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What Is a Prepaid Smartphone?

Two people using smartphones.
A prepaid smartphone.
Smart phones have more advanced features than traditional cell phones.
A woman using a smartphone.
Article Details
  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A prepaid smartphone is a smartphone devise that has a cellular prepaid plan. These plans allow wireless phone subscribers to pay for service as they use it, without any long-term commitments. Smart phone devices are cellular phones that have advanced features, such as Internet and e-mail capabilities that are typically found on personal digital assistants (PDAs) or computers.

Most major cell phone carriers are beginning to offer the prepaid smartphone as an alternative to post-paid or contract service. Subscribers are able to obtain wireless service without getting their credit checked. They are able to purchase voice minutes as well as credits towards data usage on a pay as you go basis. Instead of a contract plan that specifies a certain amount of minutes and data usage per month for a flat fee, prepaid phones stop working once the subscriber runs out of minutes.

Prepaid smartphone plans can be a good way to avoid billing surprises or extra charges for additional usage. In the long-term, these plans may be more expensive since the per minute or data unit charge is typically higher than that of post-paid plans. The subscriber usually needs to continue making payments to his account for minutes and data allotments in order to prevent service interruptions. Wireless carriers typically sell prepaid phone and data cards that the subscriber can purchase in certain denominations or allotments.

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There are a limited number of smartphone makes and models available with a prepaid plan. The costs of these phones are more expensive than a traditional cell phone. Unlike post-paid service contracts, rebates and purchase incentives to help offset the higher costs of a smartphone may not be available. A prepaid smartphone usually has the same capabilities that comparable post-paid models do.

One of the differentiating characteristics between a regular cell phone and a smartphone is that it provides more than just basic phone service. While smartphones do retain their focus on voice and calling capabilities, they give subscribers the ability to coordinate data communications. Most of these communications are largely web-based and may include integration with social networking and personal financial accounts.

Historically, prepaid service was geared more towards customer segments with lower incomes and credit problems. The prepaid smartphone emerged as a way for cellular companies to target higher income segments who may not want to commit to a long-term contract. A prepaid plan is a less risky way for subscribers to try out a carrier's service. Most wireless companies do allow prepaid customers to transfer their service to post-paid contracts using the same phone.

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