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T-Mobile woos Verizon customers by offering phones with free trials

The carrier's new "Never Settle" promotion will give Verizon customers a free phone to play with for 14 days and then pay Verizon's early termination fee for customers who switch over permanently.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere wants Verizon customers. Sarah Tew/CNET

T-Mobile is going directly after Verizon subscribers in its latest attempt to win over more customers from the competition.

Starting May 13, T-Mobile will introduce a campaign dubbed "Never Settle," the carrier announced on Tuesday. And here's how it works:

Verizon subscribers can port their existing phone number to a T-Mobile phone, which they can use for free for up to 14 days. After the 14-day trial, customers who decide to stick with Verizon can return the T-Mobile phone. T-Mobile will then refund any costs incurred during the trial and any costs for resuming service with Verizon.

Customers who opt to jump ship to T-Mobile, however, can trade in their existing Verizon phone and keep the new T-Mobile phone. In return, T-Mobile will foot the bill for any outstanding payments on the device or any early termination fees of up to $650. Either way, Verizon customers can try out the new promotion without having to pay anything.

People can also choose not to trade in their existing Verizon phone, a T-Mobile spokesman told CNET. A trade-in is required only if the customer wants T-Mobile to cover the cost of Verizon's early termination fee or other expenses associated with the contract.

T-Mobile has typically been stuck in fourth place in terms of customer numbers. behind Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. On April 28, T-Mobile announced that it had added 1.8 million customers during the first quarter, bringing it to 56.8 million. Verizon ended the quarter with 108.6 million total retail subscribers, of which 102.6 million alone were the most valuable postpaid customers. Meanwhile, Sprint remains the third largest major carrier in the US. Sprint on Tuesday reported it added a total of 1.2 million new customers during its fourth fiscal quarter, which ended March 31.

T-Mobile's new campaign is unlikely to do any major damage to Verizon's numbers but it could at least carve off a small chunk.

With outspoken CEO John Legere at the helm, T-Mobile has gained a reputation for its hardball tactics in trying to win over customers from the other top three US mobile carriers. Lagging far behind Verizon and AT&T in the number of subscribers, T-Mobile has played the role of feisty underdog, challenging the big boys on early termination fees and other penalties for customers who switch carriers in the middle of their contracts. And as the mobile players now offer installment plans as an alternative to two-year contracts, T-Mobile has responded by offering to pay off the balance of such plans to convince customers to switch.

"Last week, I said we would hit right back at Verizon -- I meant it," Legere said in a statement. "T-Mobile's 4G LTE network is the nation's fastest. Not faster for the price...just faster, period. With T-Mobile, you don't have to settle for trickery, gimmicks and carrier BS the way you do with Verizon. I'm so confident in our kick-ass network experience that we're footing the bill so Verizon customers can give T-Mobile a try."

T-Mobile has also saved much of its venom for Sprint as the two carriers have dueled for the No. 3 spot in the mobile industry. In February, the two debated over which one had scored third place with T-Mobile claiming that Sprint played with its subscriber numbers to push it ahead.

To try out the "Never Settle" 14-day trial, Verizon customers can visit a T-Mobile retail store or the T-Mobile website between May 13 and May 31.