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Virgin Mobile Joins The No-Contract iPhone Movement; But Is It The Best Deal?

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 10:00AM Tuesday June 12, 2012
under Newsworthy

Want an iPhone, but don't want to get locked into a two-year contract? Wireless carrier Virgin Mobile just announced plans to offer a no-contract iPhone with seriously attractive monthly rates.

Wait a second, that sounds familiar. Oh, right, I wrote the exact same intro two weeks ago, but for a no-contract iPhone from Cricket.

Say hello to the start of a new and awesome trend: iPhones that are actually affordable. Well, more affordable, at least over the long haul.

Once again, it all boils down to math. Let's take a look not only at Virgin Mobile's deal and how it compares with the likes of AT&T's and Verizon's, but also how it stacks up against Cricket's.

VIRGIN MOBILE

Starting June 29, Virgin Mobile will sell the 16GB iPhone 4S for $649 -- a punch-to-the-gut price, no doubt about it.

However, Virgin's service plans start at $35 per month, and the company will bump that down to $30 if you sign up for automatic payments. You're still not locked into a contract, though.

Amortized over two years, that brings your total cost to $1,369.

CRICKET

Starting June 22, Cricket will sell the 16GB iPhone 4S for $499, saving you $150 from the get-go.

But the cheapest (and only) service plan costs $55 per month. Total cost over two years: $1,819.

However, it's important to note that Cricket's plan includes "unlimited" voice minutes, texting, and data. Virgin's $30 plan also provides "unlimited" texting and data, but only 300 voice minutes per month.

To make this a more apples-to-apples (ha!) comparison, we need to look at Virgin's $50/month plan, which affords unlimited calling. That brings the two-year total to $1,849, meaning Cricket wins by a few bucks.

VERIZON

When you sign up for a two-year contract with Verizon, you can get the 16GB iPhone 4S for $199. Monthly service (450 voice minutes, unlimited texting, and up to 2GB of data) runs $90.

Total two-year cost: $2,360.

Assuming you can get by on 300 voice minutes per month, you stand to save around $1,000 by choosing Virgin Mobile's deal. And let's not forget: the longer you keep the iPhone, the more you stand to save.

For example, another two years of Virgin service would run you $720, while another two years with Verizon would come to $2,160!

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS 

Now, keep in mind that an iPhone 5 is probably just a few months away, and I suspect that neither Cricket nor Virgin Mobile is likely to offer it anytime soon. That's one point against choosing a full-price, prepaid iPhone.

Also, neither Cricket nor Sprint-powered Virgin Mobile offers anywhere near the coverage of AT&T or Verizon. If you live in a rural area or smaller city, be sure to check each company's coverage map before buying your phone.

The best news in all of this is that it's finally possible to enjoy an iPhone without paying a small fortune every month (even if you do have to pay one to get the phone itself). Here's hoping more carriers get in on the no-contract, low-monthly-rates act, and that it forces the bigger carriers to drop their prices.