One of the biggest woes of wireless consumers is the ever-increasing price of service or getting nickel and dimed by carriers. As services like data and texting become more popular and voice calling wanes, carriers begin to slowly adjust their plans to become more profitable for them. That's all a part of running a business, but there is also a point where the line between good business practices and pure greed is crossed.
Over the last six months, all four major US carriers have been hard at work, making major changes to accommodate for the fast-paced tech world. Unfortunately for consumers, these changes aren't always with their best interests in mind.
One thing that wireless services providers here in the States love more than anything is postpaid sales, and it shows. They do their very best to get customers tied into contracts and keep them there for as long as possible. AT&T and Verizon have no shame in showing this either. They both upped (nearly doubled) their early termination fees and have also made changes to early upgrading procedures. AT&T upped the early upgrade fee to $200, while Verizon removed the ability altogether, along with its New Every 2 program.
Those two are not alone though. Sprint and T-Mobile have also been making some big changes. Sprint's Premier Program has been almost entirely revised and will go into effect on April 1st (no April Fools' joke here). It used to be anyone with an individual plan of $70 or more per month or a shared plan of $100 or more per month would qualify for annual upgrades. That criteria has been revised and narrowed to some very specific guidelines. It has also just leaked that T-Mobile is axing their FlexPay services, which allow you to avoid having to pay those dreadful deposits to start service by paying your monthly service charge up-front. You will now have to either pay the deposit (if applicable) or choose prepaid services.
Not only are these carriers making changes to their contract terms and the upgrade ability of their customers, we've experienced changes like tiered data from AT&T, Sprint beginning to charge the Premier Data fee to all smartphone users versus just WiMAX users, etc. Verizon may have priced unlimited LTE services at $29.99 for now, but I'm almost positive those will change as the availability of LTE and adoption by consumers increase. As for T-Mobile, their plans are about to undergo some major changes as well. Throughout all of the chaos of all the price changes and plan adjustments, one thing is certain: postpaid wireless service is not getting cheaper.
This isn't bad news for us all though. It has opened a window of opportunity for prepaid providers to really shine. Take Virgin Mobile for instance. Their prepaid services are dirt cheap and you get the same service as you would with Sprint. You get 300 calling minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited 3G data for $25 per month; or if you want to go all out, you can get the completely unlimited plan for $60, a nice chunk of change cheaper than comparable postpaid prices. There are also some notable Android devices like the LG Optimus V and Samsung Intercept available for $149.99 and $199.99 respectively. Considering you aren't signing a contract, these are both great deals. In addition, there is a rumored high-end Android device headed to Virgin Mobile, too. For the price you pay, it's definitely worth looking into.
I've never liked signing contracts. Mainly because I never know what to expect two years down the road. I was originally an Alltel customer who was consumed in the acquisition by Verizon. Had I known something like that was about to happen, my family and I probably never would have signed those contracts. Not to mention, how fast technology moves these days; two-year agreements and fast-paced mobile tech do not get along very well.
More and more people will begin to notice all of this as the mobile world evolves. If prepaid providers keep moving in the direction they are headed, postpaid carriers are going to have bigger problems to worry about than who has more subscribers or who has the faster 4G network. As ironic as it is, if you can deal with staying 6 months or more behind the technology curve, prepaid may be the way of the future.