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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #71, May 2014 - AT&T Relaunches Cricket This Month!
May 01, 2014

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - May 2014 Issue #71


Prepaid wireless is a growing and truly exciting industry.  At I try to provide you with in-depth information that isn't readily available anywhere else.  The content is original, and created from firsthand experience working in the prepaid wireless industry for over a decade.

This monthly email provides you with a quick glance at what's trending in the news so that you can easily keep informed.  I believe in brief, to-the-point summaries/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.

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AT&T To Relaunch The New Cricket This Month
AT&T is currently working on its launch of the New Cricket, which is expected to be a simplified version of the current Cricket on the AT&T network, and with a small selection of phones.  The launch will occur mid-May, however, existing Cricket and Aio Customers will remain largely unaffected for the time being.  Legacy customers of these brands can expect a forced migration to the new network in 12-18 months, so existing customers should look out for deals on new phones.

Rumor has it that the launch portfolio will look much like Aio's existing handset selection.  To be successful, however, they'll need to follow up quickly with the latest phones like the Galaxy S5, and even the Galaxy Note series.  That said, the iPhone 5 smartphones that they currently offer should be sufficient to carry them through some decent growth.  I'll be continuing to track the progress of this launch, so definitely stay tuned for more news as it evolves!

Sprint To Make All Phones Unlockable
Starting February 11, 2015, all Sprint phones will be unlockable once you're out of contract.  This presumable applies to prepaid phones as well.  This has basically been Federally mandated, and is certainly a huge win for customers.  Note that Sprint has always allowed unlocking for international use, however, within the U.S., its phones only work on Sprint.  Ultimately the next big paradigm shift in wireless will be that all phones are unlocked, and can be easily activated on any network.  Particularly as all carriers are moving to LTE as the standard 4G technology, compatibility is simplified (though frequency differences are still in play and require multiple radios).

We've already seen BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs become pervasive.  The reality is that as smartphone technology evolution is slowing, there really isn't any good reason to upgrade our phones as regularly.  In turn, customers should be able to easily switch providers without having to abandon a perfectly good phone.  In addition, moving to prepaid has been painful, requiring a large out-of-pocket purchase price for a new handset, or essentially locking oneself into a phone financing program, thus defeating the value of no contract wireless(!).  Universal unlocking will allow customers to more easily switch providers with a lower barrier to moving.

At some point in the not-so-distant future, we can expect handset OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to market and sell directly to customers (like Google's Nexus), and take carriers out of that equation altogether.  The only value carriers have been providing with respect to selling handsets has been offering subsidies, which are now starting to disappear.  I say: "Bring it on!"

AT&T Beefs Up Prepaid GoPhone Plans
In light of the launch of the New Cricket, AT&T's new prepaid brand, it's adding data and free Hotspot to its GoPhone brand.  There's definitely an odd dynamic here with AT&T's "fighter brand" (i.e. Cricket), and its legacy GoPhone brand.  The reality is that these business units are in no way synergistic; they are direct competitors within the same parent company!  Time will tell whether GoPhone gets eliminated.  At this point, however, GoPhone is no doubt currently the larger business, though certainly stagnating.  The New Cricket is expected to be much more agile and competitive, run by a completely different business unit, under a completely different President (JVB).

Although the two brands are not setting out to directly compete, it's inevitable that they will, and GoPhone is the anticipated loser.  It will be interesting to see how this battle evolves!

Verizon Offers $50 Prepaid Smartphone With KitKat
The LG Optimus Zone 2 has very respectable features given its $50 price point.  While it won't attract customers aspiring for the Samsung Galaxy series, for those wanting a solid phone with the latest Android software (i.e. KitKat), this is a great option.  That said, I personally don't feel that having the latest Android software is all that important, as the previous Jelly Bean version really isn't much different.  I have two smarpthones with different versions of Jelly Bean and have no intention/need to upgrade.  In other words, don't let the software version lead you to over-valuing this smartphone; look at the whole package, which is certainly a great buy.  Now whether the available prepaid plans actually make going with Verizon worthwhile is a completely different story...!

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