Get a pre-paid iPhone for just $30 per month

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Sprint's Virgin Mobile brand is to become the US' second carrier to offer the iPhone on a prepay basis - and it starts at just $30 per month.

In an ambitious move, the comnpany's offering an unusual pricing structure that sees users paying $649 for the 16Gb version of the iPhone 4S, the same price as in Apple stores.

Then, though, they get unlimited texts and data, with no fixed contract, for just $35 per month. That price falls to $30 if they register for automatic monthly payments with a credit card, debit card or PayPal account.

There are no fees for activation or roaming, but data speeds are throttled once the user hits 2.5GB per month.

There's no 4G, of course, but then that's no use to iPhone customers anyway.

Included are 300 voice minutes, with an unlimited voice plan available for $50 per month. Adding the ability to use the iPhone as a mobile hotspot costs an extra $15 per month.

The company's gambling on users being prepared to fork out full price for the phone itself in return for much lower monthly costs - indeed, the Virgin Mobile rate is well under half the cost of some rival post-paid carriers.

Depending on usage levels, the extra cost of the phone itself could be covered in a matter of months.

The question is, though, whether US consumers will be prepared to take the hit of the high up-front cost, something they've historically been reluctant to do. If you're used to picking up a new phone for a subsidized $99, $649 may be psychologically difficult.

We'll find out after June 29 when the phone goes on sale. Leap Wireless is also planning to offer the phone on a pre-paid basis for its Cricket Wireless network, although this has limited coverage.