Say Hello To The $520 BlackBerry And The $600 iPhone

Wireless carriers are starting to deliver on their yearlong promises of “open access” to gadgets and mobile applications that the carriers don’t sell themselves. One of the first steps: Setting prices for new service offerings, which Verizon Wireless did today.

Verizon, the second-largest U.S. carrier, is now selling “month-to-month” mobile phone service plans that can be used with any mobile phone that uses “CDMA” wireless technology — without requiring subscribers to sign a 2-year contract. This is useful if you’ve somehow acquired a Verizon or Sprint (S) phone, want to sign up for Verizon (VZ) service, and don’t want to sign a long-term contract.

The good news: All of Verizon’s voice and data plans are available on a month-to-month basis at the same price as the long-term contracts.

The bad news: If you don’t already have a mobile phone, and insist on signing up for a month-to-month plan, getting a new phone is going to cost you a bundle. That’s because carriers usually eat much of the cost of your new phone — via a subsidy of up to $300 — as an incentive to get you on a long-term contract. So if you want to use month-to-month service, you’ll have to pay full retail for a phone.

And that’s not cheap. A LG Chocolate — free with a 2-year Verizon Wireless contract — will run you $300. A Palm (PALM) Centro, $99 with a 2-year deal, would cost $350. And a RIM (RIMM) BlackBerry 8830, $150 with subsidy, costs $520 for month-to-month subscribers.

(Side note: Sounds to us like an opportunity for a more robust aftermarket of lightly used CDMA phones. Good news for eBay and Craigslist?)

Expect to pay an even steeper premium when AT&T starts selling no-contract Apple (AAPL) iPhones later this year: This summer, the carrier said an 8-gig, no-contract iPhone would cost $600, and a 16-gig will run $700 — a $400 premium over the subsidized phones, which require a 2-year AT&T (T) contract.

See Also:
What ‘Open’ Verizon Means: Less Than You Think
Verizon Wireless CEO: ‘Open’ Access Won’t Cost More
Apple Reboots Unlocked iPhone Market With $400 Premium

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