Virgin Mobile got heads a scratching when it unveiled a new smartphone plan that included no data.
Along with a few other tweaks to its plans, the Sprint prepaid brand Monday rolled out a $20 plan including unlimited text and 300 minutes but leaves customers to hunt for Wi-Fi.
A Virgin spokesperson confirmed there are no limitations on which Sprint-compatible devices can be used with the plan as long as they are Wi-Fi ready. As for the reasoning behind the unorthodox offering, the spokesperson simply indicated that Virgin understands “some people don’t need a ton of data.” Or in this case, any at all.
It’s a bold move considering no postpaid carrier in its right mind would even think of selling a customer a smartphone without at least some semblance of a data plan attached. The bloodletting of ARPU alone is enough to make providers tremble at the thought of getting by on just voice and messaging revenue.
But Virgin isn’t new to the no data game.
This summer Sprint announced a partnership with ItOn, purveyors of highly customizable MVNO Zact Mobile, in order to build more granularity into plans. Using a mobile app, Zact customers can make on-the-go adjustments to the amount of minutes, texts and data included with their plans.
Zact is now defunct but in its place has grown Virgin Mobile Custom. The Walmart-exclusive offer from Virgin allows customers to start with a base price of $6.98 per line and then build the plan brick-by-brick: $3 for the first 250 minutes, $4.50 for 500 texts, and $18.50 for just over 1 GB of data. And if Virgin Mobile Custom shoppers want to leave the data limit at zero, so be it.
The phones up for grabs with Virgin’s exclusive Walmart plans are the LG Pulse, LTE LG Unify, and the ZTE Emblem, all thoroughly entry-level smartphones. But they are all smartphones not necessarily beholden to mobile data, which made them rare in today’s market.
But now Virgin has opened up its entire portfolio—including the iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC Desire 816—to a no-data plan option.
It’s likely that a majority of consumers will want cellular data to ensure full functionality for their expensive smartphones no matter where they roam. But for someone who only spends their time at home or at work amid fairly robust Wi-Fi networks, Virgin’s plans could be perfect.