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John Legere
John Legere

T-Mobile CEO John Legere typically has all sorts of esoteric numbers about the company and the wireless industry at his fingertips, from customer porting ratios to the details of LTE coverage on various wireless bands.

tmotestBut there was one question last night at the Code Mobile conference that he wasn’t as sure about: the number of people who have participated in the company’s “Test Drive” program, which lets prospective customers try an iPhone 5S on T-Mobile’s network for a week, for free.

At first he said he simply wasn’t sure. Re/code’s Ina Fried pressed him on the issue: Has it been hundreds of thousands? No, more like tens of thousands, Legere acknowledged.

That’s nowhere close to the million Test Drives that Legere predicted when the initiative was announced.

One problem, he said, was that even though the Test Drive was free, the customer’s credit card was being held for the amount of the phone. And now that the iPhone 6 is out, people want to test that device instead, but it’s not available for the Test Drive at this point.

The uptake “hasn’t been as fast, but here’s the deal: it’s good two ways. It’s good if you want to try an iPhone, it’s good if you want to try T-Mobile. It’s good if you take it home and it doesn’t work,” Legere said last night. “This is an Un-carrier move. It’s a philosophy, not a program. It’s permanent, and it solves a pain point. We think every customer should be able to test drive a device before they buy it. I want it to be all devices, all carriers.”

The low interest hasn’t hurt T-Mobile’s actual customer growth, given the record growth posted by the company for the third quarter.

GeekWire’s Taylor Soper followed up on the topic of the Test Drive on the company’s conference call this morning. Legere said in response that he actually had “no huge expectations” for the Test Drive program.

“When we do Un-carrier moves that start with a philosophy about solving customer pain points, these moves are structural and permanent. The Test Drive … which started with the iPhone 5S, we’re doing this not only to drive short term business, but because we think that [this is] the way the industry should be,” he said.

He added, “We’re learning how to do it, we’re looking at ways over time to expand the program, we like to see the whole industry create a process where people can Test Drive. From that standpoint it’s a long journey, one that we’re very patient with and one that we’ll stick with.”

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