Is it a new day for prepaid?

Evan Selleck
Contributing Editor from Arizona
Published: August 26, 2012

Prepaid. The other way to get a phone. It's been there for ages, but you only hear about it in fleeting whispers here and there. The "Shadow Option," some call it. Present, yet just on the outskirts of visibility. You *know* it's there, but you also know that if you willingly acknowledge its existence, your whole world could potentially be tossed upside down.

Oh, wait, you mean prepaid isn't bad anymore? It isn't the option you don't want? You mean, people actually prefer prepaid sometimes? Wait, when did that happen?

There probably isn't a specific date you could circle on the calendar to pinpoint the time that prepaid discarded its shadowed existence for something a bit more tropical, but it would seem that prepaid isn't as "evil" as it once was. I remember when I was selling phones how often people literally sneered at me when I offered up a prepaid plan, rather than the option that bonded them to a contract.

Let's face it, prepaid access hasn't always been on the same level as postpaid. In fact, some might argue that it still isn't. After all, just at face value, you get all the cool phones on postpaid. You get a discount on the phone, too! (I know, I know…) There are plenty of incentives to go postpaid, but there's also that contract, and usually high prices to go along with it.

And let's take a look at the phones for a moment, shall we? To me, that's the biggest piece in the prepaid movement for a better living. The phones being offered by networks like Boost Mobile or Virgin Mobile aren't terrible. Not all of them, anyway. Yes, sure, there are still some devices you can purchase through the prepaid options that are pretty lackluster, but they usually also have prices that reflect that. Plus, no contract.

And then there are handsets like the Galaxy Epic 4G Touch -- oh, it's not called that on Boost Mobile's network? Sorry, sorry. The Galaxy S II 4G! Anyway, this is a device that's actually pretty high-end for a prepaid network, so for those of you out there who are looking to jump on the prepaid bandwagon, or are already there and want a new phone, I'm not sure why you wouldn't look at the Android 4.0-wielding handset to call your own.

Is this a sign of the changing times? Maybe. It seems pretty obvious to me that there are some prepaid options out there that are definitely worthwhile to the right customer. Even more so than ever before. And now that the device options are getting better, too, it seems like a win-win for anyone who doesn't want to go the postpaid route.

On the other hand, I don't see it being a sign of changing times just because there are better phones available for prepaid customers. I think that's just the natural evolution of the options available. This isn't the first time that we've seen a phone previously released on one of the major networks become available for its prepaid option. It won't be the last, either. As Android becomes the go-to mobile option, seeing handsets with impressive hardware specifications become available for prepaid plans just seems inevitable.

But, that doesn't make it any less noteworthy.

Prepaid isn't the option to be shunned anymore. Not like it used to be. That's great news for executives at the prepaid networks. Better, that means more impressive devices will eventually find their way to carriers like Boost and Virgin (and others). Maybe someday in the future we'll see high-end, flagship devices see a wider launch on launch day, where prepaid carriers are included as well.

Maybe.

Products mentioned