It’s Official – iPhone To Be Offered Through Virgin Mobile
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com
Update (June 7, 2012): Virgin has confirmed [http://newsroom.virginmobileusa.com/press-release/handsets/virgin-mobile-usa-offer-iphone-june-29] it will start selling the iPhone on June 29th complete with an unlimited data and messaging plan, starting at $30 a month. Virgin customers can pick up an 8 GB iPhone 4 for $549 and 16 GB iPhone 4S for $649, both free of contract.
Cricket notably offers the phones at a lower price point, but only offers a plan of $55 a month. Virgin Mobile pre-paid plans originally start at $35, though customers who register monthly payments through a credit card, debit card or PayPal account can save an extra $5 a month. Virgin Mobile will also enable iPhone’s mobile hotspot feature for an extra $15 a month. Like other carriers, Virgin mobile is advertising “unlimited” data but will drastically throttle your usage if you go over 2.5 gigs a month. You can pick up a Virgin Mobile iPhone later this month through the Virgin website or at your local RadioShack or Best Buy.
Last week, Cricket wireless became the first American carrier to support Apple’s iPhone on a contract-free, pre-paid basis. Now, according to the Wall Street Journal, they’ll be getting some company in this space, as Virgin Mobile is expected to announce an iPhone compatible plan, free of contract.
The Wall Street Journal says Sprint Nextel Corp., owner of Virgin Mobile, will announce a pay-as-you-go version of the popular iPhone as soon as July 1. The Wall Street Journal, of course, cites those tricky People Familiar With the Matter.
Sprint’s CEO bet big on the iPhone when he promised to buy $15.5 billion worth of iPhones last year. This agreement may actually help Dan Hesse move some of these units over the next four years. Now that more carriers are providing the iconic device to their customers, Hesse may need such a push to empty his inventory. At this point, he may be keeping some extra iPhones at his house, using them as coasters or door shims. Despite Sprint’s slow performance as of late, their pre-paid markets are a bright spot in their balance sheets.
The Journal reports that Sprint was able to add 489,000 pre-paid customers in the first quarter. Measure this against the 192,000 contract customers lost on Sprint’s network during the same quarter, and bringing the iPhone to Virgin mobile becomes more of a life preserver than an extra oar. Since Sprint began selling the iPhone 4S last October, it’s managed to sell 3.3 million units.
While the Journal was able to report the upcoming union between Apple and Virgin, they weren’t able to announce any sort of pricing. Cricket, on the other hand, will begin selling the iPhone, contract-free, beginning June 22.
Without the subsidization often found with contract plans, the iPhone will cost around $400-$500 with a monthly, unlimited plan of $55. It’s likely the Virgin iPhone will cost around this price if it wants to remain competitive in this market.
For a template, Virgin Mobile’s pre-paid plans start at $35 a month and also offer unlimited data. Just like AT&T, Cricket, Verizon and other carriers, Virgin will begin to throttle data usage if you go over 2.5 gigs a month. This seems interesting, since Sprint continues to hail their completely unlimited data plans with no caps or throttling.
Now that Sprint, Virgin and even Cricket have been seen basking in the brilliant glowing orb of iPhone, T-Mobile is likely feeling even more left out of Apple’s good graces than ever before. They are the last of the major American carriers to not carry the iPhone, a noticeable absence which Chief Executive Phillip Humm said was a main reason so many customers (1.7 million) left Big Pink last year alone.
While Cricket and Virgin now have another thing in common — pre-paid cell phone plans and carriers of the iPhone — they differ in the markets the service. Cricket offers their services to a smaller and more rural area. Virgin, on the other hand, users Sprint’s network and, therefore, can be used anywhere the Sprint network is found.
Sprint bought pre-paid Virgin Mobile in 2009 for around $480 million. The Wall Street Journal was also unsure if Sprint’s other pre-paid carrier, Boost Mobile, would be getting the same iPhone treatment in coming months. Another source of tech news, TechnoBuffalo, announced last week that Boost would start carrying the iPhone this September.