Both Virgin Mobile and Boost have just released new 4G LTE coverage via the Sprint network and new phones which can access the 4G LTE speeds. Both the brands had previously offered 4G via WiMax with the flagship phone being the Galaxy S2 4G.
Sprint, which owns both Virgin Mobile and Boost, is likely to use these brands to leverage even more super-fast devices on 4G LTE at a price discount to T-Mobile and to better go head to head with other pre-paid carriers Cricket and MetroPCS.
To access these new 4G LTE speeds, you’ll need a new phone from either carrier to support the new speeds as any current WiMax phones won’t upgrade to the 4G LTE speeds, meaning WiMax users won’t notice a difference on their current device.
The Virgin Mobile brand is the funkier and better value brand than the bigger Sprint and that gives consumers a very competitive LTE price offering, albeit limited to one smartphone right now.
Check out the price plan differences on the Galaxy Victory between Sprint and Virgin Mobile, or compare the costs over 24 months on both carriers. The Sprint Everything Data 450 Minute plan with Unlimited Data is almost $600 more expensive over 24 months than the Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk 300 Minute plans with Unlimited Data.
The drawbacks are that the Virgin Mobile plan is throttled at 2.5GB of data use and that the release from Virgin Mobile specifies that adaptive protocol video is limited to 600kbps (the adaptive protocol video limit on speed appears to be something that is unique to Virgin Mobile as it is not present in the Sprint Terms and Conditions).
On Virgin Mobile, the first 4G LTE phone out of the ranks is the Samsung Galaxy Victory LTE, which is a mid-range launch and not a knock-out blow. Unfortunately, is a slight step down from the previous flagship phone, the Samsung Galaxy S2, in terms of camera, on-board storage and screen size.
On the plus side, the Galaxy Victory LTE’s display, while smaller than that of the S2, still sports the same 480×800 resolution. This means that images should appear more crisp, as the pixels are spread out over a smaller area. The processor on the Victory is also only a dual-core 1.2GHz, as opposed to the dual-core 1.5GHz on the S2 4G. Still, this shouldn’t impact the user experience too significantly, as the difference between the two could be almost indistinguishable in the real world. This is especially likely considering the 1GB of RAM in the S2 is also found in the Victory.
Where the Galaxy Victory really falls short is in its on-board storage. 4GB is hardly enough to cover just apps and general usage, let alone music, pictures and video content. Users will more than likely have to purchase an optional MicroSD card for extra storage if they wish to get the full smartphone experience without constantly managing their smartphone’s hard drive.
This device is likely the first in a new range of LTE devices slated for Virgin Mobile in coming months.
The Big Fight on LTE…iPhone 5?
So, the big question now is will Virgin Mobile get the iPhone 5 now that it has switched on LTE coverage?
Both Cricket and Straight Talk offer the iPhone 5 as prepaid carriers with LTE coverage and Virgin Mobile has proven itself to be extremely competitive on iPhone 4S plans so it would be a welcome addition to the iPhone line up.
How competitive? Check out how Virgin Mobile stacks up on a monthly basis here for the iPhone 4S, but more importantly, check out how they compete over 24 months on the iPhone 4S. A $500 saving over 24 months vs ATT.
Sprint now officially offers LTE in 58 cities, but the rollout has not been as fast as Sprint would have liked. However, there is a lot to look forward to as construction has started in more than 450 cities and Sprint expects that LTE coverage will be available in nearly 170 additional cities around the middle of the year.
By the end of 2013, Sprint should cover over 200 million Americans.
To date, Sprint’s 4G LTE coverage and therefore Virgin Mobile and Boost’s LTE coverage is not as wide as ATT and Verizon.
Current 4G LTE Cities for Spring / Boost / Virgin Mobile (as at February 2013)
Anderson, Ind.; Atlanta; Athens, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Barnstable/Hyannis/Mid-Cape, Mass.; Boston; Bryan/College Station, Texas; Calhoun, Ga.; Carrollton, Ga.; Chicago/Naperville/Joliet, Ill.; Clark County, Va./Jefferson County, W.Va.; Columbia, Tenn.; Dallas; Emporia, Kan.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Fort Worth, Texas; Framingham, Mass.; Franklin County, Pa.; Gainesville, Ga.; Gary, Ind.; Gettysburg, Pa.; Granbury/Hood County, Texas; Hagerstown, Md./Martinsburg, W.Va.; Harrisburg/Carlisle/Hershey, Pa.; Harrisonburg, Va.; Houston; Huntsville, Texas; Hutchinson, Kan.; Indianapolis/Carmel, Ind.; Kankakee/Bradley/Bourbonnais, Ill.; Kansas City, Kan./Mo.; Lawrence, Kan.; Manhattan/Junction City, Kan.; McPherson, Kan.; Muncie, Ind.; New Bedford/Fall River, Mass.; Newnan, Ga.; Peabody, Mass.; Rockford, Ill.; Rome, Ga.; Salina, Kan.; San Antonio; Santa Rosa/Petaluma, Calif.; Sedalia, Mo.; Shenandoah/Page Counties, Va.; South Bend/Mishawaka, Ind.; Southern PR: Ponce/Coamo/Guayama, Puerto Rico; St. Joseph, Mo.; Topeka, Kan.; Vallejo/Fairfield, Calif.; Waco, Texas; Waukegan/Lake County, Ill.; Western PR: Aguadilla/Isabela/Cabo Rojo/Mayagüez, Puerto Rico; Wichita Falls, Texas; Wichita, Kan.; Winchester, Va.; York/Hanover, Pa.
Compare Virgin Mobile’s 4G LTE Galaxy Victory or Boost and Sprint plans with our comparison tool