As rumored, Virgin Mobile USA, a subsidiary of Sprint, will become the second pre-paid carrier in the United States to offer the Apple iPhone without a contract, the company announced today.
Starting June 29, customers can purchase an 8GB iPhone 4 for $549, or a 16GB iPhone 4S for $649 — the unsubsidized prices for these handsets. Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk plans will start at $30 per month, which includes 300 minutes of talk time, unlimited text messaging and “unlimited” data. (Virgin Mobile’s unlimited data is actually limited to 2.5GB per month, with throttling on speeds for those who surpass their data allotment.) The $40 tier ups the talk time to 1,200 minutes, while the $50 offers “unlimited” everything.
On Tuesday, rumors surfaced that Virgin Mobile would receive the iPhone soon. That news, first reported by MarketWatch, arrived on the heals of Leap Wireless’ pre-paid wing Cricket announcing its own no-contract iPhone. Cricket offers only one plan: $55 per month for unlimited text, talk, and data (which is limited to 2.3GB per month). While the plan is slightly more expensive than Virgin Mobile’s, the cost of the phone makes up for it: Just $400 for an iPhone 4, or $500 for an iPhone 4S. Cricket’s pre-paid iPhone deal starts June 22.
While the math is not entirely clear, and depends greatly on what kind of user you are, pre-paid could work out to be significantly cheaper than on-contract plans from the Big Three carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint). Cricket estimates that customers who use its service could save between $400 and $1,600 per year. Considering those numbers, pre-paid seems to us at least worth a look.