BlackBerry CEO Chides T-Mobile for Promoting Switch to IPhones

BlackBerry Ltd. (BBRY) Chief Executive Officer John Chen chastised T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) for encouraging users of his company’s devices to switch to Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier, had touted the iPhone 5S for $0 down, according to a copy of the ad posted to website crackberry.com. “Switch to iPhone 5S and get powerful communications and productivity apps -- with the ease of use that Apple is known for,” said T-Mobile, which is based in Bellevue, Washington.

“As we were never told of their plans in advance, I can only guess that T-Mobile thought its ’great offer for BlackBerry customers’ would be well received,” Chen wrote in a blog post. “T-Mobile could not have been more wrong.”

Chen is working to reinvent Waterloo, Ontario-based BlackBerry after years of market-share losses to Apple and devices that use Google Inc.’s Android software. In October, Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI/B), Canada’s largest wireless carrier, responded to customer complaints by reversing a decision against carrying BlackBerry’s touch-screen Z30 model.

Some BlackBerry users expressed anger on social media at the T-Mobile promotion, prompting the mobile-phone carrier’s CEO, John Legere, to write on his Twitter feed that he had heard them “loud and clear.”

It was a rare moment of public contrition for Legere, who joined T-Mobile in 2012. Last month, he crashed an industry party hosted by rival AT&T Inc., and yesterday he reposted a T-Mobile tweet touting the number of people who have left Sprint Corp. to sign up for his company’s service. “Your framily is leaving you,” said the post, mocking Sprint’s promotion for friends and family.

‘Outraged Too’

While Chen’s letter didn’t mention Legere’s name, it did address T-Mobile directly.

“I hope we can find a way forward that allows us to serve our shared customers once again,” he said.

To customers, he said: “I can assure you that we are outraged too.”

While T-Mobile has offered BlackBerry’s Q10 and Z10 since they were introduced last year, the carrier began removing the device maker’s products from its stores in September, requiring buyers to have the phones shipped to them instead.

“We are happy to be a BlackBerry partner and apologize for any confusion,” T-Mobile said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The company said it will start providing free, expedited shipping of BlackBerry devices by the end of this week “as an additional courtesy to our BlackBerry customers.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerrit De Vynck in Toronto at gdevynck@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sarah Rabil at srabil@bloomberg.net

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