While AT&T dukes it out with T-Mobile and T-Mobile dukes it out with Verizon, Sprint is making moves on the prepaid wireless front with a new branded offer aimed at customers who want more control over what they get from carriers.
Dubbed Sprint Prepaid, the service promises the monthly cost savings that you would expect when you pay for a device up front. It also frees you from long-term contracts, but still associates your coverage with the Sprint brand name.
Jeff Hallock, Sprint chief marketing officer, said the company's goal is to respond to what executives see as "shifting demands" by featuring a range of wireless plans that meet diverse needs.
"This new Sprint Prepaid offer allows us to play more competitively in the monthly prepaid space," Hallock said. "Prepaid plans are a viable solution for many consumers, and we're now making these available to people who have an affinity for the Sprint brand, are looking for savings, and desire no-contract options without compromise."
What Phones Can You Get?
Sprint Prepaid is similar to the company's Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile brands but targets Sprint customers who don't want to go through a credit check -- or maybe can't get approved. Essentially, this is an expansion of Sprint's "As You Go" no-contract plan that hit the market last year, but offers new pricing paradigms.
Sprint Prepaid is also offering some attractive phones in its lineup, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, the Samsung Galaxy S3, the 3G Moto G, and pre-owned iPhone 4s devices. Hallock indicated the lineup would grow and soon include feature phones. Meanwhile, if you have a device you want to trade in, Sprint Prepaid allows you to leverage the Sprint Buyback program to earn account credits.
Smartphone plans are coming in as low as $45 a month for unlimited talk and text. The catch: It's Wi-Fi enabled data only. For $60 a month you can get unlimited talk, text and data.
We caught up with Weston Henderek, a principal analyst of U.S. consumer services at Current Analysis, to get his take on the new plan. He told us there had been rumors Sprint was going to consolidate its prepaid brands but that clearly was not the case.
"This is pretty much exactly the same as Sprint's 'As You Go' no-contract plans, which they've had for a long time already. So Sprint is just rebranding and probably will do a bigger marketing push behind Sprint Prepaid," Henderek said. "Not that many people knew what the 'As You Go' pre-paid options were because the company didn't promote it much. So they simplified things to make more sense to some of these customers."
The timing is interesting. AT&T just announced a $15 price dip in its 2 GB Mobile Share Value Plan. Until now, AT&T's 2GB plan cost $55 at the baseline. On Sunday, the company slashed the cost to $40, making it more competitive with lower-tier competitors like T-Mobile. Consumers can add other devices to their Mobile Share Value Plans for $25 per smartphone.
"It remains to be seen what kind of traction Sprint will see with its prepaid effort," Henderek said. "Forty-five dollars is a bit expensive for this type of plan. The $60 plan is very similar to the AT&T Mobile Share Value Plan post-paid offer that gives you the ability to use your phone as a mobile hot spot and the ability to text internationally, as well as the Next financing. The Sprint pricing is a little on the high-end for pre-paid plans."