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Editor's Letter: A not-so simple choice

Tim Stevens

In each issue of Distro, editor-in-chief Tim Stevens publishes a wrap-up of the week in news.

At a rather vitriolic (and frequently profane) presentation given to a small group of frequently bemused journalists (myself included), T-Mobile CEO John Legere laid out the company's reinvention. In the interest of keeping things PG I won't repeat the colorful language, but Legere accused the other major carriers of being not only confusing, but also misleading -- ignoring the fact that his own company has, for years, enacted the very same policies. No more. It's time for the UnCarrier to step up.

But, it's important to note that you'll be paying full price, or near to it, for your smartphone.

First is a series of contract-free Simple Choice plans, which are similar to those the company offered before. It's $50 for "unlimited talk + text + web" -- though the data use is indeed limited to 500MB. Stepping up to truly unlimited everything is $20 more, which is a fair bit cheaper than the biggest plans from competing carriers. But, it's important to note that you'll be paying full price, or near to it, for your smartphone.

Top-tier smartphones, like the BlackBerry Z10 and iPhone 5 (which, yes, T-Mobile is finally going to be selling), will cost just $99. That seems like an amazing deal for a contract-free phone, but there is a catch. That's actually a down payment on an interest-free loan with a repayment rate of $20 a month over the next 24 months. Total cost for the iPhone 5? $579, a fair bit cheaper than the $649 Apple will sell it for. Since you can pay up-front and walk out the door with an unlocked, AT&T-friendly handset for that price, we're thinking T-Mobile might be selling a lot of these.

Gallery: T-Mobile iPhone 5 hands-on | 20 Photos

There is indeed no two-year contract, but if you should stop your service with T-Mobile, you're still on the hook for the rest of the value of that phone. The company will give you a trade-in value for the used device, but it remains to be seen whether the delta between that and the payoff will, on average, be lower than the typical ETF.

DNP Editor's Letter A notso simple choice

I'm giving T-Mobile a bit of a hard time because, despite all the rhetoric, I don't find these plans to be simpler than those of the competition. Still, I like the increased transparency surrounding the pricing of handsets. Now all the company needs is a proper network, and that's coming soon. Seven LTE markets went hot this week, but two of the company's biggest markets -- New York City and San Francisco -- were notably absent. The network was flipped on temporarily in NYC for the event, and we saw healthy speeds in the 20 - 40 Mbps down and 8 - 10 Mbps up range. What they'll look like when the network is properly saturated remains to be seen.

BlackBerry posted its first earnings as, well, BlackBerry.

BlackBerry posted its first earnings as, well, BlackBerry. Hot on the heels of the Z10 finally arriving on US shores, the company posted a small profit of $94 million on $2.7 billion of revenue. That the company turned from last quarter's loss to a profit despite reduced revenues shows that Thorsten Heins' drastic cost-cutting measures and restructuring of the entire company are working. It is, however, far too early to gauge the overall consumer reaction to the Z10. We'll wait another quarter for that.

DNP Editor's Letter A notso simple choice

The Game Developers Conference took place in San Francisco this week, and while many eyes were on the OUYA console, which is slated to ship to backers this week, Sony took the opportunity to drop us a few more nuggets of information about the PlayStation 4. Nothing earth-shattering, but, for example, we now know the Blu-ray drive on the unit is three times faster than that in the PS3, the cap of 100 friends on the PlayStation Network is being lifted, the new Eye camera has an integrated tilt sensor and the Remote Play functionality will let you play PS4 games at the Vita's native resolution of 960 x 544.

Gallery: GameStick hands-on (GDC 2013) | 32 Photos

Netflix, flush with confidence after the rave reviews for House of Cards, has gone out and announced its next major property. Sense8 is a "gripping global tale of minds linked and souls hunted" being developed by the Wachowski siblings of Matrix fame and J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5. I hope certainly that the production values and acting talents lean more toward that former property than the latter one.

In this week's Distro we take you inside the redesign of the latest ThinkPads, examining how Lenovo is carefully and gingerly retooling the classic layout of its keyboard and trackpad to keep up with modern devices without excluding devoted fans. We also have reviews of the Ableton Push, Sonos Playbar and the Dell Latitude 10. Switched On continues the discussion on crowdfunding, Modem World examines the modern malaise and Moog's Amos Gaynes sits down for Q&A. Kick back and enjoy -- even if you're still not quite sure how to pronounce "Moog."

This piece originally appeared in Distro #84.

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