Following up on the previous report published by the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, Virgin Mobile has officially announced the iPhone on its service and it will launch not in July as previously reported, but on June 29th. The versions of the iPhone being offered by Virgin Mobile will also differ in pricing, as the iPhone 4 will be sold for $549.99 for the 8GB model, while the 16GB iPhone 4S will be sold for $649.99, reflecting the lack of a deep initial subsidy in order to drive sales compared to previous smatphone launches.
While the iPhone as sold by Virgin Mobile will initially be more expensive compared to the Cricket/Leap offering, Virgin Mobile will be offering a $5 discount on its Beyond Talk plan slate if new and existing customers that upgrade to the iPhone sign up for automatic monthly payments via debit/credit card and/or PayPal, undercutting everyone on monthly service by as much as $1200 a year compared to postpaid iPhone plans, which average $80 a month.
Like the Cricket/Leap version, what has also not been confirmed is the availability of the SIM slot in the iPhone 4S for international roaming, as the iPhone 4S is a dual-mode phone with built-in support for CDMA and GSM networks, and carriers have typically taken to either lock down the SIM slot in order to push their own international roaming service while refusing to unlock, or unlocking the phone after certain criteria are met. Should the slot be made available for international roaming capability, the Virgin Mobile 4S would be a better deal for those that are looking for an iPhone with cheaper than average service domestically at an initially higher price, while simultaneously being a hassle-free option for traveling abroad when necessary.
While this also marks the beginning of the availability of the iPhone on nationwide prepaid service in the US, it should be noted that GSM service providers such as AT&T and Tracfone have yet to make similar announcements regarding the iPhone. While AT&T is loathe to offer GoPhone prepaid service for the iPhone in an official capacity after the iPhone and 3G offerings, AT&T-powered MVNOs such as Net10, Consumer Cellular and Straight Talk have taken steps to provide support for the phone by launching BYOD services with iPhone compatible full-size and microSIMs earlier this year.
Now, with two of the most visible prepaid CDMA-powered prepaid services offering the iPhone, it remains to be seen whether the iPhone’s halo effect will be powerful enough to drive people to sign up for those services despite the high initial price of both phones. While a $30 monthly plan may be enough to drive data and messaging-only sales for enthusiasts looking for a second line to complement a main line, other consumers may be driven away unless more is done to convince them that Virgin Mobile’s previous issues with its network are resolved and the service provider is indeed ready to offer the iPhone.