Sprint’s BYOSD finally became relevant over the past year, when it granted activation of most Android devices on prepaid services like PrepaYd Wireless and Ring Plus, among other Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). BYOSD stands for Bring Your Own Sprint Device, which previously was limited to feature phones and ancient Windows Mobile and Palm OS devices.
Sprint was pretty bold about the initiative’s expansion, bolstering that consumers could now take off-contract and full-retail 4G WiMAX and 4G LTE devices and use them with MVNOs. This was a big shot in the arm for Sprint MVNOs, as these niche players lacked the capital to launch high-end devices that tapped Sprint’s customized 4G WiMAX and 4G LTE networks, with custom band-types.
This new move, however, pretty much knee-caps the BYOSD procedure. Blocking devices like Nexus 5, for which Sprint admits they sell without any subsidy involved, is pretty unconscionable in the objective opinion of our team here. Sprint doesn’t lose money when a customer buys a Nexus 5 from the Google Play Store, and even charges more at retail than Google does to ensure all Nexus 5’s are sold at the full retail price. The only company that subsidizes Nexus sales at the full retail price, is Google, which has no objection to using the device unlocked on any network.
Nexus far from alone
While the blocking MVNO access to the Nexus 5 is the most damning, shaming move on Sprint’s part, it’s far from alone. Many other “iconic” (in Sprint’s words) devices are also facing the ban.
While iPhone and BlackBerry have always been blocked from BYOSD, almost a dozen new devices are now joining the list. Devices like the Motorola X, HTC One, Galaxy S4 and S4 Mini, and Galaxy Tab 3 are also now blocked from MVNO access. Even devices that hardly sound iconic have made the cut. Here’s the full list:
- HTC One
- HTC 8XT
- Kyocera HydroEDGE
- LG Optimus F3
- Motorola X
- Samsung ATIV S Neo
- Samsung Galaxy Mega
- Samsung Galaxy Note 3
- Samsung Galaxy S4
- Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 LTE
- LG Nexus 5
- LG G2
- ZTE / Sprint Vital
- ZTE Awe
24 Hours to Act
Consumers do have 24 hours to grab a Sprint device from a Sprint Store and activate it on an MVNO. Sprint is providing this grace period to allow already-purchased devices to be activated, but will not allow previously-pruchased devices to be activated on an MVNO after November 15. Of course if the phone needs warranty replacement, or simply gets lost or stolen, you won’t be able to reactivate a replacement.
It’s unclear if once a device has been activated on BYOSD post-ban, if you’ll be able to swap devices around. For best results, we strongly suggest not swapping a “grandfathered” BYOSD device off of a Sprint MVNO account for any reason.
BYOSD’s Not Dead Yet
This is again, a deplorable move on Sprint’s part. If people have paid full retail for their devices, especially devices like Nexus 5 that Sprint played no role in selling, they should be able to be activated on any Sprint MVNO.
That being said, there are plenty of devices that this still makes sense on. I personally use a Motorola Photon Q (which ducked the ban), on RingPlus’s $10/month plan as a backup phone. As I mentioned earlier in the week, odds would dictate it will get KitKat, and it has a Snapdragon S4 Plus… it cost under $100 on eBay for me to pick it up pre-owned.
Likewise, other potent devices like the Galaxy S3 and EVO 4G LTE that are previous-generation but still current and powerful devices otherwise can still be excellent MVNO devices. Both of those devices will likely see community-supported KitKat updates, if not official KitKat updates as well.
Sprint Should React
This is an easy one for Sprint to fix. Under new ownership of SoftBank, Sprint has an opportunity right here, right now, to demonstrate that it responds to missteps and fixes them quickly. If you paid full retail for your device, you should be able to do with it as you wish, including use Sprint’s own prepaid MVNO networks.
Worse, many people who ordered Nexus 5’s from Google, are in-shipment or en-route, and can’t possibly activate their devices within Sprint’s brutal 48-hour-notice timeframe, we didn’t even get word from our sources at Sprint that this was confirmed until half way through it.
Sprint, do the right thing, drop this ridiculous MVNO blockade. If you want to block future iconic devices, we can’t stop you, but it’s just as bad then as it is now. It’s even worse when you block MVNO devices that people already have paid for and are waiting to drop the SIM card into.
Full retail phone pricing exists for a reason. Blocking iconic devices from MVNOs is not something that will drive those customers to Sprint postpay. All it will do is drive them to hold a grudge against Sprint.
Follow-up: Sprint has removed Nexus 5 from the BYOSD ban list. We have in-depth coverage in our follow-up article.