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AT&T CEO likes the idea of unsubsidized smartphones, plans to watch T-Mobile closely

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Smartphone shoppers looking for value prices and flexible payment options may have another carrier to choose from. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently said that he liked T-Mobile USA’s approach when it comes to removing smartphone subsidies from its plans.

The AT&T CEO expressed interest in this type of plan on Thursday during the carrier’s quarterly earnings conference call. Stephenson didn’t specify any actions that AT&T could take toward implementing new mobile payment options, but simply admitted that it was an attractive idea.

“We expect there to be some dynamics in the marketplace that –and we’ll have to respond to some of it, we find interesting like the handset financing that they’re doing,” Stephenson said when discussing T-Mobile’s proposed merger with MetroPCS.

The AT&T chief continued to say that the carrier has considered no-subsidy options in the past.

“That’s something we’ve looked at on several occasions,” he said, according to a transcript of the conference call published by Seeking Alpha. “I kind of like the idea, commend them for trying it. It will be something we’re going to [be] watching, how it is received in the market place. And in terms of other players, it’s just – it’s hard to say what the dynamic will be. But I think it will be just a little bit of open field running this year.”

T-Mobile’s Value plans essentially operate in the opposite manner of traditional carrier plans. While most carriers lower the price of a smartphone in exchange for a two-year binding contract, T-Mobile offers the option to pay for the phone in full for a cheaper monthly plan. Customers can also pay off the cost of their phone in monthly installments rather than all at once.

If AT&T decides to act on this idea, the carrier will join the likes of small scale carriers such as Leap Wireless, Cricket and Metro PCS. This wouldn’t be the first time a major U.S. carrier decided to roll out a value cost plan. In fact, Sprint’s recently announced pay-as-you-go service just launched today. The carrier announced this plan earlier this month, and will now offer contract-free service. 

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