of 171 minutes a day, according to the company.
Bill Menezes, a mobile analyst with Gartner, told eWEEK that T-Mobile's move to target users who are 55 and older with notable price cuts is smart marketing.
"Given how Millennial-focused T-Mobile's marketing and brand image have been [typically], it will be interesting to see how well it can get the attention of the Boomer demographic that may not be as responsive to messaging centered around dudes with lumberjack beards and rappers," said Menezes. "Then again, one expects T-Mobile has done its market research as usual and has identified a potentially underserved segment that is ripe for new competition."
The move could also be effective because competitors have done little to attract the 55 and over market segment with better services at lower prices, he added.
Another analyst, Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research, was less impressed. Dawson said he sees the new 55+ plans as "not as special as T-Mobile is making it sound," compared to the company's regular pricing. "It's not like AT&T or Verizon force over-55s into special plans for seniors. On the other hand, there certainly are [older] seniors who do want simple devices and basic services, and that's who the other offerings tend to be targeted at."
Dawson said he doesn't see why customers over 55 would need or want to buy different plans compared to those offered to single people or childless couples at any other age.
"Like many other T-Mobile promotions over recent years, this is mostly clever marketing that exaggerates the status quo as well as how different T-Mobile's approach is," he said.
The T-Mobile One Unlimited 55+ phone plans also include other T-Mobile service benefits, such as Simple Global unlimited text and data roaming and flat-rate calling in 140+ countries and destinations; Mobile Without Borders, allowing customers to talk, text and use data in Mexico and Canada on their existing phone plans; and unlimited texting and one hour of free GoGo mobile WiFi service on all Gogo-equipped domestic flights.