Sprint has confirmed to PhoneNews.com that the Nexus 5 is no longer banned from BYOSD.
PhoneNews.com led the brutal, community-wide criticism when Sprint imposed the restriction on Nexus 5 from being used on prepaid wireless networks, including FreedomPop, Ting, Ring Plus, and others.
As of today, all LG/Google Nexus 5 devices are cleared to activate on BYOSD providers, provided the device is not lost, stolen, or currently under subsidy from Sprint.
However, Sprint is defending its decision to prohibit other “iconic” devices from BYOSD – a change imposed after many of the devices launched. Sprint argues that they never intended for devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, and Sprint-branded Motorola X units from being used on BYOSD. Further, they argue that the high device subsidy costs played a key role in this decision-making. Finally, Sprint confirmed devices already active on BYOSD could remain so, despite new BYOSD activations being banned.
After initially arguing, in spite of previous reports, that Sprint subsidized Nexus 5 units, Sprint eventually confirmed to PhoneNews.com that many, if not most Nexus 5 units will be sold unsubsidized from sources like Google Play. Sprint sells the Nexus 5 unsubsidized at $449, but offers it for far less with a two-year contract. Google offers the Nexus 5 without contract for $349, a price both Sprint and T-Mobile (the two carriers Google endorses the device for) claim the Google Play sales are not subsidized by carriers.
Part of this confusion stems from that BYOSD does not distinguish between devices purchased at the “full retail” price, devices purchased on-contract, and devices purchased on-contract and then released via the subsidy being paid off. Some have abused the subsidy process by purchasing a new device, swapping in an older/broken device, and then terminating service, leaving the Early Termination Fee unpaid. Other carriers, like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, track the subsidy status and release a device for unlocking to other carriers when the subsidy has been paid or the customer has established a tenure with the carrier.
No Nexus device has never been barred by a carrier previously from being used on an MVNO’s plans. Google intended for Nexus devices to, at least in part, cater to the growing number of consumers that opt out of paying for device subsidizes, and select a prepaid plan, often on an MVNO or second-tier carrier branding like AIO Wireless on AT&T, or MetroPCS on T-Mobile.
Both the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 were and are priced between $300 and $400 unsubsidized, with comparable devices typically costing hundreds more unsubsidized. These higher-volume devices cost less to most consumers, because they are typically purchased on-contract at launch, where carriers offer subsidizes that often exceed the Early Termination Fee (ETF) associated with the plan.
While PhoneNews.com received early reports, including from Sprint itself, that this restriction was quickly being dropped, we waited until the middle of this week because of initial confusion inconsistencies in official statements between Sprint and its MVNOs. Clearly, this was a fluid situation.
Going forward, we hope Sprint revises its BYOSD policy once more, and make it plain and simple – if a phone is still under contract, the subsidy has to be paid off before it can be used on BYOSD. This mirrors T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s device unlocking policies. And, keep in mind, the FCC made clear last week it is demanding the industry adopt one unlocking policy on devices. If Sprint doesn’t work with CTIA to embrace a policy that is more consistent, regulators may do it for them.
To activate a Nexus 5 on Sprint MVNOs, they will need to mail you a SIM card. This is different from most Sprint devices, which either ship with a SIM card installed, or have an embedded SIM that cannot be removed. Ting has started a blog post for this process ahead of a formal rollout. RingPlus and FreedomPop reportedly will accept a blank Sprint SIM card purchased from a Sprint Retail Store – though some stores have been unwilling thus far to sell the SIM cards for this purpose.
Thanks to You
Finally, and on a personal note, I want to thank you the reader. As you may know, I don’t cover news of the day here anymore. I still like to pontificate, but I’ve moved on. Sprint clearly heard the reaction from not just me, but thousands of people like you. The initial coverage that we ran on this one topic, quietly got broader social media coverage and attention faster than any previous article that we’ve ever run.
This showed that Sprint, under the new controlling-ownership of SoftBank, has the cash and the breathing room to respond quickly when they make a mistake. We still think banning any off-contract device from BYOSD does more harm to Sprint’s image than helps the balance sheet, but banning unsubsidized devices like Nexus from BYOSD was dumb as dirt. Sprint moved quickly to undo that mistake.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m cancelling my $299 Motorola X order on Republic Wireless and ordering a Nexus 5 for use on FreedomPop BYOSD. Republic’s $10 unlimited voice plan and $299 Moto X price-point is truly epic, but I think after this I’ll appreciate using a Nexus 5 for $0 per month a bit more.