Embarrassing Wal-Mart Prepaid Phones Now Province Of The Formerly Rich


From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations? No, just us? Anyway, we can’t help but be reminded of this when we heard about the predominance of prepaid phones among those people for whom the iPhone with a Coach case was de rigeur just three months ago. Now, instead of striving to get a Vertu they’re striving to pay for 10 more minutes a month.

The phones are sold at mass retailers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., with service provided by carriers such as TracFone Wireless, a unit of America Movil SAB; MetroPCS Communications Inc.; and Leap Wireless International Inc. Many of the big national wireless companies, including T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom, and AT&T Inc., also offer prepaid options, though the service remains a niche market in the mobile phone industry.

..There are no national statistics for how many consumers are switching from mobile phone subscriptions to prepaid services, since the plans don’t require you to sign a contract or provide much personal information. But individual carriers are reporting growth. MetroPCS says it added 249,000 net new customers in the third quarter, doubling its year-earlier increase, and Leap Wireless says it gained 156,000 net customers, more than tripling its year-earlier growth. T-Mobile, which also has traditional mobile phone plans, says it added 670,000 customers in the third quarter, more than half of which were prepaid. By contrast, prepaid represented 35% of the company’s new customers a year earlier.