Sprint mulling own prepaid venture to launch later this month?

Running head first into the pay-as-you-go game

Sprint is springing into the pay-as-you-go payment model, or at least according to leaked training material sent to Android Police.

The material points to Sprint's service jumping off on Jan. 25, when the network provider will offer "Sprint As You Go" phones with no contracts.

According to the material, four phones will be compatible with the service and all will be sold without subsidies.

Going as you pay

After users buy a phone, plans will run $70 a month to keep the smartphones active and $50 a month for the feature phones. Both plans will include unlimited voice, text and data.

There are some restrictions on data roaming, and those downloading outside their network won't get EVDO data optimizations. Not the biggest deal, but getting data outside the network will take a bit longer.

As for payment, the service will text users three days before the dreaded phone bill is due. Users are encouraged to manage their account on Sprint's website, and can set up an auto-payment schedule.

Since there is no contract there is no fee for terminating the service.

Phoning it in

Samsung's M400 and Array should be the two feature phones offered by Sprint. The simple clam-shell designed M400 will be the cheapest. The phone will cost $49.99 without a subsidy.

The Array is the next step up at $79.99. It's a bit more sophisticated with a color screen and slide-out keyboard, but it's still short of a real smartphone.

Sprint will also offer a few fancier handset options. There is the LG Optimus Elite, which will cost $149.99 up front and the Samsung Victory will be $249.99. But take note, the Victory has conspicuously dropped its 4G status for the no-contract version.

Customers will have to buy one of these phones to get access to the Sprint As You Go plan. And only phones with special SKUs will work without a contract. So users who already own one of these phones won't be able to use it to jump on the no-contract service.

Sprint says it will offer more phones as the plan gains maturity, but there is no word on what it will add or when.

Competing with yourself

Though Sprint isn't new to the mobile game, it may have a little trouble with the competition, especially its own subsidiaries.

Sprint owns both Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile, both of which offer similar unlimited, no-contract plans but for around $50 a month with no restrictions on devices.

Both subsidiaries also offer a much wider variety of devices, and sometimes the same devices for much cheaper. Boost offers the Samsung Array for only $49.99 (about $30 cheaper than Sprint) and Virgin sells the LG Optimus Elite for $79.99 (about $70 cheaper).

So it's not very clear why Sprint is going into the pay-as-you-go business.

The wireless company may be hoping to snatch up the rest of the prepaid customers its other brands have yet to attract. But a savvy customer will more than likely go with either Boost or Virgin.

That's about all the info we could mine from the Sprint training material. As the end of January nears, there's sure to be more info as Sprint officially unveils its pay-as-you-go options.

We'll see if it can compete in a market of its own crowding.

Via Android Police