Virgin Mobile is offering a year of unlimited service for $1 to users who activate their own iPhone and transfer the existing number to its new Inner Circle plan.
Users looking to take advantage of the offer from Sprint’s prepaid brand can order a free SIM card through Sept. 29; after that the card will cost $25. Virgin Mobile will charge $50 for unlimited service after the first year, but customers can get another six months of service for $1 every time they upgrade to a new iPhone.
“At Virgin Mobile, we don’t like playing by the rules, even our own,” Virgin Mobile USA CEO Dow Draper said in a press release. “Consumers know that the Inner Circle is the real deal, but many love their current phones or don’t want to upgrade yet…. It’s also a great way to try out the Virgin Mobile network with your own iPhone.”
Virgin Mobile finally relaunched in June after repeated delays, offering so-called “unlimited” data for $1 and selling nothing but iPhones. Two weeks ago Sprint extended the signup period for its iPhone-only Virgin Inner Circle offering for another month, to Aug. 31, with executives pointing to the model as an experimental success for its prepaid and digital strategies.
Like many other unlimited plans, Virgin’s offering comes with some strings attached. Network speeds may be “deprioritized” once users exceed 23 GB in any particular month, voice roaming minutes are capped at 800 minutes a month and domestic data roaming is capped at 100 MB per month. Also, video is limited to 480p+ resolution, music is limited to 500 Kbps and streaming cloud gaming is slowed to 2 Mbps.
Sprint’s Inner Circle is designed to boost sales of both new and used iPhones, and the operator expects to get millions of devices back through its iPhone Forever plan, which enables users to upgrade their phones every year. Providing a year of unlimited service for $1 to BYOD users is a costly way to acquire new customers, to be sure, but it should help Sprint boost its prepaid market share in the third quarter. And it could help boost iPhone sales a year from now.
This story was updated August 29 to correct the terms of Virgin's unlimited plan.