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Prepaid Wireless Tracker #117, March 2018 - Cricket Aggressively Goes After Switchers!
March 01, 2018
Prepaid Wireless Tracker
- March 2019, Issue #117
I've been saying for awhile that smartphone evolution has been so slow that it's not really worth spending top dollar on the newest flagship models. This deal at Cricket is thus definitely worth considering if you're interested in porting over your number, and purchasing a data plan at least $30/month or more. This deal gets you 50% off a Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, which is the current flagship that carriers are already starting to offload in anticipation of the Galaxy S9 release. PocketNow (press release) (blog)
New customers can get $15 off the normal $55 for the first year when enrolling in AutoPay. This is a great deal, but does cap data speeds at 3 Mbps, and 480p video streaming. That said, if you were considering a move to Cricket, this is a good deal, coupled with the 50% off S8 deal! Though, as always, keep in mind that you should always consider the long term total cost of ownership, and not get caught up in short term deals. One year on this discounted plan is a lot better than many, though make sure you're still happy once the 12 month deal expires!
Along with its parent company, MetroPCS scored at the top of the Wireless Purchase Satisfaction rankings. There really is no surprise here. As wireless service has become a commodity, carriers risk a race to the bottom (i.e. no profits!) if they simply compete on price. Thus, putting more emphasis on the elusive customer experience is a far better strategy. T-Mobile has been known for years as the "uncarrier", always looking to do the opposite of what most carriers do. This approach continues to pay off!
AT&T prepaid wireless users can now stream video via DirectTV, U-verse TV, and Fullscreen without that data usage going towards their monthly allowance. Users must use AT&'s TV app. This is great for customers, and shows AT&T continuing to elevate the status of its prepaid users. This, however, is exactly the type of deal that Net Neutrality was meant to block, as it gives an unfair advantage to companies that own cross-media services. This is a hotly debated topic, particularly since Net Neutrality was repealed. At least for now it appears to benefit customers by gaining access to richer plans with a broader array of included services. It will be interesting to see whether Net Neutrality resurfaces in the coming years.
Verizon continues to add features to prepaid to stay in the game. This time they're introducing a new lower cost $30/month plan that gets you unlimited talk and text, and 500 MB of data. You can also now purchase the Travel Pass for $5/day that allows you to take your plan to Mexico and Canada. Their $75 unlimited plan now also includes 3G mobile hotspot. As I've stated countless times, and which still remains true, Verizon's plans are very lack luster, and I still wouldn't recommend them unless you're a die hard Verizon customer, and refuse to look anywhere else for your prepaid wireless needs.
America Movil owns some of the largest prepaid wireless brands in the U.S., such as TracFone, Safelink, and Straight Talk, among many others. It reported 11.3% fewer overall subscribers, largely contributed by 685K lost Safelink customers. The expansion of Lifeline has certainly been tremendous the past couple of years, leaving carriers scrambling to sign up new customers, and keep existing ones.
The company also noted that along with overall greater competition, there was a larger than usual defection of customers from prepaid to postpaid. I suspect this is largely due to postpaid carriers aggressively eliminating contracts along with phone subsidies. Thus, the reality is that postpaid and prepaid business models are blending. If this trend continues, there may no longer be a material distinction between the two business models in the coming years.
What this all means for customers is intense competition and even better plan value with high pressure to bring down prices. Hopefully we choose carriers that can survive these storms; or at least make sure that we have an unlocked phone and an exit strategy!
When Cricket first announced it would launch in GameStop stores, my first thought was "what a dumb idea"! I'm actually surprised it took this long to eliminate the program. I expect employee knowledge, and the complexity of managing accounts and general customer service was a massive headache for them. There are simply much better places to make a phone purchase than a game store; it's pretty obviously a bad fit.
This idea was probably just as bad as when Boost first sold its phones in surf shops. Though, arguably that was part of a larger branding effort, and wasn't expected to drive large sales volumes. GameStop, on the other hand, really was of meaningless value for Cricket, and a similarly poor decision to the ill fated partnership with Radio Shack. Claiming that customers who purchased at GameStop kept their phones longer and represented a decrease in opportunity for follow up sales is complete BS. It's simple; it was a crappy location for wireless products, and not worth the overhead cost for either party.
US Cellular is joining the game of marketing slight-of-hand by lowering its unlimited plan from $70 to $55/month. I say this because it has the same restrictions that other carriers have by limiting streaming to 480p quality, and dropping to 2G (i.e. useless!) speeds after 15 GB. In other words, these aren't unlimited plans at all. Moreover, in the past the data bucket was large enough to essentially be unlimited for most reasonable users. However, now with YouTube and a myriad of other video streaming services, 15 GB can no longer reasonably be considered to be unlimited.
So here we go again, another marketing cycle that will inevitably come full circle following the ultimate customer confusion and backlash. Notwithstanding, these "limited" plans may well meet the needs of a lot of customers, so definitely make sure you do a solid price comparison taking your individual usage needs into consideration!
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