VirginMobile to Get Samsung Android Phone

VirginMobile (a subsidiary of Sprint in the US) announced on its Facebook page that it is getting its first Android phone, the Samsung Intercept (pictured at right). BoostMobile, another discount brand of Sprint offers the "second tier" Android Motorola i1.

Virgin hasn't announced pricing for the phone but corporate parent Sprint sells it for $349 or $99 with a two-year contract. Virgin is a pre-paid carrier and so has no contracts. Users must buy their phones outright. 

I'm an Android EVO user and I pay Sprint $99 per month before taxes for its Everything plan, plus a mandatory $10 data supplement. I could also buy the phone's hotspot capability for an additional $29.99.

By contrast, the same "everything" plan on the Sprint 3G network through Virgin costs $40 less. BlackBerry devices require a $10 data supplement. I would assume that will equally apply to the Samsung Intercept.

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Virgin won't let me bring my EVO to Virgin for obvious reasons. Virgin's $60 plan would be highly desirable but for the poor selection of handsets. The Intercept changes that or will change that for many people. And Sprint will be walking a bit of a tightrope accordingly. 

As more Android phones become available for lower-cost prepaid carriers the interesting questions are: how will consumers respond and how will the carriers prevent defections to lower-cost plans? 

Consumers are highly price sensitive in this arena. So better handsets with cheaper plans should have broad appeal. 

I imagine a two-tiered system will quickly emerge,  involving lower-end Android devices operating on older/slower networks. The fastest and most feature-packed phones will only be available to premium, post-paid subscribers. Lesser phones on slower networks will be available to pre-paid subscribers. 

However for most people looking for a smartphone the idea of a $60 all-you-can eat plan with a generally good Android handset is pretty compelling.