Beginning this week, Verizon Wireless will offer a monthly "Basic Plan," which will allow consumers to purchase 500 minutes of talk time and unlimited text messaging and data for $35. For an extra $15 – $50 a month, total – you can add unlimited voice minutes. But there is a catch: The Basic Plan isn't compatible with the iPhone 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S3 or any of the high-end smart phones that currently dominate the market.
Instead, it's only available on four extremely basic phones, which range in cost from the $49.99 LG Cosmos 2 to the $69.99 LG Extravert. Still, 35 bucks is a bargain when it comes to a phone, and if you're not a heavy e-mail or Web user – if you're one of those rare folks who actually uses their phone mostly to make phone calls – then this deal may be very appealing indeed.
So what's behind Verizon's introduction of the Basic Plan? Well, over at GigaOM, Kevin Fitchard points out that the prepaid market is growing, making it a ripe target for the carrier, which is seeing some shrinkage in its 2G and 3G customer base.
"Verizon’s new love of prepaid likely has something to do with its rapidly emptying CDMA network," Fitchard writes. "Since launching LTE two years ago, 50 percent of all of Verizon’s data traffic has migrated to those new 4G systems. Verizon essentially made 3G a fallback network for its next-generation of high-end smartphone users, and to fill the gap left over it’s only offering prepaid services over 2G and 3G phones."
Of course, Verizon isn't the only one to jump on the prepaid bandwagon. T-Mobile recently merged with MetroPCS Communications, and launched a service called GoSmart Mobile, which offers voice and text service for 30 bucks a month. (For voice and Web services, the price is $35 a month; $45 will get you 3G connectivity, to boot.)
"You don't need food bigger than your face, and you don't need mobile phone plans that charge you more than you can afford for services you don't want or need," GoSmart marketing exec Doug Chartier said in a statement.