When Will Virgin Mobile Get The iPhone 5?

When Will Virgin Mobile Get The iPhone 5?

Virgin will soon carry the iPhone 4 and 4S, but when will it get the iPhone 5?

Up until a year and a half ago, U.S. customers had almost choice of carrier or rate plans when buying an iPhone. That’s something that has changed dramatically. The iPhone’s launch on Verizon and Sprint followed by several regional carriers across the country and the recent introduction of the iPhone as an option on prepaid networks Cricket and Virgin Mobile.

The new prepaid iPhone options may seem pricey because Cricket offers a very limited subsidies to attract iPhone 4 and 4S buyers and Virgin offers no discount or subsidy at all. As we noted earlier, however, paying the cost of the iPhone up front can actually save you money overall if you go with either Cricket or Virgin.

Beyond the upfront costs, however, there’s a big question to consider: will either prepaid carrier be included in the launch of the iPhone 5? While there isn’t a solid answer at this point, it seems likely that they won’t.

One of the unique and attractive features of prepaid carriers is that they are contract-free. That means you can switch phones or devices whenever you want, adjust billing cycles and features as you like, and you can cancel service temporarily or permanently if your needs change.

The flip side of that is that you can’t usually get the most recent devices. If you look through the current range of smartphones available from Virgin, you’ll notice that many are variations of phones that Sprint launched last year or even earlier. Even Virgin’s top phone, the Android-based and WiMax-enabled HTC Evo V 4G, is a variation of the HTC EVO 3D that Sprint launched last summer. The same holds true for Boost Mobile, Sprint’s second prepaid brand next to Virgin.

There are two factors at play here. The first is that slightly older handsets cost less the leading edge new devices. The second is that Sprint makes more money selling on-contract phones that guarantee a monthly revenue stream for the length of the contract. That means that the company has a strong incentive to offer the latest and greatest options only to Sprint customers under contract. Depending on the device manufacturer, it’s also possible that Sprint isn’t allowed to launch brand new phones on its prepaid subsidiaries.

At the same time, by offering reasonably recent phones that are solid performers, Sprint can cash in on users that prefer the prepaid options. Such customers get a perfectly good if not new-to-market option and that, combined with lower monthly costs, helps to build loyalty to the Virgin brand.

It seems extremely likely that Sprint/Virgin and other prepaid carriers will continue this model with the iPhone. The result being that you can buy an iPhone 4 or 4S, both of which are solid phones – the iPhone 4S is also current if not brand new. However, you’re not likely to see the iPhone 5 on Virgin any time soon. For iPhone users and fans that can’t wait for the iPhone 5 to ship, that’s a deal breaker. For many consumers, however, the iPhone 4S is a perfectly capable phone and one that will be useful for a long time to come. Getting it with the advantages of prepaid service is likely to appeal to a pretty wide range of American consumers.

Does that mean Virgin customers will need to wait until Apple unveils the iPhone 6? Possibly. Or possibly not. If you look at the original Sprint launch dates for the phones that Virgin offers, there’s a gap of nine or ten months between the Sprint launch and the Virgin launch.

  • Tallest_Skil

    FOR THE LOVE OF HUMANITY, YOU COMPLETE AND UTTER FOOLS.


    Do you do this on PURPOSE?!
  • Gil

    But if I will be paying $650 for my iPhone through Virgin Mobile anyway, can’t I can just go to Apple and buy an unlocked iPhone 5 and have Virgin Mobile activate it?

  • Tallest_Skil

    But if I will be paying $650 for my iPhone through Virgin Mobile anyway, can’t I can just go to Apple and buy an unlocked iPhone 5 and have Virgin Mobile activate it?

    That’s not how CDMA works, unfortunately.

  • AdamFC

    Apple’s not going to let them sell any phone that Apple doesn’t sell. So when iPhone 5 comes out, iPhone 4S will be the $99 option. Either Virgin will be limited to only selling that one model iPhone 4S, or they will get iPhone 5 as well. They won’t get to keep iPhone 4 around, and they won’t get iPhone 4Ses in any configuration except the 8 or 16 GB that Apple will sell as the entry level phone.

  • AppleJoeAJ

    I have a thought… It sounds crazy, but it makes sense in my head… What if Virgin Mobile and Cricket getting the iPhone 4S, is a distraction from the iPhone 5. Here’s how it played in my head: Virgin Mobile said their gonna carry the iPhone 4S (come June 29th) but by this time we will already know if the iPhone 5 is coming (and everything about it) or not, since WWDC is next week. And if Apple does release the iPhone 5, then all Virgin Mobile has to do, is change their current banner to “iPhone 5. Coming June 29th” … Sounds crazy, but that’s the rumor I’m making up :) lol

  • Tallest_Skil

    What if Virgin Mobile and Cricket getting the iPhone 4S, is a distraction from the iPhone 5. …by this time we will already know if the iPhone 5 is coming (and everything about it)…

    The next iPhone is not coming out at WWDC. It will not be hinted, it will not be mentioned, it will not be whispered. 

  • Paul Lloyd Johnson

    Seriously, can we please stop referring to the sixth iPhone, the one that is most likely just going to be titled iPhone or iPhone (6th Generation) as iPhone 5. The 4S is the fifth iPhone. The reason Apple is throwing the numbers out the window is because the general public get confused easily, fan sites should not suffer the same confusion.

  • thanksal

    I asked Virgin Mobile directly about the capacity of the 4S. My assumption was that they would only get the 16gb, but VM said they have no confirmation of exactly what capacities they will get beyond the 16gb. Given that VM is not subsidizing the phone, it is more probable for them to offer the 32/64gb than Cricket. I would love a 32gb but would be surprised if they get it. 

  • Jonny Webb

    Well couldn’t you buy the phone through cricket for $500 and then switchover to Virgin Mobile to save $150 for the iPhone 4S or would that not work?

  • blazzingsaddle

    Currently if you have a Sprint iPhone you could take it to a Cricket Dealer and they will flash it over to Cricket and could then use the phone.  My cousin did this several months ago -however, she took her step-daughter to Cricket to get her Sprint phone flashed and they told her they weren’t allowed to do it anymore – but did it anyway!

    BTW – unlocked phones on the Apple site are sold GSM.

     

    Also people have been putting ATT gophones sims cards in their iphones and using them prepaid for a long time – buying $50 data and $60 unlimited talk/text prepaid cards.

     

  • ApplePr0n
    What if Virgin Mobile and Cricket getting the iPhone 4S, is a distraction from the iPhone 5. …by this time we will already know if the iPhone 5 is coming (and everything about it)…

    The next iPhone is not coming out at WWDC. It will not be hinted, it will not be mentioned, it will not be whispered. 

    Texted?

  • ApplePr0n

    Well couldn’t you buy the phone through cricket for $500 and then switchover to Virgin Mobile to save $150 for the iPhone 4S or would that not work?

    Nope, i believe it’s carrier locked. But if not then that’s one helluva idea you have there

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About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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