How does a consumer not concede to the carrier's game? Sure, you can pay cash for a phone rather than purchasing a subsidized one, but you will still pay the same price for the service. The only difference is that you can take your ball and go home if you want. The next guy is going to charge the same price though. The only alternative is to not play their game at all.
Actually, it seems T-mobile is trying something new with their "Even More Plus" plans. I called them last week to see about changing up my plan, and the first thing the operator asked me was: "Which is more important to you? Do you want a free phone, or cheaper monthly payments?" I answered enthusiastically "cheaper monthly payments" since I've never been interested in getting a subsidized phone and then being under contract for 2 years to pay it off. These new plans are pretty cheap it seems, don't offer a free or subsidized phone, and don't put you under contract.