Ever since the iPhone was first announced, customers in the U.S. have longed for a prepaid iPhone. Today Virgin Mobile USA announced that they will be offering the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S with their prepaid Beyond Talk unlimited data and messaging plans, which start at as low as $30 a month. That makes Virgin Mobile the cheapest option to go with when using an iPhone in the U.S.A.
Just recently Cricket Wireless also announced that they too would be offering the iPhone with their prepaid plans. However, Virgin Mobile is offering even more competitive pricing for their monthly fees. There are three plan options available from Virgin Mobile USA – a $35 plan that includes 300 voice minutes and unlimited SMS and data. Then there is a $45 plan which includes 1200 minutes, plus unlimited SMS and data. And finally, there is the $55 plan that includes unlimited everything! You can also get an additional $5 off each month if you register for automatic monthly payments with a credit card, debit card or PayPal account. That brings us to the el-cheapo $30 plan option. And with the way people are talking less on their smartphones and using it more for messaging and data, this plan has the potential to become a very popular one. For those not in the know, Virgin Mobile USA piggy-backs on Sprint’s network. And love it or hate it, that includes plenty of coverage area for most users.
If this all sounds too good to be true, it is and it isn’t. For starters, there is a data cap of 2.5GB each month, but that is hardly unreasonable since most carriers institute a 2GB max allotment anyway. Furthermore, you’ll have to shell out $649 for the 16GB iPhone 4S and $549 for the 8GB iPhone 4, which means that the phones are totally unsubsidized. We also just confirmed with someone at Virgin Mobile that the iPhone they are offering is a CDMA device, and also a locked device. That means that as of now, world travelers are out of luck. So if you’re an iPhone user who wants access to affordable international data plans to use with your iPhone when you’re overseas, then AT&T and Verizon’s contracted iPhone plans are still your best bet. As a matter of fact, AT&T just recently reduced the rates on their international data plans. You can now get 120MB of international data for just $30, 300MB for $60, and 800MB for $120.
But despite the high cost of the iPhone themselves, unless you’re a frequent international traveler, it would be silly not to seriously consider going with a prepaid iPhone plan, at least if you’re already out of contract on your current iPhone plan. Cult of Mac has a great plan comparison chart which helps breaks down the savings to be had by moving to one of these new iPhone prepaid plans.
Until now what kept many people loyal to the larger carriers was often the draw of having access to the latest smartphones, especially the iPhone. But that is all about to change with the iPhone now available on prepaid carriers like Virgin Mobile. So we think it’s about time that the big carriers like AT&T and Verizon considered cutting their rate plans if they want to stay competitive, and especially if they want to prevent iPhone users from jumping ship.
Disclaimer: Helena Stone works with Virgin Mobile as a Virgin Mobile Ambassador. All snarky remarks are 100% her own.