Smartphone hardware is expensive — but in the US it’s easy to feel like the phones are cheap and it’s the subscription plans that are expensive. That’s because most US carriers charge an arm and a leg for voice and data contracts and use some of the revenue to subsidize the cost of phones.

Apple iPhone 4S

This lets you “buy” a iPhone 4S for under $200 — but over the course of a 2 year contract, you’re probably actually paying at least $1880.

But Virgin Mobile USA has announced a new plan that will let you get the same phone and a similar 3G data plan for just $1130 over two years (plus the same regional taxes and fees that you pay on any network). It’s also a contract-free plan, which means you can cancel at any time.

Virgin Mobile will start selling iPhones on June 29th.

The only catch is that you have to pay full price for the phone. That means an iPhone 4S with 16GB of storage will set you back $649. But you’ll only have to pay $30 per month for 300 voice minutes plus unlimited data and text messaging.

Virgin Mobile considers “unlimited” to mean 2.5GB of data per month. If you exceed that, it looks like Virgin will continue to let you use your data plan, but your data transfer speeds will be much slower until the start of the next billing cycle.

The Virgin Mobile plans actually start at $35 per month for pre-paid plans, but if you register for auto-renewal you get a $5 discount.

You can also pay $40 per month (with discount) for 1200 voice minutes of $50 per month  for unlimited talk. An extra $15 per month will get you the ability to use your iPhone and a mobile hotspot, plus an extra 1GB of full speed data transfer (for a total of 3.5GB).

Virgin Mobile iPhone plans
Virgin Mobile

If you don’t need a dual core processor or Apple’s Siri voice assistant, you can also save $100 buy picking up an 8GB Apple iPhone 4 for $549 instead of an iPhone 4S.

I’m a big fan of contract-free mobile broadband plans that let you either buy a phone for full price or bring your own phone in exchange for lower monthly fees. I’ve been using a Google Nexus One on a contract-free T-Mobile plan for over two years… but I’ve been thinking about switching to a cheaper Straight Talk plan for a while.

Even though I prefer Android to iOS, I have to admit I’m tempted by the lost cost of Virgin’s new plans. It sounds like a great deal for anyone who’s got the disposable cash to pay for an expensive phone up front.

via GigaOm

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6 replies on “Virgin Mobile to offer contract-free iPhone plans for $30/month”

  1. So can i use my unlocked iPhone that i currently have but switch to VM or do i have to buy a new iPhone through VM distributors?

  2. The phone market is inherently flawed.

    Mobiles are overpriced.

    Even compared to the prices of tablets now (not the first or even second generation), it’s ludicrous.
    Carriers subzide more or less nothing, they just get the ‘real’ price.

  3. We have a similar plan on TMo with a $190 Samsung Exibit II we bought, at $27/mo per phone (with at least two phones on the plan) with free wifi data and calling!

    And the Exibit is a nicer phone in many ways then the IPhone. Bigger, faster 4G, free wifi data and calling if wifi is available, free tether also if you get the app.

    What am I missing here other then the hype?

  4. This would be awesome for me if Virgin didn’t run on Sprint’s networks.

    1. As an alternative, you could buy an unlocked GSM iPhone and sign up for TMobile’s prepaid $30/month plan that also includes unlimited texting and data. The downside is you’d only get 100 minutes per month, and due to hardware incompatibility with TMobile’s 1700 band, you’ll be stuck on 2G data until they finish refarming their 1900 band to 3G and/or 4G. It’s not ideal but it’s another option.

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