No one likes a wireless contract. It restricts our freedom as consumers (e.g., no class action lawsuits) and binds us to a single carrier for two years at a time. So why do we sign them? We don’t have much of a choice, since that’s the way America’s major carriers operate.
But even if offered the option, many of us would still sign a contract, because that grants us a subsidy on a handset. While a BlackBerry normally retails for between $400 and $600, a subsidy gets that price below $200. Over the past year we’ve seen three prominent players in the U.S. introduce prepaid BlackBerry services. As expected, they all involve paying a heavy up front fee for the device. Is that a worthy trade-off?
MetroPCS started the prepaid BlackBerry movement a little over a year ago when it launched the Curve 8330. The offering is far from perfect. First, it only works in MetroPCS’s legacy markets, so it won’t work in its AWS areas, which include New York City and Boston. Second, as previously noted the price is well higher than most consumers are used to paying.
The device started at $449, or about $250 more than the Tour on contract. MetroPCS now offers a $100 instant rebate, and apparently reduced the price at another point, leaving it at $299. That’s still steep, but a bit more manageable. The service costs $60 per month.
After it announced it’s Complete line of plans, T-Mobile also announced a prepaid BlackBerry plan. Available exclusively at Best Buy and Wal-Mart (and now Amazon.com, it appears), Complete prepaid offers service with the BlackBerry Curve 8520. That’s a bit exciting because it’s a relatively new handset. Unfortunately, we run into the same problem as MetroPCS. The device costs $299.99 at a retail outlet, though it’s on Amazon for $250.
The service — unlimited everything — costs $80 per month. Yes, that gets you a lot, but altogether it’s a bit steep. Again, this is the issue with every prepaid BlackBerry. The latest to offer prepaid BlackBerry services is Boost Mobile. They plan to launch the BlackBerry Curve 8330, among other devices, on January 15.
Despite the Curve being far out of date, it will still cost $249. The service, which does include unlimited everything on Sprint’s CDMA network, will cost $60 per month. So this plan is somewhere in between T-Mobile’s and MetroPCS’s prepaid BlackBerry plans. As long as you want unlimited services, the plan prices are pretty fair.
Is that worth the downside of the up-front cost? If you don’t want a contract, I suppose it’s your only option. Do any BBGeeks readers have prepaid BlackBerry devices? If so, care to share your experience? You can leave it in the comments, and if you want to talk about it at length, we can set something up for the BBGeekcast. Just email me, jpawlikowski at bbgeeks.