The iPhone 5 is already supported by several US carriers including major LTE providers like AT&T and Verizon as well as regional carriers like Cricket and C Spire. However, a new report released by MacRumors on Monday says Apple’s latest smartphone may be coming to Virgin Mobile USA, Sprint’s prepaid mobile unit.
“While no official iPhone 5 announcement has been made, MacRumors has confirmed that Apple does indeed have Virgin-specific CDMA iPhone 5 units lined up and ready to go,” wrote MacRumors’ Eric Slivka.
MacRumors also released the alleged list of iPhone 5 model numbers intended for Virgin Mobile USA, which listed black and white models in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB of storage.
Virgin Mobile USA and Alaska Communications are the only two US regional carriers yet to introduce Apple’s latest smartphone. The iPhone 5 originally launched with Apple’s three LTE carriers on Sept. 21, and released to a handful of regional US carriers one week later on Sept. 28, including Cricket, C Spire, Bluegrass Cellular, Cellcom, GCI, Golden State Cellular, Nex-Tech Wireless, Pioneer Wireless, Appalachian Wireless, MTA Solutions, and nTelos.
It’s not clear why Virgin Mobile USA refused to introduce the iPhone 5 around the time of its launch, but if the company’s history is any indicator of its future, Virgin Mobile could potentially wait until spring or early summer to support the iPhone 5. With the last iPhone, Virgin Mobile USA waited until June – eight months after the iPhone 4S wide launch – to start offering the new phone.
In last year’s plan, Virgin Mobile USA offered service plans between $30 and $50 a month with no commitment. When you did the math, Virgin Mobile’s prepaid plan for the iPhone 4S was actually significantly cheaper than plans proposed by the major US carriers.
For Virgin Mobile customers, owning an iPhone 4S for two years – which includes $649 for the phone and $50 a month – cost users only $77.04 a month. On AT&T or Verizon, by the time the customer pays for the $199 subsidized iPhone 4S, plus the $36 activation fee, plus the $120 per month (including unlimited talk, text and data), customers end up paying $129.79 a month. Other partially subsidized phones and prepaid phones (like Cricket and Straight Talk, respectively) cost the user between $72 and $75 a month, but neither of those regional carriers has the coverage of Sprint like Virgin Mobile has.
Considering how the iPhone 5 is priced the same way as the iPhone 4S, it’s likely Virgin Mobile USA would price the smartphone at the same $30/month rate as last year’s deal. Hopefully, Virgin Mobile won’t wait eight months to begin selling the phone.
About the iPhone 5
The iPhone 5, Apple’s sixth-generation smartphone, is 18 percent thinner than its predecessor, the iPhone 4S, at just 7.6mm, and is 20 percent lighter than the 4S at 112 grams. The iPhone 5 features a bigger 4-inch screen that boasts a 16:9 aspect ratio for watching videos in full widescreen, and Apple has again made its new in-cell display a Retina Display, with a screen resolution of 1136 x 640 screen and a density of 336 ppi.
The iPhone 5’s screen, according to an extensive analysis by Amherst, NH-based DisplayMate, is actually a “significant improvement” over the smaller screens in the iPhone 4S and 4, and is also substantially brighter and more accurate than the screen in Samsung’s Galaxy S3, which many consider to be the greatest rival to Apple and the iPhone 5. Read the full lab comparison here.
The iPhone 5 is all about speed; in addition to being powered by the high-speed Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network, the iPhone 5 also features a newly-enhanced camera infrastructure, a smaller ”Lightning” dock connector, and a custom-built dual-core A6 processor, which actually boasts more than twice the overall processing performance of any iOS device that’s come before it, including the new iPad. The benchmarks for the A6 processor actually nearly triple the performance of the A5 chip in last year’s iPhone 4S, making streaming, compressing and decompressing information, and handling memory a breeze for Apple’s latest phone innovation.
The iPhone 5 runs on iOS 6, which features more than 200 new features for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad. The operating system is extremely nimble and smooth on the new iPhone 5. Applications are far more responsive, and games in particular are lightning-fast and lag-free. Besides welcome additions like Passbook and enhancements to Siri, a real sticking point in iOS 6 has been the new Maps application -- Tim Cook apologized to customers this morning for its lackluster performance -- but despite its shortcomings, the application really does shine on the iPhone 5, especially with its real-time rendering of 3D satellite images as you fly over cities and countryside. There is much to improve, but it's a great start.
Apple sells the iPhone 5 in two color combinations - black and slate, or white and silver - and at three different storage capacities: The cheapest iPhone 5 with 16 GB of space sells for $199, and after that, it’s $299 for 32 GB of space, and $399 for 64GB of space. Customers are not charged extra for the LTE feature, as the chip is included in all phone models.