Prepaid virtual operator Straight Talk has announced its first high-end Android smartphone in the LG Optimus 2X. The key differentiator between this version of the phone and the T-Mobile version in the G2X will be the inclusion of an LTE radio, which will make this the first high-end prepaid Android smartphone on Straight Talk and the first to function on AT&T’s nascent LTE network.
It also marks the first time that AT&T will allow prepaid access to its LTE network, as its own GoPhone lineup is limited to 3G devices and its smartphone lineup on GoPhone does not feature access to either unlimited 3G data or LTE access.
The LG Optimus 2X is underpinned by a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 at 1GHz, an 800×480 resolution touch display, front-facing 1.3 megapixel VGA camera and 8.0 megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capture along with a Wi-Fi N radio, Bluetooth, microSDHC slot with pre-installed 4GB card, 3.5mm jack and mini HDMI out.
This marks a potentially disruptive development for the prepaid brand, as it simultaneously competes against its Master Service Provider in AT&T in terms of services offered for the monthly rate, since the $45 monthly rate for service includes unlimited access to voice, data and messaging while the service also undercuts its competitors in Boost Mobile, Cricket and MetroPCS in terms of value for money.
The lowest priced service plans for Android on MetroPCS with LTE access start at $50 per month and do not include unlimited data access, while Boost Mobile’s Android data plan is $5 higher per month for the first six months and is unlimited in terms of data access, but is limited to much slower EV-DO Rev. A access. For Straight Talk to offer 4G LTE data access as a part of its current $45 monthly rate is not only potentially game changing, but it opens access to even more people that normally wouldn’t be able to take advantage of such service, as LTE access is currently being limited by carriers to capped postpaid and prepaid tablet access to generate the revenue necessary to cover costs associated to network buildouts.
It’s also important to note that such service additions and newly included support for faster data access on prepaid providers are usually followed by significant increases to the monthly rate to cover the additional costs incurred by the provider. For Straight Talk to maintain the $45 smartphone rate while offering its first high-end smartphone with LTE is a sure way to drive not only frugal customers looking to jump into its low cost and inclusive flat-rate service as well as those that will undoubtedly upgrade from older smartphones, but the hardcore Android enthusiasts will no doubt take a second look at the service as it now supports LTE, which will doubtlessly drive even more activations on the service.
However, as Straight Talk is notoriously tight-lipped about its limits on data access per month dating back to the release of the E71, what is currently not known is how LTE access will be treated in terms of any monthly caps or throttling. AT&T is especially notorious for its current monthly data caps, but at least those are clearly defined.
With Straight Talk, reports vary on exactly how much is “too much” data use for a given user, as experiences range from ~6GB of data use a month with no issues or warnings, to situations where using more than 200MB in one day has led some customers to have their service suspended until the next renewal period without being able to restore it, or worse, having service completely terminated and having to reactivate completely.
With this latest development, Straight Talk is well on its way to being the disruptive provider that so many have tried and failed to be. The phone will be launched by the end of the month as an online exclusive with pricing to match, as the phone will be priced between $249-299.99 and slot at the top of the current Android lineup, which currently features the Sprint-powered and sourced Samsung Precedent and LG Optimus Q.
What remains to be seen is just how many people will be led to the service of flat-rate service with LTE access for half of the cost of the typical postpaid monthly rate on AT&T. Will it drive new customers that normally wouldn’t have considered prepaid service, or does the allure of the $45 rate leave it open for abuse by the same people that would take full advantage of such service if given the opportunity to pay such a low rate for it?
Update: After extensive research, it has been confirmed that the model offered is not an LTE enabled version of the Optimus 2X as is being advertised by Straight Talk, rather it is in fact an unbranded version of the US G2X that will be sold by the provider with Android Gingerbread 2.3.4 pre-loaded along with a new series of T-Mobile SIM card that will allow access to the carrier’s HSPA+ network for the phone, with no possibility of swapping current SIMs used on other GSM smartphones such as the E71 and E5 since they only work with AT&T.
Update 2: Straight Talk has pulled its reservation page for the Optimus 2X and replaced it with the page for the Optimus Q. The service provider has also pulled its Google Doubleclick ad campaign for the phone and replaced it with the previous campaign for the Optimus Q. Below, a screen cap of the Optimus 2X ad.
Update 3: Straight Talk has re-opened the reservation page for the LG Optimus 2X and has removed all references to 4G LTE support and is instead referring to T-Mobile’s HSPA+ data network as “4G”.
Update 4: Sibling provider Net10 has opened its own page for the phone, with a screencap of its Google DoubleClick ad below detailing the removal of 4G LTE references: