T-Mobile grows by another 2.3M connections as it rakes in more smartphone customers

T-Mobile’s year-long growth spurt continued in the third quarter as the country’s smallest carrier added 2.3 million net new connections and inched ever closer to surpassing [company]Sprint[/company] as the third largest mobile operator in the U.S.

[company]T-Mobile[/company] had 52.9 million subscribers at the end of the Q3, it said in a release late Monday. While Sprint hasn’t reported earnings yet for this period, it had 54.5 million subscribers at the end of June. Most significantly, Sprint has been shrinking, though Sprint’s recent shakeup in management may help change that trajectory.

As in previous quarters, T-Mobile’s biggest source of growth was in new smartphone activations as it continues to chip away at its larger competitors’ core customers. [company]AT&T[/company] and [company]Verizon[/company] are adding smartphone customers as well, but not at the pace of T-Mobile. The carrier recorded net adds of 1.2 million new postpaid phone customers, the majority of which are buying smartphones. Meanwhile T-Mobile gained a net total of 411,000 prepaid customers, which are a mix of feature phone and smartphone users.

But T-Mobile continues to show weakness in the connected tablet market, which has been a big area of growth for both Verizon and T-Mobile. It reported 204,000 new mobile broadband customers in Q3, which encompasses laptop, mobile hotspot and slate connections. In comparison, Verizon activated a net total of 1.1 million new tablet connections in Q3 alone. But given T-Mobile’s big upticks in new postpaid and prepaid phone subscribers, wholesale (333,000 net additions) and even internet of things (222,000 net additions) connections, I doubt T-Mobile is fretting over the slate – at least not yet.

All of this growth, however, continues to take a financial toll. After one quarter in the black, T-Mobile returned to the red in Q3, reporting a $94 million net loss.