Just a week after it started giving away a year’s worth of “unlimited” data for next to nothing, Sprint has launched more hyper-aggressive moves — this time for its prepaid brand Virgin Mobile.
Virgin Mobile on Wednesday said that, for a limited time, it would offer customers a year of its new “unlimited” data plan for a base price of $1. (There are small taxes and fees on top of that, though.)
The company also said it will only sell iPhones going forward. As in, no more Android.
Virgin Mobile calls the new plan “Inner Circle,” and says that it will go for $50 a month after the first 12 months of service. It’ll be open to new and existing Virgin Mobile users who buy an iPhone and make the switch prior to July 31.
The service comes with unlimited talk and text, but, as with every “unlimited” plan, also has some caveats:
- Video streams are capped at a “480p+” resolution, which means they’ll be less than HD.
- Music streams are capped at speeds 500 Kbps, while games are capped at 2 Mbps. Both of those should be fine, but those speeds aren’t particularly fast.
- The company says customers that use more than 23 GB of data in a given month will have their speeds “deprioritized” during areas of network congestion.
- There are no family or multi-line plans available. Virgin Mobile says it will eventually offer one, but for now, everyone in your group would have to sign up separately.
- International calls cost an extra $5 or $10 a month, depending on whether you need the ability to call beyond Mexico and Canada.
- You need to set your billing to auto-pay.
All of this piggybacks off of Sprint’s mobile network, which is widely regarded as the weakest of the four major carriers. Nevertheless, cheap is cheap.
As part of the plan, the company is promising early subscribers deals on other Virgin services, including discounts for Virgin Wines bottles and a “free companion ticket” for a Virgin Atlantic flight, among others. This is somewhat similar to what T-Mobile has done with its “T-Mobile Tuesdays” giveaways.
The moves on Wednesday represent a relaunch of sorts for Virgin Mobile, which sits alongside Boost Mobile as Sprint’s major prepaid wings. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure said last year the company would pull back advertising for Virgin Mobile, highlighting how the brand’s business had slowed. Sprint as a whole has struggled in recent years; Verizon and AT&T continue to hold much larger subscriber bases, while T-Mobile has surged into a distinct third place.
The decision to exclusively sell iPhones is a curious one. Virgin, for its part, says the move is meant to bring its mobile brand more in line with the swankier image of its other businesses. But while Apple’s phones are not cheap, prepaid phone users tend to be budget-conscious. Virgin is selling a 32 GB iPhone SE for $279, and the two-year-old iPhone 6 for $319, but iPhone 6s and 7 models are still set at their typically high going rates.
The move will see Virgin Mobile phones sold directly through Apple’s retail stores, however. Virgin said those will start popping up on June 27 — though phones bought through Apple’s website will not be eligible for the new deal.
That retail partnership gets at why Virgin Mobile is selling its service for $1 in the first place. Much like Sprint said last week, Virgin says it’s cutting costs by not spending on its own physical store sales and focusing on digital advertising. But while Sprint described its “free” promotion as an “experiment,” Virgin’s decision to go iPhone-only is its plan for the foreseeable future.