This section provides you with a quick glance at what's in the news so that you can easily keep informed. I believe in brief, to-the-point commentary so that you can move onto other tasks in your day. Each snippet includes a link to the original story should you be interested in the full details.
New T-Mobile MVNO GIV
Mobile Donates 8% To
New T-Mobile MVNO GIV Mobile is differentiating its service by donating 8% (or up to $50/year) to designated approved charities from which customers can select. It's a great concept, and I'm all for supporting charities, however, chopping off 8% of their top line revenue out of the gate is a risky business case to be paying around with. I don't know that the tax-offset will be sufficient to leave GIV with sufficient margin to stay in business long term, let alone be profitable. Prepaid carriers strive for 40% margins, so an immediate 8% loss is material (before the tax write-off). Of course, I don't have any insight into Giv's business case or financials. Ultimately, I hope they succeed, though at this point I'm not optimistic; hopefully I'm wrong. Check out their site to see if it meets your needs, and help support good causes!
AT&T Launches New Brand & Company Aio Wireless
So now it's official ; AT&T launched a separate prepaid brand, Aio Wireless. It's short for All In One, which is kind of a lame name if you as me. Note that this is more than a new brand, it's a new company. I chatted with Aio online and they insisted that while they run on the AT&T network, they're a separate company. This allows AT&T to keep its prepaid GoPhone brand, and experiment with more aggressive and diverse offers without impacting its AT&T brand. This is a common strategy, though I expect there's a lot more AT&T control that they're admitting to. Also, oddly, they're calling these data centric plans, and while the data allowances are good, they're 3G only. Aio will need to move to LTE within the next 12 months to have a chance of competing. Regardless, it's a wise move for AT&T to make a larger investment in prepaid, which promises to take over postpaid in the not-so-distant future!
New MVNO Zact Lets You Build Your Own Plan
So here's an interesting new Sprint MVNO! You choose the number of voice minutes and texts, and how much data you want in your plan. There are a plethora of options (which I played around with on their site), and your monthly price changes as you customize your plan. In addition, if you overestimate what you need, they're credit back to your account the dollar difference had you selected the lower priced plan with the lower number of minutes, texts, and data that you actually ended up using. It's really a cool idea. I'd love to have a peek into their business model! It will be interesting to see if they have the money to market their product, as I expect that it will appeal to a lot of people. Also, they have access to Sprint 3G and 4G LTE, which keeps them in the game from a data speed perspective. Lastly, they also have app-based pricing, which means that you don't have to buy a plan, but can pay for access to a certain app with unlimited usage. For example $5/month for Facebook access. Though there is a $4.99 monthly maintenance fee on every device. I think to truly take off (besides awareness), they'll need to implement a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program as their phone selection is not very inspiring. It will be interesting to see how this new company performs.
Prepaid Wireless Takes A Third Of U.S. Smartphone Sales
Well, well, what do we have here! More evidence that prepaid is growing. For those of you who have been reading this e-zine for the past five years (yes, I know there are a good handful of you still on the distro!), you know that I've been forecasting prepaid dominance since 2008. There were a number of elements that needed to align before carriers, and the mainstream consumer, would buy into this inevitability. At this time next year, it should be well north of 60%!
Verizon Increases Prepaid Data Allowances To Stay In The Game
Its prepaid smartphone users got a data allowance bump from 500MB to 2GB on the $60 plan, and 2GB to 4GB on the $70 plan. I've been monitoring their site for weeks since the announcement, however, they have yet to update it. I expect they'll update it June 6th when new customers will be eligible to receive the new data allotment. Existing customers were able to get it by calling Verizon and requesting it as of May 15th. Verizon continues to creep up on getting real value into its prepaid offerings, which is necessary to stay in the game. However, keep in mind that Verizon has limited prepaid smartphone selection, and it's 3G support only at this point.
Boost Mobile Finally Gets iPhone
So Boost is said to be getting the iPhone sometime this summer. While that's not inspiring news in and of itself as they're VERY late to the iPhone game at this point, Boost's prepaid plans are some of the most competitive in the market, so this means great value assuming Boost doesn't charge a premium for iPhone plans as it once did with BlackBerry smartphones. I do, however, expect that sales won't be as high as some people think, given more compelling Android phones are already available at the same or lower price points.
AT&T GoPhone Gets Highspeed Data & iPhone
Starting at the end of June, AT&T prepaid GoPhone customers will have access to its highspeed data networks, and it will finally be allowing iPhones to be activated. While this is a positive step forward, its pricing is largely uncompetitive. I still can't think of a reason why anyone looking for prepaid would choose AT&T?!
Boost Mobile Partners With Wipit For Mobile Wallet Solution
Mobile Payments Today
This new mobile wallet offering allows users to transmit money overseas, pay bills (ex. utilities, cable, etc.), topup, and transfer funds between accounts. Users also get a Visa card attached to the account for use at retailers. This type of mobile application has been in the works for years, and is intriguing for the unbanked. That said, do you really want to be 'banked" by your mobile carrier? I would think people would prefer to use an independent company that doesn't tie them so deeply to their wireless carrier. That way should you decide to switch carriers for whatever reason, you don't have to essentially move your virtual banking activities to another provider. What they should do is allow you to keep the virtual wallet service even if you discontinue Boost service. There's no reason they couldn't offer the app for download on any Android or iOS device. Now that would be extending the brand! Even then, however, as a customer, I'd opt for a service like GoBank.com, or other similar banking solutions for the unbanked.
Cricket Targets Postpaid With "Half Is More" Campaign
Rather than compete with prepaid carriers on price in a race to the bottom, Cricket is taking a different approach and competing directly with postpaid carriers AT&T and Verizon. The reality is that prepaid has long since offered effectively the same services for nearly half the price. Device selection has historically been the major gripe once customers actually started to appreciate the value of prepaid plans. Now that prepaid carriers have the latest and greatest handsets (Cricket has the Galaxy S3 & S4, and the iPhone), the game is on! One thing to note, however, is that their price comparison chart includes a $5 discount for autopay customers (noted in smaller print). That said, it's still a good comparison without that discount. It will be interesting to see whether this messaging resonates with AT&T and Verizon customers!
Sprint Finally Lets Galaxy S3 Onto Boost & Virgin Mobile
Gotta Be Mobile
So Boost and Virgin are finally getting the GS3! With Cricket launching the Galaxy S4 this month, this announcement seems to lack luster; however, for customers already on these brands, or for those that prefer these Sprint subsidiaries, the GS3 is a great phone, and for some an even a better option than the GS4. We'll see the price of the GS3 decline, and it's actually a good alternative for those that find the slightly larger form factor of the GS4 to be a little too large.
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