Virgin Mobile is making a bold bet on the iPhone by becoming the first carrier to sell Apple’s smartphone exclusively and giving anyone who buys a handset with them a year of unlimited talk, text messages and data for $1. Dubbed “Inner Circle”, the offer is available until July 31, and only to new customers who purchase an iPhone and transfer their phone number to Virgin Mobile.
The plan will revert to the regular price $50 per month after the first year is up. Then, after two years of service, Virgin will offer another six months for $1 if customers buy a new iPhone again.
Virgin Mobile offers a variety of iPhones in all storage capacities, starting 32GB iPhone SE for $279, well under Apple's usual $399, all the way up to the iPhone 7 Plus for $969.
The unlimited, no-contract plan does has some restrictions but it’s still a pretty good deal for the price. According to the fine print, customers who use more than 23GB of data during billing cycle will be deprioritized during times and places where the network is constrained. In addition, some data will be “mobile-optimized,” capping video streams at 480p resolution and music at 500 kilobits per second.
Virgin's national retail partners will continue to sell Android phones under an existing agreement, but according to Dow Draper, CEO of Virgin Mobile USA, they’re working to phase that out. Customers who bring their own Android devices will still be able to use them on Virgin’s network, of course.
The new iPhone-only sales strategy is a way for the carrier to reposition its brand in the market. But it may not bode well with budget conscious customers, who were previously able to purchase a basic Android phone with Virgin for under $80. According to Cnet, the company will begin selling used iPhones starting at $199 so customers have cheaper options, just not bargain basement Android phone prices.