iPhone 4S goes prepaid on Cricket: What you need to know

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This morning Cricket Communications, a subsidiary of Leap Wireless, announced that the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S will be available on a prepaid plan starting June 22. If the contract-free model appeals to you, but you've never been too thrilled with the current prepaid phones out there, this will be good news for you. But before you rush to your nearest Cricket dealer, there are a few things you should consider.

No Subsidized Prices. Because the iPhone won't be subsidized, you'll have to shell out a little more for the iPhone. When the phones go on sale, a 16GB iPhone 4S will cost $500 and an 8GB iPhone 4 will cost $400. Right now, those are the only two models Cricket is offering. If that seems like a hefty price to pay, consider how much those same unlocked models cost when you buy them from Apple: A 16GB unlocked iPhone 4S costs $649 while an unlocked 8GB iPhone 4 costs $549.

The "Unlimited" Plan. Cricket's iPhone plan is pretty enticing at $55 per month for unlimited voice, SMS and data. Calling the data unlimited is a little misleading, however: you must stay within Cricket's fair usage policy of 2.3GB of data a month. So what does that mean? If you go over 2.3GB of data, the data rate will be slowed. Yes, that's right, you'll experience the dreaded data throttling. If you don't stream a lot of video and audio, you should be okay within those data limits.

Pre-paid iPhone Alternatives. Cricket might be the first prepaid carrier to offer the iPhone, but there are other ways to get the iPhone off-contract. Red Pocket Mobile, a prepaid SIM card vendor now offers micro SIM cards that are compatible with the iPhone. As an AT&T MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator), Red Pocket Mobile uses the exact same GSM network as AT&T does. The plan is slightly more expensive than Cricket's, however, at $60 per month for unlimited calls, MMS and 2GB of data. And when you hit that 2GB cap, you're completely cut off--there's no throttling. StraightTalk, an MVNO run by TracFone and Walmart, offers a $45 monthly plan that includes unlimited calls, text and data. StraightTalk claim of offering truly unlimited data is a bit murkier. Some customers in the StraightTalk forums have complained about getting throttled after 5GB of data while others have noticed it after using 2GB of data.

A Transparent, Inexpensive Plan. The bottom line is that Cricket's plan is a good deal. It is also refreshing to see a carrier be upfront about data throttling. If you have bad credit or tired of getting smacked with surprise overage fees on your monthly bill, prepaid might be the way to go. You can sign up for e-mail alerts via Cricket's site as June 22 draws near on the availability of the iPhone.

This story, "iPhone 4S goes prepaid on Cricket: What you need to know" was originally published by TechHive.

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