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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #110, Aug 2017 - AT&T Finally Kills GoPhone Prepaid Brand!
August 01, 2017

Prepaid Wireless Tracker - August 2017, Issue #110


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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Note: I do not have any affiliation, nor do I get paid by any of the sites that I link to below.  They are simply topics that I deemed interesting, and provide a link for you to learn more, and I give credit to the source by listing their name under the title.  Enjoy!

AT&T Finally Eliminates GoPhone Brand - Goes With "AT&T Prepaid"

Blasting News
Well, well, the time has finally come!  I've been recommending for years that AT&T get rid of its GoPhone brand.  It simply never had any real brand equity with customers, and has been noncompetitive in the prepaid space for at least a decade.  Similar to Sprint dabbling with various iterations of its Sprint Prepaid brand, AT&T is finally doing the same with AT&T Prepaid.  I expect that historically AT&T wanted to distance its main brand from the stigma of prepaid. However, now that prepaid is well rooted in the mainstream, and postpaid is actually in decline, leveraging the AT&T brand makes a lot of sense.  No doubt politics and ego delayed this move for years.

With the new plans customers get two free months in the form of a credit after the 3rd and 12th months. These credits, however, only apply to the $45 6GB, and $65 unlimited plans; the $35 1GB plan isn't included. Though all three plans are eligible for a $5/month additional discount for enrolling in autopay, which is also required to get the free months.  Also note that data speeds are limited to 3 Mpbs, and video is limited to SD quality.

It will be interesting to see how AT&T differentiates this new brand from its much larger prepaid brand, Cricket. I expect it will always keep Cricket slightly more competitive, while pricing AT&T prepaid as an alternative for customers who either don't understand that Cricket is even part of AT&T, or for those who simply prefer to stay with the core AT&T brand.  Regardless, this has been a long time coming, and I have no doubt that AT&T will be better off leveraging its core brand, and saving money by not having to manage a distinct GoPhone prepaid brand.

ZTE Blade Spark Is A Good Deal For Under $100

AT&T is kicking off its re-brand of GoPhone to AT&T Prepaid with the addition of this pretty great value $99 ZTE Blade Spark.  It has a 5.5" screen, large 3,140 mAh battery, fingerprint reader, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage with microSD card expandable storage, as well as 13MP and 5MP rear and front facing cameras, respectively.  It also has a dedicated selfie button on the side, which is a nice touch; though not as slick as Samsung's voice activated camera.  While it certainly doesn't have as much RAM or storage, nor the latest processors, compared to higher end phones, for the price, it's a pretty sweet deal.  As the addition of features on the latest high end smartphones have decelerated, these lower end phones are really offering much more than adequate performance for the average user.

AT&T Covers Postpaid Losses With Prepaid Gains

Wireless Week
I like this article as it's very telling regarding the current state of the wireless industry.  That being that postpaid is in a sharp decline, while prepaid is growing.  That said, given cut-throat competition, prepaid growth is slowing.  Maintaining, and even increasing profitability, will become key in the coming years.  We're currently in a race to the bottom, which is as expected in a matured industry.  The surviving companies will ultimately raise prices, so customers should enjoy it while we can!

MetroPCS vs. T-Mobile: Which Is Best for You?

Tom's Guide
People often ask why someone would choose the parent company's prepaid plans versus their dedicated prepaid sub-brand.  This is a great article outlining the differences between T-Mobile and MetroPCS.  Overall, with Metro you'll get more plan options, better pricing, and larger phone selection.  However, you'll give up some of the perks that you get from the T-Mobile brand, and lose priority when the network is congested.  Generally speaking, I recommend comparing the plans in terms of features, price, and options to switch as you nail down your actual usage needs.  Then review your phone options, and don't forget that most providers now offer BYOD (Bring Your Own Device).

Cricket Offers A Number Of Goodies For The Summer Season

AT&T's Cricket Wireless is taking on the summer with some aggressive offers.  Here's the breakdown:
  • 2 lines with unlimited data for $80/month.
  • New phones:
    • PulseMix with a 5.2" HD screen for $80 when activating a new plan, or $30 when porting in your number.
    • LG X Charge with a 5.5" HD screen for $130 when activating a new plan, or $100 when porting in your number.
  • Discounts on existing phones:
    • ZTE Sonata 3, LG Fortune, Samsung Galaxy Amp 2 are FREE when you port in your number.
    • ZTE Blade X Max for $100 when you port in your number.
    • LG Sylo 3 for $130 when you port in your number.
These are obviously some great deals, so take advantage of them while they last.  HOWEVER, as a reminder, don't forget to evaluate your long term cost of ownership by reviewing the plan cost and overall value.  i.e. Don't get caught up in short term savings with one or two months discounted, or a discounted phone.  Companies do this to attract you with "must have" deals, often taking your attention away from what will benefit you over the long run.  So take advantage of deals (there are plenty of them!), but don't be fooled by forgetting to put on your intellectual hat to analyze the long term value.

More Talk About A T-Mobile & Sprint Deal - No One Will Admit To Anything Real

Kansas City Star
There has been so much press, and so many rumors around the topic of a T-Mobile and Sprint merger.  I honestly don't think this would ever be approved, as it would negatively impact competition in the U.S.  Furthermore, Sprint has a history of destroying companies (ex. Nextel $30B loss!), and has been flailing to find relevance (and profits) for over a decade.  While I obviously don't know T-Mobile's underlying financial status, from the outside, I would speculate that T-Mobile would be better off without Sprint.  T-Mobile has shown a rare ability to innovate in a difficult market, make quick moves to stay ahead of competition, and has clearly improved the quality of its network.

I do expect, however, that much of this has resulted in a negative impact on T-Mobile's financial viability.  If it can survive financially, or find the right investors, I predict that the company overall would be better off, and customers would definitely be better off with T-Mobile remaining independent.  It will be interesting to see what happens, however, my instinct says: "Stay as far away from Sprint, a truly loser wireless company, and continue to innovate and grow on your own."

Lifeline Free Cell Phone Service Being Re-Evaluated - Do The Benefits Outweigh The Fraud & Waste?

LA Daily News
We've known for years that the Lifeline free cell phone service program has been fraught with fraud and wastage.  There have been steps put in place to help reduce these problems, however, they do still exist.  Furthermore, apparently only 32% of eligible households actually participate, with those who don't demonstrating that they find ways to still afford cell phone service.  This is particularly feasible given how many low cost prepaid plans are available that can be adjusted based on specific usage needs.  Thus, the question becomes whether or not the cost of this program is justified.  There hasn't been any decision to discontinue it, however, no doubt that the program is under continually review.

It really comes down to whether the net benefit to those who are able to use it are significant enough.  From the feedback on my website forums, I would tend to veer towards the conclusion that the program is very meaningful, with significant positive impacts to those who do participate.  It's also unclear whether the low participation rate is due to customer awareness, or operational challenges around enrollment and certification.  In either case, improvements can be made, along with hardening the fraud measures.

Straight Talk's Stealth Rewards Program

It's unclear when Straight Talk actually launched this program, however, it appears to be new.  There's a slew of rewards to be had, which you can check out by linking over to their site.  Personally, I have yet to see a loyalty program for any product, company, or industry that is so compelling that I would select or stay with them due to their rewards program.  That said, if you're already a customer, definitely register.  If you're looking for a new provider, and have narrowed it down to a couple of companies, this could help sway you all else being equal, so definitely check it out.

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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