In a press release today, Sprint announced it would begin selling contract-free versions of the Apple iPhone 4S through its Virgin Mobile USA subsidiary. Starting on June 29, customers can sign up for one of three monthly prepaid plans – 30 bucks a month for 300 minutes of talk-time and unlimited data and texting; 40 bucks a month for 1,200 minutes of voice and unlimited data and texting; or $50 bucks a month for unlimited everything.
The Virgin Mobile iPhone 4S, meanwhile, will come at two different price points: $649 for the 16GB model or $549 for the 8GB edition. So is it a good buy? Well, obviously you've got to be willing to fork over a big wad of cash at the register. But as Jamie Lendino of PC Mag notes today, if consumers can get over their fear of upfront costs, they can save themselves a bundle in the long run.
"[P]hone buyers will split hairs over whether the iPhone 4S is worth $100 more than the iPhone 4," he writes. "Never mind the fact that both phones cost practically the same over the span of two years, once the monthly fees are factored in – $2,019 for the iPhone 4 on Sprint, and $2,119 for the iPhone 4S, on that base 450-minute voice plan. The Virgin Mobile iPhone 4, in comparison, costs $1,269 over the same two-year period."
Horizons readers will remember that last week, Cricket Wireless announced it would become the first prepaid carrier in the US to offer the Apple iPhone. The prepaid Cricket iPhone is priced slightly cheaper than the Virgin Mobile iPhone: $500 upfront for the 8GB iPhone 4S, compared to the $549 sticker price on the Virgin Mobile equivalent. Unlimited data plans on the Cricket network will cost around $55 a month.
The era of the prepaid iPhone is upon us.
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[Editor's note: The original version of this story misstated Virgin's terms. It's $30 for 300 minutes of talk-time and unlimited data and texting; $40 a month for 1,200 minutes of voice and unlimited data and texting.]