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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #77, Nov 2014 - Slow Customers & Carriers Still Pondering Prepaid!
November 01, 2014

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - November 2014 Issue #77


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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Is Prepaid Still Relevant?
When I first came across this article I literally laughed out loud thinking this is the most ridiculous question to be exploring.  The article is actually very well written, and it occurred to me that there are still a lot of people out there who don't understand that prepaid is no longer for the credit challenged or anonymous criminals.  For me it's been nearly a dozen years since I've been working in the prepaid industry, so it's really a no brainer.  Also, this market has been legitimized over and over again by carriers like T-Mobile shifting to be fully no contract, AT&T buying Cricket, and Sprint continuing to evolve its treasure chest of wholly owned prepaid brands as well as MVNOs.  If you, or anyone you know, are non-believers in the coming of prepaid wireless, this is definitely a good read!

Verizon Thinks Prepaid Wireless Market Is Dead

So Verizon thinks that the prepaid market isn't worthwhile.  Quite honestly, I highly doubt that's really what they're thinking internally even if that's actually what they said to external parties.  As a company with no real compelling prepaid offers, the only other thing they could say is: "We know prepaid is the future of wireless, and that we're way behind the entire industry building out a strategy."  The reality is that they've toyed around with different brands and programs, and none of them have shown any market leadership or innovation.  The fact is that postpaid is still dominating (despite being on the decline), so they're happy to cruise along; however, the tides are shifting, and they will ultimately need to make a more meaningful move in the no contract space as well.  It's really only a matter of time.  When they're up against the wall, and really feeling the shift, they'll make a change.  Whether or not they're planning for that now is still unknown, but it's certainly no surprise that they're not making any big moves at this point.  But to say the market is dead is insane, and is highly unlikely what they truly said or actually believe.

MetroPCS Launches Tablet Offer
PC Magazine

The specs of this $149 tablet certainly aren't state of the art, but plenty enough to accomplish any standard task.  I like the idea of adding it to an existing MetroPCS plan for $10 rather than activating an entirely new plan just for the tablet.  Personally, I think a separate mobile hotspot modem, or using your smartphone as a hotspot is a more flexible solution.  There are so many tablet options on the market.  There's no doubt you could buy a better tablet on eBay (new), and use your MetroPCS smartphone as a hotspot for an overall better approach.  That said, many people just want everyone pieced together for them, and to keep things as simple as possible, so this would definitely be an appealing offer.  Regardless, offering customers more options is definitely a positive step.

AT&T Loses Prepaid Customers in Q3

The notable portion of this article is that AT&T lost 140K prepaid subscribers in the third quarter.  They blame the expected loss due to the transition from legacy Cricket to the new AT&T program, however, that likely only contributed to a portion of the losses.  The reality is that their new program is pretty much in-line with the prepaid market, with very few standout features.  A $5 monthly discount for using autopay is definitely appealing, with Virgin Mobile being the only other carrier to offer a flavor of it (iPhones only).  However, they don't offer mobile hotspot capability, nor Muve Music (their legacy unlimited music program), and they don't advertise that they're an AT&T subsidiary on the AT&T 4G nationwide network.  So all-in-all, customers don't really understand upfront the value of the new brand, and the offers aren't obviously more compelling than the plethora of other prepaid plans out there.  No doubt there's some senior level management at the New Cricket sweating a bit at this point!

Cricket Re-Launches In Walmart
Prepaid Reviews (blog)

Cricket has had somewhat of bumpy relationship with Walmart over the years.  A brief summary is that shortly after launching their initial CDMA program in Walmart (over 5 years ago now), it basically flopped.  They pulled it out, then later re-launched after fixing some product issues, including a change in the Cricket management team.  It never became a large contributor, and was arguably on its way out again when AT&T took the reigns.  The new GSM program, however, has promise, and it should be interesting to see how it performs over the next 12 months.

What made the legacy Cricket CDMA program so awful was that Cricket designed a completely different product; different plans, different topup channels, different activation procedure, etc.  And they didn't design it very well.  The reason was due to their core product behaving more like a postpaid (activate in store) product, rather than a retail (cash-and-carry, activate later) product.  With the new GSM version, this issue is gone, which means a solid program across channels.  Hopefully they'll be able to launch in the remaining 1,500 or so Walmart stores to get nationwide distribution.

The Most Gorgeous Smartphone In The Country

I have to admit that this is a great looking device, and at $150, despite the moderate specifications, it feels like a great deal.  That said, practically speaking, do we really want an edge-to-edge bezel?  Most people put cases on their smartphones, so a case for this device would likely not be able to wrap around three of the edges (at least not in a meaningful way).  To me that makes it more prone to damage, and less comfortable to hold.  Also, with our without a case, your hand is bound to cover some portion of the screen, which could affect usability, not to mention overall structural strength.  All-in-all, I think this design is taking aesthetics a little too far beyond what's functional.

Boost Launches iPhone 6

In case you missed it, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are now available on Boost.  Prices range from $550 to $850 depending on the model and memory option.  Still on the expensive side when compared to similarly, or better-featured Android phones; however, if you're a simultaneous prepaid wireless and iPhone fan, you'll be happy to have these options available.

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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