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T-Mobile: Take an iPhone for a free test drive

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(Stephen Brashear/AP Images for T-Mobile)

(Read caption) T-Mobile CEO John Legere introduces “T-Mobile Test Drive” during the T-Mobile Un-carrier event Wednesday June 18, 2014 in Seattle. A complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission says T-Mobile charged customers for third-party services, even when customers had no knowledge of the services.

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You know how you can test drive a car, take it out for a spin, see if it fits your fancy? Ever wanted to do that with, say, a phone? Well, now you can. 

Refusing to let Amazon hog all of the tech world's attention this week, T-Mobile announced Wednesday at its Uncarrier 5 event in Seattle a new plan to give users free seven-day trials of the Apple iPhone on the T-Mobile network. The service is aptly called "T-Mobile Test Drive." Users interested in this little test drive can sign up online, receive an iPhone 5S in the mail, use the device (free of charges) for a week, and then return it to a retail store. 

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T-Mobile also announced that streaming music from eight major streaming services, including Spotify and Pandora, will not count against users' monthly data. It will also provide its own music-streaming service called "UnRadio," the result of a partnership with music-streaming service Rhapsody. This service will have no ads and no limits on the number of songs that can be skipped for customers with the $80-a-month, unlimited high-speed service plan. All other customers can receive the service for $4 a month. 

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The wireless carrier is the self-branded "Uncarrier" for its "Don't play by the rules" attitude that includes benefits for consumers, such as no annual service contracts. Per this attitude, T-Mobile is trumpeting its data plans as a way to distinguish itself from the competition. At the event, T-Mobile chief executive John Legere noted that T-Mobile customers use 69 percent more data than Verizon, and 100 percent more data than AT&T. 

"We see ourselves as a mobile Internet company," Mr. Legere said at Wednesday's event. 

The announcement came just hours after Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos unveiled the new Amazon Fire smart phone – not a total surprise seeing as Legere makes a habit of taunting his competition on Twitter. 

For example, of the Amazon phone's exclusive arrangement with AT&T, Legere tweeted Tuesday: 

Although T-Mobile trails the other three major wireless carriers in the US, it has been making moves in recent years since AT&T tried, and failed, to acquire T-Mobile in 2011. That failed acquisition, however, had an upside for T-Mobile – AT&T paid parent company Deutsche Telekom $4 billion as a break-up fee. 

In the past year, T-Mobile has seen a boost in subscribers. It added 1.3 million monthly subscribers in the first fiscal quarter of 2013, more than rivals AT&T and Verizon combined, according to Forbes

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“A year ago I promised that we would bring change to what I called this arrogant US wireless industry. We are delivering on that promise and our results reflect the growing customer revolution that we’ve ignited,” Legere said in a statement. 

Still, the company's stock has dropped 2.9 percent this year, according to Bloomberg.  

T-Mobile is reportedly in talks to merge with rival Sprint. 

-Material from Reuters was used in this report.