Jun 14, 2012

Would you consider getting an iPhone 4S from a prepaid carrier?

I've been wanting a new iPhone for a while now, but have been holding off because I am nearing the end of my 2 year contract, and I hate the thought of being AT&T's prisoner for another 2 years.  Both Virgin Mobile and Cricket have started offering iPhones without a contract, but the purchase price for the phone is MUCH higher than with AT&T or other carriers.  VM charges ~$650 and Cricket charges ~$550.  That's a pretty big expenditure all at once for me.  On the positive side, the monthly bill is a lot lower.  Is it worth it to stick with a major carrier for presumably superior service, or are Cricket/Virgin Mobile comparable to other carriers as far as service quality coverage.  Obviously, there are going to be some areas where coverage stinks for any carrier, but I don't really trust those coverage maps the carriers have based on personal experience.   Oh, and this would be mostly for personal use, although I do use my phone for work too, and it would go with me on a couple of business trips each year.


Actually, Cricket ALSO uses Sprint's network.  They are a company who is growing like wildfire in the Central Valley of CA (where I am) so I will be purchasing one and loving that I don't have a contract. Yes, people balk at the price, but it's an investment. I almost constantly have WiFi connection, so I'm not worried about 'losing' coverage, especially as even in my travels, I'll have coverage everywhere I go routinely.  What makes me feel even better, is I'm buying it (in essence) FROM Apple, through Cricket. No bloatware. No catchy start up tunes.  And Apple will take care of problems (since customer service is lacking on Cricket at times.)  I won't feel the need to buy someone's 'old' or 'bad' phone just to avoid a contract.  Peace of mind is worth that up front cost. And if I *hate* it, I can always sell it to someone. (:


I may be a little biased on this, seeing as how I was an AT&T customer and now I am with Virgin Mobile.  The main complaint I've had with Virgin and other prepaid carriers was a lack of high end devices, but that's been somewhat addressed by Virgin Mobile with the upcoming 4S and the HTC EVO 4G.  


I certainly would consider it, if I were you, but there are some caveats.  Virgin is a Sprint company, and uses Sprint's network.  In my experience, that has meant generally good coverage, with some glaring exceptions like when I travel to the Appalachian mountains.  When I was with AT&T I got spotty coverage there, but spotty is a lot better than none.  The other downside is the download speeds are noticeably slower than AT&T.  Not slow enough to be painful, but noticeable.  I can still stream Netflix with little or no buffering, but pages load quite a bit slower.  


The amount of money I save makes it worth it.  With the iPhone you would pay $35 a month for a plan that is pretty close to what would cost you about $90 with AT&T.  Do the math, it doesn't take that long for the purchase price to be offset by the monthly savings.  


I've never used Cricket, so I can't tell you much based on personal experience.  I do know that their coverage is pretty limited and their monthly cost is higher than Virgin Mobile. 


Another thing to think about is how you use your device.  I just looked at my data usage for this month of service, which happens to ends tomorrow, and I've only used 288.17MB of the 2.5GB that Virgin allows before throttling.  However, I've used 2.89GB of data over WiFi.  If you rely heavily on WiFi like I do, the slower speeds of the Sprint/Virgin network don't have much impact.


Oh, one last thing.  You know all those monthly charges and fees that you get tacked on to your phone bill?  I don't get that any more.  I pay my $25 (I'm grandfathered on an older plan) and the sales tax.  That's it.  No regulatory surcharge, no 911 maintenance fee, no other BS charges.  My overall experience has been positive, and I have never...NEVER...regretted switching.     

Well, I've bought iPads and there's no subsidy for those. So I wouldn't mind paying full price for a new iPhone if I had a much lower monthly bill. That wouldn't work for everybody, but it's a nice option for those who want to do it.

See this article:

Why Your Next iPhone Should Be Prepaid

"Earlier this week, we did the math and declared prepaid carrier Cricket Mobile to be the best iPhone deal around, but today’s announcement that Sprint’s Virgin Mobile will also be offering the iPhone 4S starting on June 24th changes the math substantially, and Cricket’s no longer looking like such a good deal.

Virgin Mobile’s iPhone deal requires you to purchase a completely unsubsidized iPhone from them up front at $649, $150 more expensive than Cricket. But that initial money spent up front can really pay off over time, depending on which plan you sign up for.

How much? You can save over $1000 over the course of two-years on Virgin Mobile compared to AT&T, Verizon or Sprint."
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