MetroPCS today announced it will carry the Samsung Galaxy S III, a move that continues a trend to low-priced prepaid carriers offering high-profile smart phones. Cricket another carrier that offers no-contract prepaid service, currently sells the Apple iPhone 5.
Prepaid carriers offer some plans that are similar to those of major carriers but skip the contract commitments. Their service generally costs less than the majors, but they charge a higher price for the phone itself compared with the same model bought under a contract. And some such carriers score quite well in our Ratings of cell-phone service, which cover both contract and prepaid service.
MetroPCS, which serves 14 cities with its own 4G LTE network, is charging $499 for the Galaxy S III. By contrast, the phone costs $200 with a two-year contract commitment from Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint. But MetroPCS's unlimited text, talk, and data plan costs just $55 a month. The Simply Everything plan from Sprint which also offers unlimited text, talk, and data, is $109.99 a month.
Doing the math on the cost of two-year ownership, including service and the initial cost of the phone, yields a savings of more than $50 a month from buying the Galaxy S III with an unlimited plan from Metro PCS, rather than from Sprint, which is the only major carrier still to offer unlimited-data plans to new customers. The gap closes considerably, however, if you select a Sprint plan that offers unlimited data and texting but limits minutes, such as its 450-minutes-a-month Everything Data plan, which is $79.99 a month.