Why it matters to you
Apple and Virgin are attempting to create an end-to-end mobile user experience, which could make phone plans a whole lot easier to manage.
Virgin Mobile is redefining itself, and a part of that new identity involves partnering with Apple and turning its business into the first “iPhone-only” carrier. The carrier’s new program is called “Inner Circle.”
Back in June, Virgin announced the Inner Circle plan — meaning the carrier got rid of all of its Android devices, and started only selling iPhones. Customers who sign up for the program receive 12 months of unlimited talk, text, and data for $1.
Originally, customers had to buy an iPhone from Virgin, and set up auto pay to be able to take part in the $1 promotion. But the carrier announced its plans have changed. Starting Wednesday, customers who bring in their existing iPhone — iPhone 5s or higher — and transfer their phone number to the Inner Circle plan, will also receive 12 months of unlimited talk, text, and high-speed data for only $1. Each time a member upgrades to a new iPhone, they’ll receive an additional six months of service for a $1.
In typical carrier fashion, data is “deprioritized” or throttled if you go over 23GB a month. Video, games, and music on Virgin’s 4G LTE are also “mobile-optimized,” meaning videos are streamed at 480-pixel resolution; music streams at 500kbps or lower; and cloud gaming streams up to 2mbps. After the first year, customers pay $50 a month.
If you don’t have an iPhone, you can still purchase one from Virgin Mobile as well. A 32GB iPhone SE from the carrier costs $279, an iPhone 6 costs $319, and an iPhone 7 will start at $650, according to Virgin’s website. The company also offers perks from other Virgin brands as incentive — for example, you could get one night’s stay at Virgin Hotels (you have to pay for two nights to get the third free); or you can get up to 20 percent off on flights with Virgin America.
You can take a look at the full list of “member benefits” here. These Virgin perks are only available to new Inner Circle members who enroll by September 30. If you do not like Virgin Mobile’s service, you can return your iPhone within 14 days for a full refund.
This marks one of the first times that Apple has forged a real partnership with a mobile carrier.
The changes aren’t just coming to Virgin — they’re also coming to Apple, which will start offering Virgin Mobile subscriptions at its retail stores. Beyond that, however, it seems as though Apple is dipping its toes into offering a full end-to-end mobile experience. With Virgin helping it out, customers may soon not need to choose a carrier or worry about picking a plan.
This marks one of the first times that Apple has forged a real partnership with a mobile carrier. It’s unclear if the Cupertino company will be pushing Virgin Mobile as a long-term option in its stores, or just during the $1 promotions this summer. As far as existing customers go, nothing will change for them — they’ll be able to continue on their current plan for now.
Update: Virgin Mobile is now offering 12 months of unlimited wireless service when you bring in your iPhone and transfer your phone number to the “Inner Circle” plan.
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