Sprint's (NYSE: S) prepaid brands announced the launch of their cheapest smartphone of the year.
Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA unveiled the Alcatel Dawn, an LTE handset running Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) and sporting a $70 price tag. The gadget features a 4.5-inch screen, a 5-megapixel rear-facing camera and a quad-core processor.
While the handset launch is a relatively minor development, it underscores increasing competition in a prepaid market that was once an afterthought for major U.S. wireless carriers. MetroPCS earlier this week took direct aim at Sprint customers by offering $60 off any smartphone to customers who port their numbers from other carriers, enabling users who switch to receive one of nine smartphones free.
T-Mobile's prepaid brand also said customers can now add a line to their family plans for just $25 a month, enabling them to access an additional 5 GB of data monthly if they already have a plan with the same amount of data or more.
U.S. carriers once all but ignored the prepaid market, opting instead to focus on more lucrative postpaid smartphone users. But most major operators are now pursuing prepaid users aggressively as the growth of smartphone sales slows, and as the gap between prepaid and postpaid ARPU narrows.
Sprint lost a net 264,000 prepaid users during the most recent quarter, down significantly from the 546,000 net additions it posted in the prior year. Sprint hopes to regain its footing in that market, though, with a major overhaul of its Virgin Mobile Brand later this year. The operator recently appointed Jim Hyde as president of the Sprint Prepaid Group, naming Dow Draper as the chief of Virgin Mobile.
Sprint hasn't disclosed details about its new strategy with Virgin, but promises to divulge more information in the coming months.
- see this Sprint announcement
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