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T-Mobile's next 'Un-carrier' move is to buy your loyalty with free stuff

The wireless carrier says customers will get freebies such as free pizza, inflight Wi-Fi access and even shares of its stock.

Josh Miller/CNET
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T-Mobile plans to give company shares to its customers.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile wants its customers invested in the company's future. Literally.

The nation's third-largest wireless carrier said Monday that it will give one share of T-Mobile stock to millions of its customers, while providing people a chance to earn more shares by referring friends and family to switch over.

The stock giveaway is one element of Un-carrier 11, a wide-ranging customer appreciation program that also includes freebies such as pizza from Domino's, a Frosty dessert from Wendy's and an hour of free Wi-Fi access on planes through GoGo.

The giveaways make up the latest move in the 3-year-old Un-carrier campaign, which has won over consumers by poking holes in standard annoying wireless industry practices and offering incentives to switch. The program helped T-Mobile top its competitors in last week's American Customer Satisfaction Index and post industry-leading phone customer growth.

"This Un-carrier move is all about giving you good thanking!" CEO John Legere said in a statement. "No strings. No gotchas."

But critics note that this latest move is far from the industry shake-ups T-Mobile caused when it killed off contracts and phone subsidies.

"It's hard to avoid the sense that T-Mobile is running out of really meaningful things to do to attract new customers," said Jan Dawson, an analyst for Jackdaw Research.

T-Mobile's announcement follows last week's AT&T Thanks program, which lets you have a free ticket when you buy one on Tuesday, as well as gives you priority pre-sale access to concert tickets. T-Mobile's program, however, offers more giveaways.

Stock up

T-Mobile will give each new and existing primary account holder a single share of stock, currently worth $43.63. Customers with a post-paid voice account are eligible, which the company estimates to be roughly 11 million to 12 million people. If you're part of a T-Mobile family plan but aren't paying the bill, you're out of luck.

But any T-Mobile customer will get a chance to earn a share of stock for each person they refer to the carrier. You can go to the company's site and enter up to 10 numbers at a time of people you plan to refer, and if they sign up, you get a share. The company said it takes 24 hours to process a name, so you have to wait a bit between entering the number and getting your friend to sign up.

Customers are able to gain up to 100 shares a year through referrals. Subscribers who have been with T-Mobile for five or more years will get two shares per referral.

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The carrier is introducing T-Mobile Tuesday, an app that offers giveaways each week.

T-Mobile

To access the stock, customers have to sign up with Loyal3, a brokerage partner that acts as the delivery mechanism for the stock. The company said there is no fee to transfer or sell the stock, and that this program isn't a way to push you to use Loyal3 as a broker. (Customers are actually unable to use it beyond getting their T-Mobile shares.)

T-Mobile isn't issuing new stock for this program. Instead, it will use Loyal3 to buy stock in the open market and grant them to customers, a spokesman said.

More freebies

T-Mobile also introduced T-Mobile Tuesday, an app that offers giveaways each week. Each Tuesday, customers will be able to get a free medium two-topping Domino's pizza, Wendy's Frosty and a movie rental from Vudu, Walmart's online video-on-demand service.

Other one-time freebies will be thrown in, such as free movie tickets to see "Warcraft."

A T-Mobile spokesman confirmed the carrier is paying its partners, but that it is less than the face value due to the promotional benefits of the program.

The app will let customers compete for bigger prizes such as a $10,000 shopping spree with Gilt. Other partners include Samsung, Lyft, Major League Baseball and StubHub.

In-flight access

T-Mobile also plans to expand its existing feature that lets customers send and receive text messages for free to also include iMessage, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp and Viber.

Customers will also get one hour of free Wi-Fi access through GoGo's service, which is available on many domestic flights.

(Skip to the 20-minute mark to get to the start of the event.)