As every Roman historian and Shakespeare fan knows, a soothsayer once told Caesar to beware the Ides of March, for on that day, dark and terrible things would happen. I like to think the message was intended for me, too, because today, my beloved low-cost wireless carrier, Mint Mobile, packed up its ironic communications style, its celebrity ownership, and its $15/month plans… and agreed to sell them all to T-Mobile for $1.35 billion.
Good for actor Ryan Reynolds, part-owner of Mint Mobile. As Reynolds said in a statement, “We are so happy T-Mobile beat out an aggressive last-minute bid from my mom Tammy Reynolds as we believe the excellence of their 5G network will provide a better strategic fit than my mom’s slightly-above-average mahjong skills.” (Ha-ha!) Reynolds also released the funniest acquisition video I have ever seen.
Still, the news is depressing. Mint felt fresh; it was a wireless carrier with a slick website and app that worked (at least for me) simply and seamlessly, an irreverent and straight-talking style (Reynolds sent out temp tattoos of his face to subscribers for Christmas; they said, “No Ragrets”), and great prices. It all Just Worked™. Now, I love a good value, but not at the cost of janky service, constant hiccups, and 2000-era websites like I saw at other cheap mobile providers. And it wasn’t just me; Mint racked up many recommendations, including the “best budget” wireless option from Wirecutter.
So Mint felt special—customer-focused and quirky rather than corporate and soulless—but of course the company was just another closely owned acquisition play that, pending regulatory approval, will now be acquired by the “Un-Carrier.” Blargh.
managing his Welsh soccer team and starring in foul-mouthed superhero movies, will stay on in his role at Mint. And Mint will continue to operate as a separate unit within T-Mobile. Plus, the company is keeping its $15-per-month plan. (For now.) And Mint was always just an MVNO reseller of T-Mobile service. So maybe everything is fine, and years from now we’ll look back with laughter on our ludicrous fears. Perhaps we’ll all come to love the Un-Carrier. Perhaps I’ll personally don a bright pink T-shirt and proclaim my love of T-Mobile/Mint from the rooftops. But it’s hard to believe that, with its big financial payout achieved, Mint won’t change some of the things that made it awesome.
Life is change, of course. (Except for the part of life that involves us complaining about change. That is unchanging.) But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. And for once, I have YouTube commenters on my side.