Virgin Mobile rumored to be one of the first to offer the iPhone on prepaid monthly plans
Ever since the first iPhone and its AT&T exclusivity (at least in the US), users have been trying to use the iconic smartphone on other carriers and plans. This resulted in a market for unlocked T-Mobile iPhones that could be used with the carrier’s cheaper plans, and eventually Apple giving in and offering the iPhone on other carriers. However, although it has always been possible to use the GSM iPhone on other carriers without signing a contract, it has taken over four years for an official, Apple-approved off contract plan for the smartphone that arguably started it all. Finally, the plans are here, courtesy of Cricket Wireless, and possibly even Sprint subsidiary Virgin Mobile, at least according to the Wall Street Journal.
What is the difference, then, between Virgin and Cricket’s plans and just buying the iPhone and using it off contract on T-Mobile? Well, the main differences are: these plans are officially condoned and supported by the carrier for the iPhone, both carriers are CDMA (not GSM), and the plans will also presumably be advertised. Cricket Wireless is already confirmed to be offering the 16GB iPhone 4S for $400 and a $55 monthly plan, whereas Virgin should be able to match that price and has smartphone plans as cheap as $35 a month.
The big story here isn’t really about the specific plans though, and is instead more about the increasing prevalence of prepaid and no contract plans being used for smartphones. Just a few days ago, I went over a few of the benefits of switching your smartphone to a no contract plan, and it looks like the market is slowly picking up on that sentiment. No contract plans are good for consumers, and as always offer more choice, so I’m quite glad to see some carriers finally considering prepaid plans for flagship smartphones like the iPhone. It may not seem like a very big deal, but an official no contract iPhone has the potential to offer a very good deal for consumers, convince other carriers to offer more prepaid options, and even increase awareness of contract-free smartphone buying.
There’s also some larger reasons that I would like to see the entire mobile market transition away from contract plans, but I’ll get into that later. For now, let’s just say that the way mobile networks are run in the US seems to discourage competition and compatibility, and changing that up could have some serious benefits.[Wall Street Journal]