VirginMobile Making Android Really Affordable -- Really Affordable

Verizon now has the iPhone, which is going to adversely impact demand for Android devices at the US's largest carrier. However, Android will maintain momentum in part by making affordable smartphones available to the masses.

Indeed, VirginMobile, which has great prices but horrible customer service, is going to soon offer the LG Optimus on its network. This is the second Android device the pre-paid carrier and wholly owned subsidiary of Sprint is making available, following the Samsung Intercept.

For $150 from Radio Shack and $60 per month VirginMobile users in the US will be able to have an unlimited plan on the 3G Sprint network. But plans start much cheaper at $25 for unlimited text and Web. Sprint's other pre-paid carrier Boost offers a $50 unlimited plan that "shrinks" to $35 after 18 months of loyalty. (Expect more Android phones there.)

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Unlike the weak Samsung Intercept the LG Optimus has Froyo and was well reviewed. While Apple lures kids into its platform with the iPod Touch, many people, especially younger users, will be picking up inexpensive Android devices like the Optimus on pre-paid carriers. This may create an Android "funnel" where people start on lower-end Android devices and migrate up to others after they become "acculturated" to the Android look and feel. 

Cheap Android devices on pre-paid carriers may also put pressure on post-paid plans. Only a small group of business users and fashionistas will care about getting 4G access on the best Android handsets. The rest will be very happy with 3G and cheaper pricing. 

Nokia previously hinted at a potential willingness to build some phones on Android. I believe it will have to go this route as the market soon floods with highly affordable Android smartphones. Nokia will start to feel tremendous pressure in the developing world, where it has been exceptionally strong based on pricing, from inexpensive Android handsets. 

Back in the US it's going to be very hard to resist deals such as the one above: $25 per month for unlimited Web access on a very good Android phone.