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T-Mobile’s plan to Reinvent: cheap plans and faster Android updates

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Though it has a scant 10-12 percent market share, T-Mobile is planning to out-do the nation’s largest wireless carriers. In an interview with All Things Digital, CEO Philip Humm outlined the carrier’s strategy to return to its roots and offer more for less. He plans to heavily support Android by offering a wider array of handsets and pushing out Google’s updates in a fast and efficient manner.

“The organization is going back to its roots,” said Humm. “VoiceStream and later T-Mobile really started in the market as a challenger. They started with big buckets of minutes at the time and later with unlimited minutes. These are things which, in a sense, are coming back now.”

Though it still uses a few of the trick tactics carriers are implementing today–like a $25 plan for 200MB of data, which is hardly enough to check your email–T-Mobile is showing maturity, offering slightly better rates than Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint in some key plans. The company is also running a new line of ads touting its new “4G” network while cutting into the competition. A big part of its strategy, however, centers around Android.

Let Android be Android

Though many carriers are putting big bucks into promoting Android phones (see: Verizon), Humm believes that simply offering more devices and better support may be the best strategy. Unlike many carriers, T-Mobile doesn’t plan to add lots of its own custom software to new Android phones. Instead, it will let Google do the heavy lifting and concentrate on what a carrier should do right: offer speedy updates when Google releases them, and support. The company has a program called Reinvent that will attempt to work with handset manufacturers and Google to get updates out the door faster.

“It is key for us to maintain the strong relationship we have with Google and to be very fast with Google, testing and then launching improved operating systems,” Humm said. “I don’t think it is our most important duty to really tailor all the things in a complicated way.”

It’s nice to see at least one carrier ready to let Google do its thing. Unfortunately, handset manufacturers may be the main culprit for the slow rollout of Android 2.3 to devices. Hopefully T-Mobile’s Reinvent program addresses the lack of incentives for manufacturers to update devices.