Sprint plans to offer unlimited data plans with the iPhone 4S, giving the carrier a competitive advantage over its rivals.
The Overland Park, Kan.-based carrier will offer unlimited plans starting at $70 a month for unlimited data, text messages and calling to any cell phone in the country, with 450 calling minutes to landlines. The $90 and $100 a month plans offer the same features with additional minutes for landline calls.
Sprint’s decision makes it the only carrier in the U.S. that offers the iPhone, the country’s top-selling smartphone, with an unlimited data plan. Verizon moved to tiered plans earlier this year, while AT&T ended its unlimited data options last year. Existing Sprint subscribers who already want the iPhone will not need any added incentive to pick up the device, but the company will likely market its unlimited data plans as the reason users should switch to the carrier.
More than 90 percent of smartphone users use less than 2-gigabytes of data a month, which may render Sprint’s unlimited data plans a moot point for some, but heavier data users may make the jump. Sprint will happily take whatever new customers the iPhone and unlimited data plans bring it, but analysts are concerned the influx of so many customers using such a high amount of data may significantly bog down the carrier’s network.
Sprint could end up forced to reevaluate its unlimited data plan options, if its network proves unable to handle the increased traffic.
Sprint’s competitors are also stepping up to the table to market the benefits of getting an iPhone on their networks. Verizon has begun sending out promotional emails that showcase the quality of its network, which it says will lead to fewer dropped calls, while AT&T yesterday said the iPhone 4S would only be able to reach the faster HSPA speeds on its network.
Each carrier offering the iPhone has its pros and cons. Sprint’s promise of unlimited data may be the flashiest advantage, but it remains to be seen whether it’s enough to pay off in a meaningful number of new subscribers.