Originally Posted by dasanman69
How is this any different than Apple's 30 day return policy, or every other carriers 14 day policy?
You're not purchasing anything or signing any contracts. Even with return policies and early cancellation privileges, it's still a big psychological barrier to purchase a device and sign a long and complicated contract. Sending someone an iPhone with unlimited data and voice minutes without making an actual purchase (a credit preauthorization is different simply because no official transaction occurs if you return the phone) is a much easier decision than forking over real money and signing a real contract.
When I was piecing together an audio system, the specialty stores in my area allowed me to "borrow" their demo units for home trial. They would preauthorize a credit card for the full purchase price of the component, and I would sign the slip. After trying the components out at home, the store would hand the credit slip back to me when I return them. Psychologically, this is way easier than actually purchasing something just to try it out at home. Even with generous return policies, it's still more of a hassle, because the store already took your money and you're bringing something back to get that money back. The stores that allowed me to "borrow" their demo units and try the out at home without taking my money up front wound up getting my business.
With audio components, something that sounds one way at a retail store might sound way different at home. That's why you don't want to buy without trying. Cell phones are sort of similar in that the reception or data speed might be fine in-store, but you bring the phone home and you might find the network quality differs a lot. T-Mobile's supposed weakness is their network, so this is their way of leveling the playing field. And with Apple, they have not made as strong a market penetration with T-Mobile as they would like, so allowing free trials of the iPhone 5s works to Apple's benefit as well.
T-Mobile's goal is 1 million test drives. Will be interesting to see how many of those test drives wind up switching carriers, and how many of them wind up switching phones. I'm happy with the 5s, but I will still gladly test drive an iPhone 6 just to see if the new phone's compelling and if I find the new form factor tolerable (I already view the 5s as somewhat larger than ideal).