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Verizon launches prepaid plans for 3G phones starting at $60

The lowest-tier plan includes unlimited talk, texts, and 500MB of data. For $70 a month, customers receive 2GB of data in addition to unlimited talk and texts.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam at CES last month. James Martin/CNET
Verizon Wireless today launched two new prepaid plans with lower pricing for smartphone users as the company ramps up competition in the pay-as-you-go phone market.

The new plans start at $60 a month for unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data or $70 for 2GB of data in addition to unlimited talk and texts.

Previously, Verizon's prepaid plan cost $80 a month for 2GB of data and unlimited talk and texts.

The catch is the plan only covers 3G phones that run on the Android, BlackBerry, or iOS systems. That includes the Samsung Illusion, HTC Droid Incredible 2, and most BlackBerry models.

Verizon Wireless has long offered prepaid plans, but it remains a smaller part of the company's business. In addition, analysts say Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have been losing sales of prepaid smartphones to the likes of Sprint's Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, as well as MetroPCS.

According to a report from NPD in November, third-quarter prepaid smartphone sales for the smaller carriers rose 23 percent over the prior quarter. But sales among the tier-one carriers dropped by 12 percent over the same period. That's because the smaller players won over customers by offering lower prices and a larger selection of prepaid phones, NPD said.

At that time, NPD noted that AT&T and Verizon have both introduced less-expensive prepaid offerings, and Verizon has expanded its prepaid smartphone lineup. But the firm questioned whether the steps have been "too little, too late."

Verizon today noted that a new smartphone isn't necessary to take advantage of the prepaid plans. Rather, "no-longer used smartphone sitting in a drawer at home can be activated on a prepaid plan with no annual contract," the company said.

Updated at 9:25 a.m. PT with details about previous plan pricing.