Virgin Mobile and C Spire Wireless have confirmed in separate statements that they are testing the BillFloat financing program to provide a financing option for more expensive handsets.
BillFloat came to prominence last year after signing a deal with MetroPCS and Leap Wireless to help the carriers offer handset financing to its customers through the program. BillFloat’s financing services do not require a credit check and rest on possessing an active checking account in order to make the monthly payments, with their revenue drawn from monthly payments and interest collected on payments.
Virgin Mobile’s test currently consists of a single market with financing options being provided for the iPhone 4 and 4S, Samsung Galaxy S II, Galaxy Reverb and HTC Evo V 4G. Virgin Mobile’s test will end sometime this quarter with no further details on whether it will adopt the program on a permanent basis and declined to elaborate further when pressed for more details.
C-Spire’s test is both more extensive and more widely available, with the carrier offering the financing program in 12 of its markets and allowing 11 handsets to be financed, with the iPhone 5 being offered for $170.50 upfront with payments of $150 per month for six months, though the carrier plans to end its trial in March.
Walmart is currently offering financing on the StraightTalk iPhone and such financing for more expensive handsets in lieu of more conventional subsidies is set to become the norm, especially with T-Mobile abandoning conventional subsidies for a similar financing program after experiencing success with the concept over the past year and adopting the idea in order to be able to bring the iPhone onto the carrier without losing millions in contract subsidies.
As prepaid becomes more of a legitimate alternative to postpaid with handset lineups reflecting the growing popularity of the option and more expensive handsets such as the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy SII become available on such services, the lack of conventional subsidies means that handsets are more expensive compared to postpaid, and subsequently more difficult for the typical prepaid customer to purchase at once.
With services such as BillFloat and more brands investigating the idea of offering financing programs in lieu of conventional subsidies in order to maintain their lower than normal monthly rates, the idea of handset financing is expected to gain more prominence as the year goes on in order to drive more customers to prepaid without the resistance found due to more expensive handset pricing.
Virgin Mobile and C-Spire testing BillFloat does not necessarily mean they will follow in the footsteps of MetroPCS and adopt the service after their respective trials are done, but it will give them perspective on how to offer more options for their current customers as well as having an incentive to draw new customers.
Considering the fact that the highest selling iPhone models in Walmart stores are the 8GB iPhone 4 and the 16GB iPhone 5 due to their available financing options, services like BillFloat stand to benefit greatly with more moves by carriers to offer alternative handset purchase options.