Virgin Mobile USA has confirmed it will carry the iPhone two days after rumors surfaced that it was set to become the second U.S. provider to offer the device on a prepaid basis.
Virgin Mobile, one of Sprint’s prepaid brands, set a June 29 launch date, earlier than the July1 date reported this week.
“What better way to thank our fans for ten years of loyalty than by giving them exactly what they want: the perfect plan for the perfect phone,” Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said in the announcement. The debut of the iPhone at Virgin Mobile coincides with its tenth year in business.
Virgin’s iPhone launch will come one week after the device hits shelves at Leap Wireless International subsidiary Cricket Communications.
Customers will have to pay more to get the prepaid iPhone at Virgin Mobile than at Cricket, but the company is offering the smartphone with cheaper rate plans.
Virgin is selling the 16 GB model of the iPhone 4S for $650, compared to $500 at Cricket. Virgin’s 8 GB iPhone 4 will retail for $549, versus $400 for Cricket’s iPhone 4.
But Virgin’s three iPhone rate plans cost less than the $55 plan offered by Cricket.
Both Virgin and Cricket are advertising the plans as coming with unlimited data, but have fair usage policies that cap data use at 2.5 GB per month and 2.3 GB per month, respectively.
Virgin’s lowest plan costs $30 and includes 300 voice minutes, all-you-can-eat text messages and “unlimited” data within its fair usage policies. The next plan comes in at $40 and offers 1,200 voice minutes and the same amounts of text and data. The highest plan costs $50 and includes unlimited voice calling, again with the same quantity of SMS and data.
The price tags for each of the plans include a $5 discount customers get for signing up for automatic monthly payments. Without the discount, the plans cost $35, $45 and $55, bringing Virgin Mobile’s highest monthly rate in line with Cricket.
Virgin will not charge customers activation or roaming fees for the iPhone. The device will be sold on its website, RadioShack, BestBuy and “select local retailers.”
The Virgin Mobile iPhone falls under Sprint’s current $15.5 billion agreement with Apple, and could help Sprint meet its purchase obligations under the four-year contract so that it’s not stuck with unsold devices.
“Any iPhone devices sold by Virgin Mobile will count toward Sprint’s current unit commitment under the existing agreement with Apple,” Sprint said in a SEC filing. Bringing the iPhone to Virgin Mobile “should have no material impact” to its 2012 adjusted operating income before depreciation and amortization, it said.
Sprint has sold fewer iPhones than its larger competitors since it started offering the device last fall. During the first quarter, it sold just 1.5 million iPhones, considerably less than the 3.2 million sold by Verizon and the 4.3 million activated by AT&T during the same period.
Even so, CEO Dan Hesse has maintained that Sprint will be able to meet is purchase obligations with Apple.