Sprint appears to have a new plan up its sleeve. If images, said to be leaked internal Sprint documents, prove to be up to snuff, the company will begin offering Sprint-branded, no-contract phones and plans Jan. 25, through a service called Sprint As You Go.
According to the images, posted by Android Police, the plan will begin with the offer of four unsubsidized phones—two feature phones and two smartphones—ranging from $49.99 for the Samsung M400 to $249.99 for the Samsung Victory, which appears to be missing the 4G LTE branding it receives on the Sprint site.
Smartphone plans are $70 a month, and feature phone plans are $50.
The plans include unlimited voice, texting, data and voice roaming, though Evolution Data Optimized (EvDO) data roaming—when a phone is on a network outside of Sprint's coverage area—is not included and will likely be at lower data speeds, say the materials.
They also add that no credit check is necessary, and there are no activation fees, no early termination fees and no late fees. Before payments are due, customers will be alerted by text message first 10 and then three days ahead of time.
Sprint As You Go—if Sprint does indeed soon offer it—will be an interesting move. Sprint already courts contract-averse consumers through its side brands—Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, Assurance Wireless and PayLo by Virgin Mobile—and pricing for the new plan is competitive with but not lower than other value options.
The new plans may simply be Sprint's way of getting more people to associate it with low-cost options before T-Mobile makes its promised aggressive play for what it has called the "value market."
T-Mobile CEO John Legere, at a Deutsche Telekom Capital Markets Day, said that in 2013, T-Mobile will begin offering the Apple iPhone and will move completely to value plans, which will enable users to upgrade their devices at any time. T-Mobile also plans to offer financing on unsubsidized devices, which will keep upfront costs low for customers and save T-Mobile from the financial burden of subsidizing (hopefully) millions of devices.
Late last year, T-Mobile officials also announced plans to merge the company with the prepaid carrier MetroPCS—a move that analysts noted would give T-Mobile enough spectrum, muscle and prepaid customers to make it a real threat to Sprint. Or, they did before Sprint soon afterward announced that it was selling 70 percent of the carrier to Japan-based carrier Softbank in exchange for $20.1 billion—enough money to advance its Long Term Evolution (LTE) efforts and buy it new spectrum and, from U.S. Cellular, even some additional customers.
Sprint is notably the only tier-one carrier to still offer unlimited data—which even Sprint CEO Dan Hesse has admitted Sprint won't be able to continue doing forever. Wooing and supporting iPhone users on unlimited plans has been a tremendous, debt-making burden for Sprint. However, the prepaid market grew at a rate of 12 percent year-over-year in 2012, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting. Customers attracted to the Sprint As You Go plan may, by comparison, may feel like they have easy pickins.