Virgin Mobile USA is doing something rare in the iPhone world -- offering the iconic smartphone to its prepaid customers. But will consumers be willing to shell out big bucks for a non-subsidized iPhone?
We'll soon find out. Beginning June 29, Virgin Mobile will offer the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, complete with its Beyond Talk unlimited data and messaging plans, for as little as $30 per month on Sprint's CDMA network.
Virgin Mobile is making the iPhone available without a contract and without any activation or roaming fees. The phones will be available through the company's Web site, as well as retailers like RadioShack and Best Buy.
San Diego-based Leap Wireless International said last week that it would sell the iPhone with prepaid service on its Cricket network beginning June 29, but Cricket is available to only about 20 percent of U.S. residents.
A $30 a Month iPhone?
Virgin Mobile's Beyond Talk unlimited data and messaging plans for iPhone start at $35 per month for access to Sprint's Nationwide Network. Customers can get a $5 per month plan discount when they register for automatic monthly payments with a credit card, debit card or PayPal account. That means consumers can now get an iPhone for as low as $30 a month. Customers can also use their iPhone as a mobile hotspot through Virgin Mobile for an additional $15 per month.
Of course, consumers first have to buy the iPhone at the no-contract price of $649 for the iPhone 4S and $549 for the iPhone 4. That's $449 more than the $200 price iPhone 4S consumers get when they sign a contract with AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. Consumers can get the iPhone 4 for $100 at the three big carriers.
Virgin Mobile's $30 plan offers 300 minutes of voice and unlimited texting and data. The $40 plan offers 1,200 voice minutes, also with unlimited texting and data. And the $50 plan offers unlimited voice, text and data consumption.
Virgin vs. Leap
We caught up with Weston Henderek, principal analyst at Current Analysis, to get his take on the Virgin plan. He told us it's different from the Leap plan, which offers about a $150 subsidy on the iPhone and charges more standard smartphone rates.
"I really like the Virgin $30 plan. It's one of the most competitive data-centric prepaid plans on the market. If you look at the trends in the youth market, young people are relying less and less on voice calls to stay in touch with one another. They are doing more and more data," Henderek said. "The $30 plan that Virgin offers only has 300 minutes, but you get data in the 2.5 GB range. It's a very aggressive plan and is very well positioned to capture the youth market. The only big problem they are facing right now is the pricing on the device."
Henderek wouldn't be surprised to see a device financing plan emerge on the prepaid side of the cell phone market at some point. T-Mobile already has a device financing plan in place that essentially allows consumers to buy the device they want for a low price up front and a monthly installment.
"That allows you to pay your device off over time. I would think that would appeal to someone who wants an iPhone but doesn't want a contract," Henderek said. "The question for Virgin Mobile and Leap are going to be whether or not people are willing to pay the high price for the device."
Posted: 2012-06-12 @ 5:55pm PT
Peter - Virgin is CDMA...no SIM in their phones. For $45/month (unlimited everything), you can get a Straight Talk SIM for your iP4. http://straighttalksim.com/
Posted: 2012-06-10 @ 11:50pm PT
What if we already have an iphone 4 no contract and unlocked and want the 30 dollar plan?can we just buy the sim from them?
Posted: 2012-06-08 @ 4:07pm PT
love it. i want an iphone 4 right now. yes we need financing and/or will wait till there are used ones, refurbished or older models until buy into a mortgage payment iphone 4s.