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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #109, July 2017 - Virgin Mobile Has A Death Wish - Goes iPhone Only!
July 01, 2017
Prepaid Wireless Tracker
- July 2017, Issue #109
We knew for awhile now (actually 1 year overdue!) that Virgin was going to re- launch with something off-the-wall, and that there would be some kind of iPhone related offer. However, I never imagined Virgin would be going exclusive with iPhones! You have to get your iPhone from an Apple store or directly from the Virgin Mobile website. If you activate before July 31st, you'll also get your first year of unlimited talk, text, and data for $1 (for the year). Note that you're still responsible for taxes and other telecom fees, which are billed on a monthly basis. Thereafter, you'll pay $50/month for the same plan if you signup for autopay; otherwise it's $5 more.
I addition, you'll also get into their new "Inner Circle" program, which is a partnership with the broader Virgin brand. This includes discounts and special offers on certain Virgin Atlantic flights, a free extra night at Virgin Hotels, and discounts on Virgin Wines. It's a nice idea, however, these may be more about perceived value versus actual value, as most customers are unlikely to truly benefit from these offers. Regardless, I can see where Virgin Mobile is going with this. Their site was completely stripped of all of their previous plans and offers. They truly simplified their business, and are trying hard to leverage the Virgin and Apple brands. Note, however, that the Inner Circle benefits are only available to those who enroll by Sept 30th, pointing even more to marketing blitz than real long term value.
Going exclusive was likely the only way to get them into Apple stores, and no doubt they have a multi-year agreement. I don't know how long that deal is, however, it will take them several years to truly understand whether this new business model is working. If not, I expect they'll probably dump the Virgin brand altogether! Personally, I'm shocked at the announcement. Going upstream with iPhones used to have a lot of merit, and iPhone users do tend to be more sticky. However, that knowledge held true when customers were locked to carriers with contracts, and iPhones weren't available across all carriers. In addition, in recent years I have seen a lot of dedicated Apple fans actually moving to Android phones out of frustrations with phones issues, and general lack of innovation, as well as decreased value compared to similar and even more powerful Android phones.
I honestly think that given Apple's struggles as of late, it needs this as much as Virgin does, which is kind of telling. A decade ago Apple didn't even want prepaid carriers activating iPhones! This will certainly be VERY interesting to see unfold. I think they'll see an initial surge with the limited time $1 offer, however, I predict that the multi-year outlook will be bleak. Every other carrier offers iPhones and Android smartphones with similar price plans (when the initial promotion expires), so really what's their long term value proposition?
Verizon has updated its My Verizon app to give prepaid users some love. The app will allow prepaid customers to make payments, monitor usage, add additional data, change plans, as well as setup automatic payments. Providing prepaid users with a good customer experience to manage their account, and to pay Verizon for services...hmm... Not exactly revolutionary, but does add another notch to Verizon's efforts to finally take the prepaid segment seriously, rather than continue to treat it like a 3rd class citizen!
To further its commitment to prepaid, Verizon is offering this fantastic deal. At $70, the Moto E4 really is packed with features. Even at its original price of $129 it's a good deal; at $70 it's practically a steal! You get a smartphone in the very high end of mid-tier, with a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 5" HD display, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, 8MP rear camera, 5MP front camera, and expandable microSD card slot. It also comes with the latest version of Android, is nano-coated for water resistance, and has a fingerprint scanner. If you're considering Verizon prepaid, this is an offer that's definitely worth considering!
Yes, Sprint is still playing around with prepaid under its own brand. Fortunately, this is actually a decent offer, although it's limited to only a handful of low end smartphones that can be activated. Under their "Sprint Forward" prepaid plans, you'll find one for $40 for unlimited talk and text, and 4GB of data, and a $60 unlimited data plan. Note that these prices are AFTER a $5 monthly discount for signing up for autopay. It would appear as though Sprint still can't figure out how to productively implement a prepaid strategy. At least customers have plenty of high value options!
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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