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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
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.
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. 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!
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).
AT&T's Cricket Wireless is taking on the summer with some aggressive offers. Here's the breakdown:
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."
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.
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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