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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #114, Dec 2017 - FreedomPop Partners With Target For 1st Retail Play!
December 01, 2017
Prepaid Wireless Tracker
- December 2017, Issue #114
FreedomPop started out offering free mobile Internet service with the ability to purchase additional data. It quickly expanded to smartphones, and they offers a myriad of compelling plans. They're now entering retail with a partnership with Target, which is in fierce competition with Walmart when it comes to wireless service. This is great news for FreedomPop and customers, as its pricing is truly compelling, and it now also offers an inexpensive annual plan for those not interested in an unlimited plan, but who use basic talk, text, and data services. While they first launched on the Sprint network, they now also offer service on AT&T's network.
I bought my wife their mobile hotspot plan (with rollover data), and have been happy with the service for the better part of two years now. Definitely a company worth checking out. When my kids are an appropriate age to have their own phones, I'll definitely be looking at FreedomPop!
C Spire is more commonly known for its Lifeline program, however, they also offer prepaid plans for those who don't qualify for Lifeline, or who need to supplement their free service. This new deal is truly a fantastic value. For $40 you get 6GB (up from 3GB) of data, and for $55 you get 12GB (up from 8GB) of data. Both plans include unlimited talk and text. You also get to choose a free smartphone from a decent selection of low to mid-tier phones from Samsung, Motorola, and LG. Obviously this is a limited time offer, so if you're in the market, it's definitely worth checking out.
The challenge with smaller carriers like C Spire is that once they start competing on price, their profits suffer badly, and they tend not to have sustainable business models. As it is owned by Telepax, which holds a number of smaller telecoms, they're not an MVNO, which means their costs are likely not as bad as your typical MVNO. Thus, it may be more affordable for them to compete at this level. Fortunately, with prepaid you can easily transfer between carriers as you find better deals, so long as you avoid device financing, and have an unlocked phone. I also recommend keeping your phone number in Google Voice to ensure a smooth transition between providers.
Now that the Sprint and T-Mobile merger is dead, Sprint has announced a partnership with Altice (the 4th largest cable company) to launch a new wireless carrier. Unlike a traditional MVNO, it will be deeply integrated into Sprint's backend platform. This will give the carrier greater control over the end-to-end service, features, and experience, as well as integration of its network into Sprint's. Sprint will in turn leverage access to the cable network to improve its coverage. They haven't announced what plans the new company will offer, however, there will no doubt be some prepaid sprinkled in. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any wireless service offered by a cable provider succeed, so it will be interesting to see what they come up with!
After more than a decade of basically ignoring the prepaid segment, Verizon now admits that prepaid is "an area of opportunity." Gotta love it! Of course, we all knew that Verizon would wait until it experienced material declines in its postpaid business before putting any effort into prepaid. Even now, its prepaid plans are "OK", but not overly competitive. Over the past year it has continued to expand its plan and phone options, as well as increase its data allowances in order to stay slightly out of the "extremely pathetic" realm.
For those of us who have been in the prepaid industry since 2003 and even earlier, we discovered that prepaid is actually more profitable than postpaid overall. The "postpaid gurus" and "expert analysts" have long since stated how prepaid is a loser, and erodes profits. However, although postpaid customers are locked into a contract, and historically had higher plan prices, prepaid has always had lower acquisition costs, and overall lower ongoing expenses, resulting in higher overall profitability. Glad Verizon finally figured this out!
I like to see companies innovate, particularly with hardware, which has pretty much been stagnant for years. I can definitely see the benefit of being able to multitask on the dual screens. When doing so on my Galaxy S7, the split screens are so small, particularly when you bring up the keyboard in one of them, that's it's only marginally useful under specific circumstances. That said, this ZTE phone is bulky, with a huge bezel, and the screens can't fold together (facing each other). As a result, I would never want to keep this thing in my pocket without a pouch, nor leave it folded on my car's console, which is where I ALWAYS place my phone. I just can't see this phone being practical 95% of the time. Not to mention that for $750 I just can't see many people buying it.
Hopefully the R&D invested in this device can be used to further development of smartphones. Honestly, when I saw the headline, I was thinking of a flexible OLED screen of some kind. Notwithstanding that this ZTE smartphone is likely to flop, I do appreciate the effort!
You won't find any lineups to get this phone, however, for $50 it's quite a capable entry level smartphone. In addition, transfer your number into Cricket and you get the phone for free. Although it's not super high resolution, it has a decent 5" scratch resistant screen. It's 1.1 GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, 5 MP and 2MP rear and front cameras, respectively, will certainly meet the needs of most users. Unlike iPhones, which cost many hundreds of dollars more, you can also expand the memory with a micro SD card up to 32GB. The higher end $800-$1,000 smartphones had better offer a lot more innovation over the next couple of years if they want to compel users to fork over that kind of money when low and mid-tier phones are becoming so capable.
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