Will postpaid customers defect to prepaid carriers with high-end Android phones?

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: July 4, 2011

Smartphones can be expensive. Having a family plan with smartphones – even individuals in some cases – and paying for the data plan can take its toll on the wallet. With hundreds of thousands of applications available, countless ways to communicate and faster wireless network speeds that we ever imagined, it's easy to get carried away. Postpaid carriers have started taking advantage of the fact that users now utilize their phones to handle more content than ever before. Placing data caps and bumping prices is only the beginning.

Over the past year, it has only gotten worse … and more expensive. Wireless providers like AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon have traded truly unlimited (and unthrottled) data for tiered structures. These tiered data plans offer much less than their no-longer-offered, unlimited counterparts and cost much more, especially if you don't monitor your usage. Surpass your data allotment and you will be met with either overage fees or severe throttling. The problem is, while transitioning away from unlimited data, the network speeds have doubled and even tripled or more with the introduction of 4G. This can easily make dealing with a data cap much more difficult.

On the other side of the fence, several prepaid services like Boost and Virgin Mobile have remained affordable, unlimited and are growing in popularity. This would hardly be the first time someone has called it a "Prepaid Revolution," but with some serious changes on the horizon, we may see many postpaid defectors in due time.

Boost offers a completely unlimited plan for a mere $50 per month and, for those that will not use their phone every day, a $2 daily unlimited plan as well. Virgin Mobile's unlimited plans start at $25 per month and offer 300 talk minutes with unlimited text and data. If you need more minutes, they also offer a completely unlimited plan for $60 per month and a 1,200 minute plan for $45. Although you will not be able to access the blazing fast 4G networks for some time to come, the money you could save by making the prepaid plunge is mind-numbing.

Not only can you save money, but you will soon be able to enjoy high-end Android phones while you do it. Just within the past month, two remarkably high-end, Virgin Mobile-bound smartphones have surfaced: the Motorola Triumph and LG Optimus Black. The Triumph sports a 4.1-inch display, a 1GHz processor, 5-megapixel rear shooter (capable of 720p video recording) with a VGA front-facing camera, 512MB of RAM and 2GB of onboard storage. The Optimus Black features a 4-inch NOVA display, 1GHz processor, 5-megapixel rear camera and 2-megapixel front-facing camera, 512MB RAM and 1GB of storage. Of course, both of these will come in stock Android fashion.

The Triumph is believed to be selling for somewhere around $300, which is a remarkable price compared to its unsubsidized brethren (Droid X2 and Atrix 4G sell for $449 with no contract). If the Optimus Black can launch for a respectable price, too, these high-end Android prepaid phones could be a major success. Who knows, with enough attention and postpaid-to-prepaid converts, maybe they could get some postpaid carriers' heads out of the clouds and begin to bring prices back down. Hey, a man can dream, right?