Cricket stores opened this weekend to the sound of thousands of new customers clamoring for the first prepaid, no-contract iPhone.
For $499, anyone can buy a 16GB iPhone 4S from Cricket (or $399 for the 8GB model), starting service at $55 a month for unlimited calls, texts, and data usage.
Buyers who take advantage of the deal can choose to continue service each month unfettered by contracts or additional fees.
Reportedly, some Cricket retail locations saw lines of eager iPhone owners form outside in advance of the release.
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The excitement surrounding the pay-as-you-go iPhone plans may seem obtuse given the substantial up-front investment, though the costs over time can defray that capital.
For Cricket's customers, at least, the allure of a noncommittal relationship with a wireless service provider carries significant weight against the purported coverage from contract-laden providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.
A dash of prepaid Sprint
Cricket's data usage, lest we forget, runs primarily on the Sprint network, an affiliation that increases geographical coverage but limits data transfers.
Customers with "unlimited data" through Cricket see data speeds throttled after 2.3GB each month in an effort to lighten the load on the already heavy Sprint bandwidth.
For those who'd like to get in on the contract-free iPhone game but don't want to play ball with Cricket, Virgin Mobile USA will launch the world's second prepaid, no-commitment iPhone deal later this month.
Under the Virgin model, a 16GB iPhone 4S costs $649, and a monthly plan with 1200 minutes, unlimited text, and unlimited data costs $40.
Virgin's unlimited data plan does not bottleneck data usage after a preset transfer amount.
However, Virgin Mobile USA iPhone customers are likely to have a similar experience to Cricket iPhone customers because it also runs on the Sprint network.
And, with Sprint proper introducing 30 million new iPhones into the market as part of it's $20 billion deal with Apple, the relatively fledgling network is bound to get busy.
Boost Mobile is also rumored to begin selling iPhones outside contracts in September, which comes as no surprise because it too runs on Sprint's network as part of the "Sprint Prepaid Group" with Virgin.
If I were a betting man, I'd wager that Sprint likes prepaid, no-contract iPhones.