It’s been a long time coming, but a regional carrier called Cricket is the first to offer a pre-paid iPhone at long last. Though the iPhone has been offered via Verizon, Sprint and AT&T for quite some time, it has always been available only as part of a contract. The fastest growing segment of wireless customers — those who don’t want contracts — can now get iPhones as well.
Starting June 33, U.S. customers can grab a pre-paid iPhone for a pretty steep cost: $500 for a 16GB iPhone 4S or $400 for a two-year-old iPhone 4. To grab the same phones from Verizon, Sprint or AT&T, you’re looking at $200 and $100, respectively. Customers will then pay $55 a month to use it (as opposed to $70-$80 per month on the other carriers) with unlimited talk and text. For those who always want to use data, Cricket offers an “unlimited data” plan, but will throttle speeds after users hit 2.3GB in one billing period.
Here’s a bit more from CNN Money:
[quote]The trade-off is a less robust and more geographically limited network. Just 60 million Americans are covered by the Leap wireless frequencies that the iPhone supports, compared to upwards of 275 million on the other carriers. Cricket’s broader network covers more than 90 million Americans, so not all of its customers will be able to buy the iPhone at launch[/quote]
Cricket estimates that the average iPhone customer under contract from the major carriers will play something close to $2,775 over a two year period (including the initial purchase price), whereas the pre-paid service will clock in at a more comfortable $1,719. It marks an interesting and important level of dissemination for the iPhone into the U.S. market. With pre-paid users being the fastest growing segment and long-term cost being much lower, it could be the next big frontier for iPhone adoption.