T-Mobile's Google Pixel offer has 2 hidden gotchas (updated)

T-Mobile says it will give customers $325 if they bring their own Google Pixel phones to its network. The deal sounds solid, but there are at least two things you need to know before you opt in.

google pixel in hand
Credit: Jason Cross

(Editor's note: This story has been update to correct an inaccuracy regarding the storage capacities available as part of T-Mobile's Pixel promo. Changes are marked below in bold and strikethrough text.)

T-Mobile is trying to lure fans of Google's new Pixel Android smartphones away from Verizon Wireless with an offer to refund half a significant portion of the device's purchase price. If you read the fine print, however, at least three two gotchas make the offer less attractive than it seems.

T-Mobile isn't the only one making misleading comments about the two Pixels. Verizon touts its hold on the new phones with ads that say "only on Verizon." That's not exactly true. Verizon is the only carrier that sells the Pixel and Pixel XL, but if you buy an unlocked phone from Google, it will work on any U.S. major carrier's network.

From the offer T-Mobile announced on Thursday:

"Starting tomorrow, bring your Pixel Phone by Google to T-Mobile and get up to 50 percent back off the retail price — that's $325 off the cost of the smaller Pixel — when you sign up for T-Mobile ONE."

Pixel is expensive, so getting some cash back sounds good. But the offer doesn't put cash in your pocket. Instead, T-Mobile will give you a $13.55 credit on your monthly phone bill for 24 months. That adds up to $325, but it's not at all the same as getting a check for that amount. Or course, if you agreed to pay Verizon for a Pixel in monthly installments, you have to repay the full amount before you can switch to T-Mobile or any other carrier.

[Related: Google makes more on Pixel than Samsung, Apple on flagship phone]

T-Mobile's offer is also only good for the 32GB version, which might not be enough storage for some users. You could take advantage of Google's Drive cloud storage to get around that limitation, but it's still a limitation.

If you choose to take your Pixel to T-Mobile you need to sign up for the company’s T-Mobile ONE plan, as well, which offers unlimited talk time, text and 4G LTE data. Unfortunately, the carrier can also throttle those plans if you use more than 26GB of data in a month. It's not a bad service plan, but customers who sign on for the new Pixel offer can't also participate in T-Mobile's Carrier Freedom offer, which includes a $650 rebate for customers who defect from other carriers.

To comment on this article and other CIO content, visit us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.
Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.