The Apple iPhone goes prepaid, courtesy of Cricket

Cricket Communications will begin offering a prepaid iPhone to US customers. 

The Apple iPhone 4S.

Cricket Communications, a subsidiary of Leap Wireless, will become the first prepaid carrier in the US to offer the Apple iPhone

Here's how it works: Beginning on June 22, you can march into any Cricket store and plop down $500 for a new iPhone 4S or $400 for a new iPhone 4. Cricket voice and data plans, meanwhile, will set you back approximately $55 a month. In exchange, you don't have to worry about the hassle of a contract. 

Other American carriers want about $300 for the 4S (depending on hard drive size) and $99 for the 4. Monthly service plans range from $80 to well more than $100 – plus there's a two-year contract. Buying an iPhone without that contract costs north of $600.

Until recently, of course, consumers had essentially two options when purchasing an iPhone: paying a fortune for an unlocked model, or signing a two-year contract with Verizon, Sprint, or AT&T. "Our customers want the best products available,” Doug Hutcheson, chief executive officer of Leap, said in a statement. "Launching iPhone is a major milestone for us." 

According to Businessweek, Leap paid $900 million for the privilege. 

Not interested in the Cricket deal? Well, as Chris Foresman of Ars Technica writes today, there is another way to get a "prepaid" iPhone. 

"You can buy a prepaid AT&T-compatible microSIM from StraightTalk, an MNVO run by TracFone and Walmart, for just $15," Foresman notes. "StraightTalk offers a $45 monthly plan that also includes unlimited calls, texts, and data. And since StraightTalk runs over AT&T's network, you don't even need an unlocked iPhone – just pop in the SIM, update your APN data settings, and you're good to go."

In related news, according to Jeffries analyst Peter Misek, the iPhone 3GS could soon get a second life in developing countries around the globe. Misek recently told Apple Insider that Apple signed a contract with "a leading distribution and logistics company," which would help Apple sell the iPhone 3GS as a prepaid device. 

For more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut

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