PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – What happens if you want one of the newest cell phones, with all the bells and whistles, but you can’t afford the carrier’s plan?

Pre-paid cell phones are cheaper, and they come with some of the same great features you’d expect from a contract phone.

You’ve seen the ads for pre-paid carriers like Boost Mobile and Virgin. However, using one of those phones puts you on the Sprint Network, the one others pay more for and sign a contract for.

“They’re not so big. They have their own owned and operated towers and things. They operate on other people’s networks,” technology blogger Ryan Hamrick said.

“You might have Kraft cheese there, but someone has to make that cheese,” Robert Morris Marketing Professor Dr. Gayle Marco said.

That is how Dr. Marco sums it up. It’s traditional carriers branching out into pre-paid non-contract services.

“They have their initial market so they have some added time or extra availability to have products that may not be sold to their niche customers,” Dr. Marco said.

Sprint offers an unlimited plan with all you can use talk, text, and data for $99 a month. It’s $109 with a smart phone. Both options come with a two-year agreement.

Virgin and Boost offer unlimited plans for around $55 a month without a contract. But, you don’t get everything that Sprint offers.

“They’ve got roaming agreements with companies like Verizon that use the same technology that let you roam for free and use their technology rather than just sticking with Sprint’s towers,” Hamrick said.

Another reason to go this route is to have leeway to make changes.

Other carriers exist as well.

Walmart’s Family Mobile is basic T-Mobile service sold at a discount and pre-paid TracFones use most major carriers.

Also, the phone selections vary and you’ll generally pay less up front for a contract phone.


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