Last year, Virgin undercut the entire U.S. mobile industry by offering one of the cheapest iPhone 4S plans in the business. Next Friday it will do the same for the iPhone 5.

iPhone 5 camera

Last year, Virgin Mobile made the iPhone (4 AND 4S?) accessible to a whole new class of budget-conscious user by offering the device on a rock-bottom $30-a-month prepaid plan. Next Friday, the Sprint-owned no-contract carrier will extend that plan to the iPhone 5, bringing LTE access along for the ride.

Virgin is billing the service as an unlimited data and texting plan with 300 voice minutes. There are a few caveats though. Unlimited means 2.5 GB of CDMA or LTE data each month, after which your speeds are throttled down. Also the $30 plan requires you to sign up for Virgin’s Auto Pay service, which automatically charges your monthly bill to a credit card, debit card or PayPal account.

Unlike other carriers, which try to differentiate their plans based on the size of your data bucket, Virgin differentiates via voice. If you want more than 300 voice minutes, you’ll have to pay significant premiums: $10 more for 1200 minutes and $20 more for unlimited talk . But if you don’t talk on the phone much, this is one of the cheapest plans in the business. Virgin is even sweetening the pot by offering a $100 discount off the unsubsidized cost of the iPhone 5 — $550 may still seem high to a budget buyers, but it’s better than $650 or more.

Most of the budget smartphone plans level out at around $45 a month. That’s what Straight Talk charges for its iPhone 5 plan at Walmart. Of the nationwide carriers, T-Mobile offers the cheapest plan for $50 a month, including unlimited talk and text, but only 500 MB of data.

It’s no coincidence we’re starting a bunch of iPhone 5 deals right about now. Best Buy today kicked off a trade-in program for iPhone 4 or 4S models, which gives customers a $150 discount on a new iPhone 5. Apple is set to launch its newest iPhone this fall (whether it’s named the 5S, 6, or something else), so it’s maximizing sales of soon-to-be-previous-generation smartphones while it can.

  1. Graham Jolicoeur Friday, June 21, 2013

    T-mobile has a 30 Dollar plan with 100 minutes 5gig/unlimited data with unlimited texting.

    It is a little hidden but it is there.

    1. diana manno Monday, July 8, 2013

      Hey do you know how to find this offer on the site i cant seem to find it and ive searched their site a bunch. Thanks!

  2. Also, the T Mobile plans are “unlimited” – they just throttle back the speeds after the first 500MB.

  3. curious george Tuesday, July 2, 2013

    Can we confirm this auto pay the first rep , did not even know this existed….
    The second Rep said we must pay the full amount for the 1st month, and then the remaining months will be $30/mo…Sounds a bit fishy to me.

  4. True dat – my son has the TMobile $30 unlimited plan for his HTC ONE, for first time users. It does throttle back after so much data but he hasn’t noticed any problems and he is a heavy user.

  5. Virgin Mobile…. be aware. Although they say it is a $50 plan, they will charge you $5 more and say that it is your state tax added! Each time, you will get a third world country speaking individual giving you the run around!!!! Youre better off with Sprint!!!! Ive been with Sprint for over 20 years, never had a problem with them.

    1. Nice try Sprint.


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