TracFone's Straight Talk service has expanded into the smartphone game. The company recently added two GSM Nokia devices--the Symbian-powered 6790 and E71--to its portfolio, devices the company is advertising as its first smartphones.
The action, highlighted by research firm Current Analysis, is notable as it brings Straight Talk's prepaid unlimited service into the highly competitive smartphone game. Indeed, growth in the smartphone market in the United States is skyrocketing, and has forced Tier 2 and Tier 3 carriers like Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), MetroPCS (NYSE:PCS), U.S. Cellular and others to jump into the game with BlackBerry phones from Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Android phones.
Straight Talk's first smartphone effort relies on a pair of Symbian-powered gadgets from Nokia. The 6790, sold by AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) as the "Surge," sports a slider Qwerty keyboard, free, voice-guided navigation and a 2-megapixel camera. The BlackBerry-style Nokia E71 features a Qwerty keyboard, FM radio and 3.2-megapixel camera. Straight Talk is selling the 6790 for $244.99 and the E71 for the same price, and is requiring customers purchase its $45 per month unlimited plan, which includes unlimited minutes, messaging and data access.
According to Current Analysis, Straight Talk for all other phones continues to offer its $30 per month "All You Need" plan, which includes 1,000 minutes, 1,000 messages and 30 MB of data access.
"Clearly, the Wal-Mart shelves are getting crowded with so many prepaid offerings now, especially to start the holiday season. My take on the Straight Talk move is that the company is upping its ante by enhancing its handset lineup now that Wal-Mart shoppers have more choices. However, I think that not many prepaid price-sensitive customers will feel attracted to pay $250 for an older smartphone," said Maidy Whitesell of Current Analysis. "Also, I find it very interesting that Straight Talk has not presented a CDMA smartphone yet. This leads me to think that Verizon Wireless is protecting its network and customer migration to the MVNO by not allowing the company to present a smartphone to its customer base."
TracFone's unlimited Straight Talk service launched with CDMA service from Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), but has since expanded to GSM via AT&T and T-Mobile USA.
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