Wireless service isn't cheap, at least not for many postpaid customers. Services start to add up rather quickly when you own a smartphone and want all the bells and whistles (more minutes, unlimited texting, tiered data plans, hotspot capability, navigation, etc.). But there is at least one way to lighten the load of wireless bill each month: go prepaid.
With a fairly conservative individual plan with a smartphone on AT&T, I pay $110.00 per month plus tax. That is for 450 minutes, unlimited texting (which I plan on dropping within the next week or so) and 5GB of data with the included hotspot feature. In short, I'm paying more than I want for services I'm not exactly comfortable or happy with. (Limited usage will be the death of me.)
By going prepaid, I could easily cut my monthly bill in half. Boost Mobile, for instance, offers unlimited minutes, text messaging and data (3G/4G) for $55 per month. The only feature I absolutely need that is missing is hotspot capabilities, which can be added for $10 more per month. Still, at $65 per month, I would be saving $45 every month. Over the course of a year, that would total $540 of savings, not including taxes.
It sounds great, but there's one problem; none of the phone selections on prepaid carriers are particularly impressive. Prepaid phones have yet to come around the bend and are generally anywhere from six months to a year behind their postpaid counterparts. And few flagships ever make it to prepaid.
For example, the best phone currently on Boost Mobile is the HTC EVO Design 4G. Even when it came out on Sprint, it was hardly a flagship model EVO. It's a mid-range device, and while I have no doubt it works well (to a degree), it's a far cry from the dual- and quad-core Android devices I've been using for the past several months. Likewise, on Virgin Mobile, the EVO V 4G is largely the same story. And it's no different on Straight Talk, Ting, etc.
One of the few prepaid services to offer a great device is the newest MNVO, Voyager Mobile. They sell the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch. But even the Epic 4G Touch is an aging device as the Galaxy S III is on the horizon. Other than that, your best bet is finding a prepaid carrier that will let your bring your own device (BYOD).
Yesterday, though, there was big news for the prepaid circuit. Leap Wireless announced that their subsidiary, Cricket Wireless, will offer the Apple iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S later this month. And just today, a TechnoBuffalo source claims the iPhone will make its way to Boost by September. Despite the fact that the iPhone 4 is nearly two-years-old and the iPhone 4S is approaching eight-months-old, there is still significance to a prepaid carrier offering the iPhone.
Even with their age, the two devices are still wildly popular and the iPhone 4S is still considered one of the best devices on the market. It is currently ranked #2 in the Mobile Tech Expert's Chart and #4 in the People's Choice Chart in PhoneDog Media's Official Smartphone Rankings. Not only that, but a lot more work goes into being able to sell the iPhone than your run-of-the-mill Android handset. Carriers have to come to terms with Apple on price, availability and likely hundreds of smaller details we will never know about.
It's possible that a move such as this could foretell a brighter future for phone selections on prepaid carriers. For instance, we could see faster turnaround times on high-end devices making their way to MNVOs or even prepaid carriers getting their own flagships in due time. I wouldn't expect a Galaxy S III or HTC One on a prepaid carrier within the next couple months – this could be a very slow process as prepaid service and unsubsidized devices have yet to really catch on in the States. But a prepaid iPhone is a very promising move for the thriving prepaid industry in the US.
Tell me, readers. Would you switch to prepaid if the device selection was better. Or, for you, is it all about the best of the best signal and first dibs on new networks? Are you eyeing prepaid options as they become more juicy? Or are you postpaid for life?