Could Sprint's Galaxy S II become a prepaid phone?

Sprint plans to eventually re-brand its flagship smartphones and sell them to its prepaid and wholesale partners, according to the carrier's product chief.

Sprint product chief Fared Adib, seen here at a Google event earlier this year Sarah Tew/CNET

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--Sprint Nextel is working to take its flagship smartphones and eventually sell them to its prepaid and wholesale partners, according to product chief Fared Adib.

Sprint could eventually take a high-end handset such as the Samsung Electronics Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch and re-brand and sell it to different providers, Adib said during the company's developer conference here today.

The approach would mark a radical departure from conventional thinking in the wireless industry. The national carriers typically guard their flagship handsets with exclusive agreements, and consider them the "crown jewels" that allow them to stand apart from the smaller players. Wholesale service providers or prepaid carriers often are left to find their own handsets, which are typically lower-end or lack key features and specifications.

But Adib said that the company is working to procure smartphones from its vendor partners that can be easily re-branded and sold across multiple brands. He added that this approach would provide an edge to the development community, which could tap into a wider base of customers.

"We'll do it in a way that allows you to write just one app for (prepaid, postpaid, and wholesale versions) of the phone," Adib said.

Sprint has traditionally been a strong player in the prepaid space, which for years has helped drive growth at the company even as its more lucrative contract business languished. Likewise, it has been among the most aggressive in partnering with wireless resellers. Beyond its core Sprint business, the company also offers prepaid service through Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile. It also has wholesale customers such as Leap Wireless.

As for the iPhone, Adib acknowledged that Sprint is a bit late to the game. But the company is working to deliver some unique services through different apps and features for Apple's smartphone.

Adib also touched on the Sprint ID program, which is a profile that comes with a number of apps for select Android phones. He said that after a slow ramp up, the adoption has been strong with 6 million ID packs downloaded. Among the most popular are ID packs from Walt Disney, ESPN, and E! News, as well as its own Sprint ID pack.

Sprint now has 45 ID pack partners, Adib said. He added that the company is working to generate revenue through these ID packs, and hinted at a lot of developments for this program.

"You'll see a lot of announcements for how we take the platform to the next level," he said.

About the author

Roger Cheng is the executive editor in charge of breaking news for CNET News. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade. He's a devoted Trojan alum and Los Angeles Lakers fan.

 

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