Something I’ve been noticing over the past couple of years, and something I once thought would never come to fruition, is that prepaid carriers are finally starting to pick up the pace when it comes to cheap plans and newer smartphone availability.

Prepaid carriers and plans previously carried a stigma with it that basically meant you could cut a decent enough deal on your plan each month, but your phone is about as attractive as a cinder block. You could never get an iPhone on a prepaid carrier, and for a long time Androids were out of the question as well. However, as time went on lower-end Androids started appearing across these carriers and it was the start of a beautiful, budding relationship between prepaid carriers and having a decent selection of smartphones.

Setbacks for prepaid carriers didn't stop at the fact that you were sacrificing features and a good-looking device in order to save a few bucks every month, but often times you also had to pay full-price for a device that was often depicted as being “free” or sold at a significantly lower price on postpaid carriers. And yes, sometimes it does put a damper on the entire experience knowing that you're putting $100-$300 more down on a device that you could easily get cheaper somewhere else simply because you’re willing to bind yourself to a two-year contract; you won’t really see any real savings by going to a prepaid carrier for several months, but none-the-less you will eventually be saving yourself from a lot of potential grief down the road.  

I bring this topic up because it was recently announced that both Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile will be carrying the Galaxy S III in June, and although we don’t have exact details on the pricing just yet I’m going to assume that just like every other phone that Virgin and Boost carries you'll still be getting a decent discount on the device compared to how much you would have to shell out full price from a postpaid carrier. For example, the iPhone 4S (16GB) on Virgin Mobile is on sale for $382.49, while if you wanted the exact same device brand new from Sprint you would be paying $549.99. What is up with that?

Not only can you get these phones for a significantly cheaper price from prepaid carriers, but newer smartphones seem to be catching up with prepaid carriers really quickly as of late. In 2012 the Galaxy S III was released at the end of May for several postpaid carriers. Boost Mobile began offering the previous model, the Galaxy S II, the following September; that's a four month difference between the time the new model being released and the old model being available to a prepaid carrier. Moving forward to 2013, the Galaxy S 4 was released in April and the Galaxy S III is reported to hit Virgin and Boost’s shelves by the end of June. That's a two month time frame between the releases. If this trend continues, by next year we should see the Galaxy S 5(?) release for postpaid carriers and the Galaxy S 4 released for prepaid carriers at the same time.

Even the almighty and once very exclusive iPhone is getting in on the action by allowing carriers like Straight Talk and Cricket Wireless, among other prepaid carriers, to sell their next generation iPhones just months (or even weeks) after the phone arrives on postpaid carrier shelves.

As a somewhat frugal spender who enjoys shiny things I appreciate this movement from the mobile industry. It shouldn’t have to be a choice of getting a cheap phone or a pretty phone, or even sacrificing your freedom to change carriers in the name of one or the other. Even if prepaid carriers are always left in the shadows of last year's models, it has still progressed quite a long way and it’s nice to see that phones as remarkable as the iPhone or the Galaxy S III are available to people who might not have necessarily wanted to sign a two-year contract in order to have one.

But what are your thoughts, readers? Do you think that prepaid carriers are taking a step in the right direction for the better? Have you ever or would you ever consider moving to a prepaid carrier if they started offering newer models sooner? Share your opinions with me in the comments!

Images via Apple, Virgin Mobile

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Products mentioned in this Article

eBay prices for the Samsung Galaxy S III

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20 Reactions to this post

"Do nicer phone models appearing on prepaid carriers entice you to switch to prepaid?"

Please limit your reaction to 140 characters or use comments for a longer reply :)
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Ray Zavitz Yes I follow prepaid blogs regularly for the best of what is out there. I am watching a carrier called Zact. I plan on dumping Boost once they update to a handset of my liking. Love the prepay revolution!
Jackson Henney I spent $180 on a second-hand HD7. Still works just fine, just cosmetics that are different. I use it on Prepaid, on Optus "2 Dollar Days" meaning I am constantly tethering it, and using internet, unlimited for 2 dollars a day. To put it simply, I've downloaded about 150GB from that plan in the last 3 months :P Seeing as I live in Wagga, I don't get too good reception and landline wasn't an option; pre-paid is perfect!
Jayson Levin Www.8061.biz
Jayson Levin But at Jayson's Services,LLC we have nice phones at cheep price and here is our phone number 877-684-8061 or 410-363-8061 on the web at tmiphones.com/ Promotion code 55716
Jayson Levin That true that do have nice phone
Malcom Buckhannon No not to switch but its a nice thing to know that they are finally stepping up their game.
Vicki Figueroa Not until they get the best phones right from the get go like the big carriers
Skylor Mitchell The only way would be if the prices weren't $400-$700 for a device.
Gordon Christie Nope buying Sim free is cheaper at times
Susie Tracey I started using my iPhone with Straight Talk years ago.... way before they allowed you to bring your own phone. I pay 45 bucks a month for unlimited talk and text and while they advertise unlimited data that's bullshit, they'll call and give you a warning if you go over 2GBs. I never have though... and after getting royally screwed by AT&T I am thrilled to now be getting pretty much the same service for SO much less. My SIM works in any AT&T or unlocked phone and the only drawback is no LTE.
Nick Petrizzio Costs more upfront then what they offer, but its far nicer
Nick Petrizzio Just get a unlocked phone if you want a good prepaid phone, there will be a better selection
Vishant Khunti Nope. But buying an unlocked phone and using it on a prepaid carrier is always good.
Marrion Bell nope Tmobile is good to me and I have a galaxy note 2
Joel Neil No roaming with Virgin Mobile. In Texas, if you want coverage outside the big cities, At&t.
Brain Roopull I did the math back when Sprint forced me to change plans in order to upgrade my phone. The savings over two years - even when spending $200 on a new phone - was close to a grand at Boost vs. Sprint. Taking into account unlimited data, the savings were pushing two grand vs. ATT. I'm at Virgin now and sporting the Evo 3d 4G I bought for $140. Virgin also has the iPhone. When I recount this for people, they balk at having to pay cash up front for the phone. I'm left sometimes thinking that people who are "on contract" are either too poor and shortsighted to buy the phone cash - or are silly enough to just HAVE to have the ABSOLUTE NEWEST thing out there (as though their needs in a smartphone amazingly change the second a new one is introduced.) There is no contest on the monthly cost. It's the same network... same data speeds... same coverage.
Josh Allen I switched from Verizon to Boost Mobile 2 years ago. I like it. I am paying $40 a month (for unlimited everything) compared to $65 a month (just for 450 anytime minutes and nothing else). I have the HTC One from Boost. I like it. I am happy with it.
Cyndi Rose Still not happy with the selection. They need to figure out a way to keep up with other carriers' selection. I am still waiting for something the size of the Galaxy Note.

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