Last summer, Virgin Mobile debuted its Custom plans at Walmart and in the process launched one of the most flexible prepaid family plans ever in America. Through technology supplied by ItsOn, subscribers could choose specific buckets of call minutes, text messaging and megabytes, and then share them with the family. They could even customize phone plans for social media and navigation services.
By all accounts, the plans worked well -- in fact, too well. There were scenarios in which Virgin would see five different persons on a tailored family all choose different minute, text and data buckets, and then start trading their allocations among themselves at month's end. Needless to say, it presented a very confusing (and difficult) time for Virgin, especially when they tried to make sense of who's using what and by how much.
So now, Virgin has decided to keep things simple. Beginning on January 17th, the carrier and Walmart will start replacing Virgin Custom phone kits with a new and exclusive Walmart program called Data Done Right.
In this program, all individual plans (except for the $35 plans) are offered with unlimited calls and texts, and the pricing will depend on how many lines of service the customer buys and the size of the data bucket purchased. $45 will get customers 2.5 gigabytes on a single line; $65 will get them 4 gigabytes shared between 2 lines; $90 will get them 8 gigabytes over 3 lines; and $115 will get them 12 gigabytes over 4 lines. If customers want to get more gigabytes, they will have to pay $10 per additional 1 gigabyte per month.
Aside from introducing these simplified plans, Virgin is also offering an improved selection of handsets along with the plans (all of these phones will support Sprint's LTE service). These devices include the HTC Desire 510 ($99.88), the LG Tribute ($79.88), the LG Volt ($149.88), and the recent Samsung Galaxy Core Prime ($129.88). Because all of these devices are equipped with mobile hotspot capabilities, owners will be able to share their data plans with other handsets.
Virgin has definitely done well in simplifying its plans, but others may not be too enthusiastic about the carrier's decision to eliminate the customers' ability to customize their own plans. Before, any customer can tailor a plan according to his or his family's wireless needs. Still, Virgin's new plans are quite inexpensive, and any difference in the tailoring of plans may not be that critical in the end. In some cases, sticking with the current price structure may prove to be more cost effective in the long run.
If it is any comfort, Virgin is not entirely getting rid of tailored plans. As a matter of fact, the carrier has decided to continue several of the add-ons, including the $5 monthly for unlimited social networking and music streaming privileges. Virgin is also keeping the ItsOn-developed management app, which allows parents to keep track of the usage of line of service in their accounts.
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