Will Virgin Mobile Ever Have Tablet Only Plans Like The USA’s T-Mobile or the UK’s O2?Save $80 on the Motorola Triumph Android Phone at Virgin Mobile!
We Love Android Tablets!
You think your phone is fun? You need to play with an Android tablet if you have not already!
A question that’s been on my mind recently is whether or not Virgin Mobile will ever get in to the data only Android tablet market – lets explore that thought and then you can vote on what you think will happen too!
Home Team Disadvantage
Virgin Mobile and Sprint have a major disadvantage in the “Tablet Only” data plan market because it does not use SIM cards unlike their major competitors like T-Mobile and AT&T in the USA or O2 in the UK.
The advantage of SIM cards is that they can be popped into any unlocked device without any “hacking” “jailbreaking” “rooting” and so on, and it will JUST WORK.
It’s a simple “plug and play” system.
So, Will Virgin Mobile Ever Carry Tablets?
Probably – but the choices of what tablet to use will certainly be limited.
The rest of this post will look at why this will most likely be the case, and what prices and service types you can probably expect to see from Virgin Mobile in the future.
Why No SIM Cards?
Virgin Mobile, Sprint (the system Virgin Mobile exists on), and Verizon run on the CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) network joining as Forbes Magazine states “about 40 CDMA countries” versus “more than 220 GSM venues”.
GSM (Global Specification for Mobile) venues essentially are “the rest of the industrialized world”. CDMA carriers, by default, create a niche market for any mobile device they approve, tweak, and promote. Each device locks to its parent carrier and cannot be transferred to another service at home or internationally.
The choice to use a CDMA network versus GSM makes all of your devices purchased through the carrier – tablets, phones, hotspots, laptops, etc. – non-transferable to other carriers even if they are CDMA.
GSM phones and tablets can be just as hard to transfer if you originally buy them through a specific carrier, BUT the phone or tablet does have the capability to be “unlocked” or released for use on other GSM carriers. For example, if you bought a phone through AT&T, you may have to ask AT&T to unlock it before putting a T-Mobile SIM card in it.
With CDMA phones, this portability is not possible without hacking the phone or tablet.
So Why Does This Matter For Tablets?
The easy answer here is that locking a tablet to CDMA limits the market for the device, which means that the carriers can expect fewer devices to sell and a lower return on investment. This likely explains why Sprint usually only sells a few tablets at any given time.
The fewer options the carrier gives, the higher the change they will turn a profit because if you want to be on their network, you MUST own one of the few device options since no “unlocked” alternative devices can be brought into the picture.
In the UK, GSM services like O2 cater to the universal iPad for its data plans. By doing this, O2 does not have to customize and market their own tablet devices and can focus more on the service side. Since iPads do not vary like Androids do, it also offers the carrier a lot of consistency that they do not actually have to create themselves.
It’s a good business model for their tablet side, and O2 uses it for many of their phones as well.
Real Life Experiences
Being the serious tech geek that I am, I’ve experimented with five different tablets in the last year.
- Dell Streak – unlocked GSM and WiFi
- HP Touchpad – WiFi only
- Kindle Fire – WiFi only
- HTC Flyer (BestBuy version) – WiFi only
- HTC Evo View 4G – CDMA Sprint and WiFi
The HTC Evo View 4G was locked to Sprint, which meant that if I wanted to connect it to a data plan, I not only HAD TO use Sprint, but I had to PAY whatever they wanted me to for that data plan.
That whole philosophy of trapping a customer into a device and a specific plan just rubs me the wrong way – maybe its my rebellious nature or maybe its just poor customer service. I’m sure it explains why I have blogs on prepaid phones, and why I love them so much.
I should mention here that Virgin Mobile tends to NOT anger me for the previous reasons because their phones are inexpensive to start with and their service is also inexpensive. In other words, if the product and price are right, I do not mind being trapped as much.
What Does The Future Hold For Virgin Mobile?
I predict that Virgin Mobile will probably offer a tablet in the next 1-2 years at data prices similar to its mobile broadband prices, which compared to nearly ever other USA service, is an ABSOLUTE bargain.
Broadband2Go’s current base plan of $35 a month gets you:
- No Contract
- 2GB of 3G data
- 10GB of 4G Data
- Continued connection at slower speeds when either limit (3G or 4G) data is exceeded.
- No Overages
These prices are already extremely competitive in the mobile broadband market, and if a tablet oriented data plan delivers even close to this level of data at this price, we will really have a real winner!
What Kind Of Tablets Could Virgin Mobile Carry?
Look at what Sprint carries now – ZTE Optik (my vote for most likely to appear on Virgin Mobile) or the HTC Evo View 4G (no longer offered for sale on Sprint, but you know how Virgin Mobile tends to inherit Sprint’s “just finished with” devices”)
The unfortunate side, however, is that we will have to buy whatever tablet Virgin Mobile chooses to customize and promote.
We will never have the freedom to move freely between carriers like what is offered by T-Mobile, AT&T, and by the UK’s O2.
As I mentioned earlier, however, if the device is well priced and the service is also very well priced, we may not really care about how portable our Virgin Mobile tablet service is.