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At long last, T-Mobile USA will be getting the iPhone.

iphone-small5555The Bellevue-based company will start offering the iPhone 5 nationwide on April 12 as a flagship device in its shift away from wireless contracts. The Apple device will be available for $99.99 down and $20/month for two years (or a total of $580) — running on T-Mobile’s existing HSPA+ and new 4G LTE network, launching today starting in seven metro areas.

“I can finally announce that the phone that redefined the industry is coming to T-Mobile,” said John Legere, T-Mobile USA CEO, at a news conference in New York City introducing the company’s new rate plans. “It was such a huge void in our device portfolio.”

It’s part of a broader comeback attempt by T-Mobile as a challenger to Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Legere spent the initial part of the event lambasting the press and the wireless industry in humorous and at times profane language, criticizing reports that T-Mobile’s new plan will cost consumers more than rival plans do.

For example, he said, someone buying an iPhone 5 on AT&T will end up paying $1,000 more over the life of the contract. He poked fun at suggestions that T-Mobile will be ending subsidies.

“Who’s subsidizing what?” he said, adding later: “Customers don’t need another AT&T. Customers need someone to stop acting like AT&T.”

On Verizon, the 16GB iPhone 5 costs $199.99, but the wireless giant also charges a $40/month “monthly line access fee” that continues for as long as the customer is using the phone. T-Mobile is touting the fact that it will stop charging for the phone after it’s fully paid.

T-Mobile’s base rate for the iPhone 5 will be $50/month for 500MB of data, with 2GB running $60/month, or unlimited data for $70/month.

The company will also be offering the iPhone 4 and 4S in select markets.

T-Mobile’s says its 4G LTE service is launching today in Baltimore; Houston; Kansas City; Las Vegas; Phoenix; San Jose, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. It’s expected to reach a potential of 100 million people by the middle of the year and 200 million by year end.

[Updated at 11:25 a.m. to correct initial down payment for iPhone 5: It’s $99.99. Thanks to the commenter below.]

Transcript: T-Mobile CEO calls B.S. on the wireless industry, and the press

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