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Will T-Mobile's hundred dollar smartphone with ten dollar data plan win subs?

Chief Executive Philipp Humm said in an interview that many of his smartphones will eventually be made up of Google-powered phones costing less than $100, half as much as the smartphones typically available at U.S. carriers. In October, to lower the cost of monthly bills, Mr. Humm introduced a limited data plan that costs $10.

via T-Mobile Smartphones to Head Down Market – WSJ.com.

T-Mobile seems to be attempting to differentiate on price. In a regular market reaching saturation that might be a viable strategy. However the market is neither regular not saturated. T-Mobile’s chances of gaining large share are limited.

Churn, or the chance that a user will switch networks is still very low. If anything, AT&T and Verizon are more sticky and lose fewer customers than T-Mobile and Sprint.

Mobile computing saturation (25% to 30% penetration) is also not nearly at a point where competition on price leads adoption.

Lastly, the $100 price point is being put against the standard $200 price point which itself is an illusion for the user. The drop in smartphone entry price is not as powerful going from $200 to $100 as it is from $300 to $200. Psychologically, $200 is an inflection point. Apple’s $100 3GS pricing (now $49) is defensive and probably effective.

In short, the market for telecom services is not very “liquid” and users are quite trapped in their carrier contracts, pricing is not yet a basis for competition and pricing illusions persist.

In conclusion:

Mr. Humm, in an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, acknowledged that the likelihood Verizon Wireless getting the iPhone as well could affect his subscriber numbers.