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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #74, August 2014 - Walmart On The Move Again With Virgin Mobile Partnership
August 01, 2014

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - August 2014 Issue #74


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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Walmart Partners With Virgin Mobile to Launch Customizable No Contract

Walmart has partnered with Virgin Mobile to offer a new prepaid service dubbed "Virgin Custom," which allows customers to get monthly service starting at $6.98 for 20 minutes of talk time, and 20 text messages.  Users can add additional voice, text, and data services as desired.  Parental controls are also included, which is a nice feature.  This is basically the ZACT Mobile service that was powered by ItsOn that Sprint recently acquired.  ZACT is being shut down on August 3rd, and customers will be offered an incentive to migrate to the new Sprint program.

On the one hand I appreciate that customers have additional options when selecting service; however, on the other hand, the myriad of plans can lead to complexity and confusion.  I'm also not a big fan of certain plans being precluded to certain retailers only.  In my opinion, where carriers sell their programs shouldn't define what those programs are; they should be universally accessible.  Of course, retailers like Walmart are attempting to offer greater value than their competitors, which makes a lot of sense for Walmart.  However, it introduces unnecessary complexity for customers.  Ideally they would have offered this as a service plan option on their Walmart-exclusive Straight Talk brand.  Unfortunately, Straight Talk (i.e. TracFone) doesn't yet have the technology to deliver this type of program, which is why they had to go with Sprint/Virgin.

Verizon Finally Allows Prepaid Customers To Ride the 4G Train!

Well, well, what do we have here; Verizon is finally allowing prepaid no contract customers access to its 4G LTE network.  As I've reported numerous times over the years, Verizon has always been the slowest of the large carriers to evolve its prepaid offers.  It makes sense for them not to lead in the race to lower prices, and the decline of arguably more profitable postpaid customers.  To their credit, they've always evolved their prepaid program just before their offers become completely uncompetitive and almost irrelevant.  This may also be a practical network engineering strategy in that the eventually discontinuation of its 3G network is now in sight.  Regardless, now prepaid customers can get a higher end phone (compared to a previously very restricted selection) on their 4G network, as well as some limited time promotions to get additional data.

GoPhone Launches Nokia Lumia 635 Windows Phone

Mobile & Apps

We're seeing more movement on the GoPhone front these days as AT&T has positioned its New Cricket brand as a direct competitor to GoPhone.  Inside sources reveal that there's very little cooperation between the two business units, and while they don't spend a lot of time directly competing, they are considered competitors, and report to different executives.  It's interesting to see the Lumia 635 described as a mid-tier phone.  While strictly speaking it is, less than 6 months ago, these specs were considered high end (aside from the lower resolution camera).  I expect we'll start to see specs become less important as they have with laptops.  Any modern computer can run any app, so competing on specs only becomes a worthless exercise.  We're not quite there yet, however, that inevitability is clearly on the horizon!

Go Phone Launches HTC Desire 610 Android Smartphone
CNET (blog)

Another highly capable mid-tier smartphone is now available to GoPhone users!

Cricket Offers Lowest No Contract Price For Galaxy S5


Cricket currently has a $50 mail in rebate on the Galaxy S5, which allows it to say that it's offering this flagship device for the lowest price.  While this is certainly true, would you select your next carrier solely based on an extra $50 off?  Prepaid and postpaid customers need to consider network, plan price, features, etc., long before considering a $50 incentive.  Six months from now you won't care about the $50 cost difference.  So, just as a reminder, don't forget to consider all factors before being lured in by price alone.  That said, if you're a Cricket fan, and looking to activate service, or upgrade from an existing phone, this is a good deal on a fantastic smartphone.

Virgin & Boost Can Now Access Games On PlayPhone
Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile customers can now access the PlayPhone game app store, and purchase downloads without the need for a credit card.  There are a couple of things going on behind the scenes here.  One is PlayPhone basically competing in the app store space (dominated by Apple, Google, and arguably Amazon as an up and coming competitor). Another element is carriers desperate for additional revenue streams, particular in games and app downloads where Google and Apple have essentially cut them out of the process.

If you're a PlayPhone fan, or someone without a payment device to pay for games using Google or Apple app stores, this may be exciting new.  If not, I doubt this will increase adoption and make carriers any meaningful additional revenue.  Most people would rather have their apps and games managed by one app store, which isn't going to be PlayPhone.  In addition, there are plenty of easy ways to pay for apps and games on Android and iOS without the need for a credit or debit card, but that's a tutorial for another day...

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I'd love to hear from you. Just reply to this zine and tell me what you think!

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