What Sprint's New Wireless Plan Says About the Future of Mobile

PHOTO: A Sprint Nextel cell phone store is seen in Miami, Fla., Oct. 15, 2012.
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Sprint and Virgin Mobile USA announced phone plans today that will let you access only four of the most popular social media apps in the country.

Marketed with parental controls and targeted toward families, customers can pay $11.98 for the new Virgin Mobile Custom plan, a no-annual-contract program for unlimited access to one of four social media apps: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Each pre-paid $6.98 base plan includes 20 minutes of voice and 20 texts. Another $5 provides customers with unlimited access to one of those four apps. Or, you can choose to pay $15 for access to all four of those apps.

PHOTO: The $129.88 LG Unify, one of three Virgin Mobile Custom devices available exclusively at select Walmart stores beginning Aug. 9.
Sprint
PHOTO: The $129.88 LG Unify, one of three Virgin Mobile Custom devices available exclusively at select Walmart stores beginning Aug. 9.

"Phones have migrated largely away from 'talking' at this point and are much more utilized for apps, searching and making purchases," said Ken Wisnefski, founder and CEO of online marketing agency WebiMax. "Talking is secondary. Who talks on a phone anymore?"

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“Cellphones are the hub of people’s entertainment, communication, shopping and leisure activities,” said Angela Rittgers, vice president of Sprint’s prepaid marketing. “Many people would be more worried about losing their phone than losing their wallet. Anything we can do to make using them easier, more manageable or more economical is good for consumers.”

The announced plan is a big win for the social media companies. The four companies are not paying Sprint, the carrier said.

"One of the biggest scenarios that has benefited companies like Facebook is the fact that people are using their mobile devices for searching for everything from restaurants to purchasing large-scale items like TVs," Wisnefski said.

Last week, Facebook reported higher earnings as mobile advertising and its number of users grows. This week, Twitter reported its revenue more than doubled in its second quarter.

Retailers are investing heavily in mobile advertising as it sees increasing e-commerce Web traffic from mobile devices.

"Over time, people have begun to abandon their laptop and now use their phone for everything," Wisnefski said, adding that companies are required these days to prepare websites for different screen size viewing.

"The mobile revolution has had a heavy impact on business in general," he said. "People will be walking or driving through an area and use their phones via Siri or other voice-activated searches to 'find the closest pizza place' or 'find the highest-rated Italian restaurant near me.'"

When asked why those four apps were selected for the new phone plan, and if there are any others in the pipeline, a spokeswoman for Sprint said those are the "four popular apps that our customers are currently using" and "as other apps rise in popularity they may be added."

The Virgin Mobile Custom plan is available on three Android devices that range from $79.88 to $129.88 and are available only at select Walmart stores starting Aug. 9.

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