T-Mobile offers customers with bad credit its top phone deals

On Sunday, T-Mobile is unveiling a program that will essentially let customers with bad credit scores to prove their worthiness to the carrier and thus qualify for financing deals that would put the newest and most expensive smartphones in their palms.

Today at [company]T-Mobile[/company], the latest and greatest smartphones aren’t available to customers. Technically anyone can buy a new iPhone 6+ or the newest Samsung Galaxy if they’re willing to pay the full cost of the device, but if you wanted to spread the cost of a $750 smartphone over two years then you need good credit — carriers call that “well qualified” — to qualify for T-Mo’s financing program.

Under the new program called Smartphone Equality, any customer on a voice prepaid or postpaid voice plan that maintains their service or pays their bill on time for 12 straight months will become eligible for all of T-Mobile’s smartphone financing deals. So even if you’re on the most basic feature phone plan, if you make 12 months worth of payments on time, you can immediately upgrade to, say, the iPhone 6+ for $0 down and monthly payments of $27.08 for two years. You can even use the program to finance a tablet.

The program is also retroactive, so if you’re already a T-Mobile customer with a year of on-time payments behind you, you’ll immediately be eligible for the program Sunday. In an interview, T-Mobile VP of customer loyalty Matt Staneff also pointed out that you don’t lose your Smartphone Equality status, so if you finance that iPhone 6 and are late on a payment two months later, T-Mobile won’t suddenly insist you pay the full cost of the device.

About 63 percent of American consumers do not have the highest credit score, which is generally the bar that T-Mobile and other carriers have applied to their most compelling offers, Staneff said, though he didn’t reveal what T-Mobile’s specific credit policies were. Smartphone Equality basically lets T-Mobile make its own internal judgments on a customer’s credit worthiness rather depend on outside reports, Staneff said.

“I wouldn’t call it a credit program,” Staneff said. “I’d say we’re building trust together with our customers.”

Though this program will qualify a lot of postpaid customers for financed smartphones they wouldn’t normally be eligible for, Staneff said he anticipates it will move a significant amount of prepaid customers into the postpaid category. While many customers prefer prepaid, he said, there are a lot who were forced into a prepaid plan because of bad credit or they refused a credit check. “This is a very simply to way to get them the product they want,” Staneff said.

Sprint will finance Spark rollout through its network suppliers

Sprint appears ready to invest in its long-delayed Spark network rollout, but it’s getting some help from the companies that will be providing the equipment. Nokia, Samsung and Alcatel-Lucent are supplying a combined $1.8 billion in LTE gear and engineering services on credit. Sprint is getting a $300 million loan form Export Development Canada. Though Sprint didn’t announce any new timeline for the snail-pace rollout of its Spark uber-4G network, hopefully this will light the necessary fires to bring Sprint’s LTE service on par with its competitors’ sooner rather than later.

Still struggling, Fab will cut 80-90 employees tomorrow

It seems that hard times are continuing for struggling e-commerce startup Fab, as a company spokesperson confirmed to Buzzfeed today that it will lay of 80 to 90 employees — roughly a third of its current staff — in meetings tomorrow. The news comes as the team has spent the last six months putting together a line of sofas, which launched on Tuesday, in an effort to pivot from flash deals. The past year hasn’t been the greatest for Fab: Once worth roughly $1 billion to investors, the company shed 200 employees over two different layoffs in 2013 and also lost cofounder Bradford Shellhammer.

WordPress parent Automattic said to be raising a VC round that values it at $1 billion

Automattic, the San Francisco-based company that is responsible for the WordPress web-publishing and blog-hosting platform — and the associated open-source community — is raising a round of venture capital that could value the company at $1 billion or more, according to a report in Fortune magazine. The financing is said to be in the $100-million to $150-million range. WordPress recently acquired Longreads, a content-sharing community, and has said it wants to get more into content recommendation. Web-publishing competitor Squarespace just closed a financing round of its own that was worth $40 million.
Disclosure: Automattic is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.

Medium wants to become large, raises $25M financing round

Medium, the online-content startup that wants to be part digital magazine and part one-size-fits-all publishing platform, has closed a financing round of $25 million, according to a report at Re/code. Investors in the company, which was founded by former Twitter CEO Evan Williams, include Google Ventures, Betaworks, Ron Conway and Chris Sacca. The report also notes that Williams’ co-founders at Medium — former Twitter colleagues Biz Stone and Josh Elman — have moved on from the company and are working on their own new ventures.