6/30/11 Due to Virgin Mobile closing an account of ours that had funds in it, that should have been active for 365 days we can NOT recommend using Virgin Mobile at this time!
Finally, there are several choices for smart phones for those of us who would prefer to not be tied down by contracts, and go the prepaid route. The downside to this is that the phones are not subsidized and that the whole cost of the phone must be paid in advance, BUT often times the savings had with the monthly bill compared to contract phones will offset the added cost of paying the full purchase price of the phone within the first 2 or 3 months.
Leaving out Metro PCS, because there coverage is not that good I will provide you with some carrier approved smart phone devices that are currently on the market.
The first real prepaid smart phone on the block was the Boost Mobile Blackberry 8330. Its upfront cost is $250, and the monthly unlimited plan is $60 per-month. Compare that with sprint's unlimited simply everything plan at $100 and you save $40 per month, so it would take just over 6 months for the phone to be "free" or for you to start realizing the savings.
The next smart phone that came out also came from one of sprints prepaid companies. Virgin mobile is now offering the Blackberry 8530 for $300, and has plans for $35 for 300 minutes + unlimited text and web, $50 for 1200 minutes + unlimited text and web, and $70 for unlimited everything. Making the $35/month plan one of the cheapest blackberry plans available. Yet even if you decide that you need unlimited everything, comparing the $70/month plan with Sprint's unlimited simply everything plan will still save you $30 per month. This will take 10 months to get the phone for "free" or see the savings potential, or even quicker if you choose one of the lower cost plans.
The latest smart phone to reach the prepaid market is not a Blackberry, but an Android phone, and is available by Boost Mobile. The previous 2 Blackberries mentioned above are on Sprint's CDMA network, this one is on the NEXTEL iDEN network. I am not sure why Boost choose to put a smart phone onto the older iDEN network, instead of putting it onto the Sprint CDMA network. The model number is i1, and pricing for the device is not yet posted on the website. I would assume that they would keep the cost of the device to the $250-300 price point, as they are a prepaid company and cater to people looking to save money compared to contract phones, and people are used to having there phones subsidized by the carrier, and to not like to spend that much for there phones. The Plan pricing is also not posted on the website, but I would assume that you would be able to get this device with the $50 plan, because unlike the Blackberries Boost does not need to pay an outside company for PUSH email, or other features.