Leap launches new device financing options, revamps Muve Music

Cricket provider Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP) unveiled new device financing options to give its subscribers easier access to high-end smartphones. The flat-rate carrier, which AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) is seeking to acquire, said the new plans will, for example, let customers buy Samsung Electronics' Galaxy S4 for as low as $25 down and $25 per month in monthly payments.

The financing options, which Cricket calls its Phone Payment Plan, will be available starting July 21 in Cricket-owned stores and select dealer locations, and will be made available online later this year. Leap COO Jerry Elliott called the new options "game-changing" and said Cricket will forge ahead with the plans regardless of what happens with the AT&T deal.

Cricket customers are eligible for one of three options:

  • No Interest: Customers pay 4 percent down at the time of purchase and 4 percent of the total plan amount monthly for 24 months, at 0 percent APR.
  • Deferred Interest: Customers pay 5 percent of the phone at time of purchase and a minimum of 5 percent of the payment plan amount per month. There is no interest charge if the loan is paid off in six months.
  • No Credit Check: Customers pay an initial payment as low as 8 percent of the phone's purchase price, and customers pay zero interest if the phone is paid off in 90 days.

Cricket said the Phone Payment Plan is provided by a third party and is only available to Cricket customers. It's unclear which company is providing the payment plans; Cricket spokesman Greg Lund declined to name the partner but said it is not Progressive Finance, which worked with the carrier last year on a payment plan. Cricket said the offer a customer receives and its terms will vary based on a variety of factors, including credit history if applicable. The company said it expects that a majority of customers who apply for the program will be approved "at the most flexible terms found anywhere in the wireless industry."

Leap's handset financing launch isn't a surprise. In May, Matt Stoiber, Cricket's senior vice president of devices, hinted at the possibility of new financing options. And late last year Cricket started working with Progressive Finance on device financing plans. Under that offer, Cricket customers who purchased more than $200 worth of hardware (phones and accessories) could apply for a Progressive Finance loan at a Cricket store or dealer via an online application.

Moreover, Leap isn't the only carrier tweaking the way that customers can pay for expensive smartphones. Last week T-Mobile US introduced its Jump handset upgrade program, which allows participants to upgrade to a new smartphone every six months. And just this week, AT&T Mobility jumped into the fray with its own program, dubbed Next, that allows customers to purchase a new smartphone every year.

In other Cricket news, the carrier added two new Samsung Android smartphones to its lineup. The Galaxy Admire II will be available July 21 for $270 and at a promotional price of $50 in select markets. The device sports LTE, a 1.2 GHz dual-core Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) Snapdragon processor, NFC and a 5-megapixel camera. Additionally, Cricket will launch the Galaxy Discover for $80 and at a promotional price of $20 in select markets. The gadget is designed for the lower-end of the market and offers an 800 MHz processor and a 3.5-inch display, and will be upgraded from Android 4.0 to 4.1 later this summer.

Cricket also updated its Muve Music service, giving it faster performance and a new user interface that it said will allow for easier exploration of music and improved navigation. Another improvement will let customers instantly play songs as soon as they begin downloading. Muve Music 4.0 is being offered on the Samsung Galaxy S III, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Discover and the Samsung Galaxy Admire II, and will come standard on all future Android smartphones from Cricket.

For more:
- see this Cricket financing release
- see this Muve Music release

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