Sprint bids adieu to $50 iPhone plan in the name of clarity

The wireless carrier will instead promote an "All-In" plan that includes $60 for the plan and $20 for the smartphone.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
3 min read

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure had promised an increase in the fees for its unlimited data plan. Troy Thomas/Sprint

Sprint wants to clear things up when it comes to how much you pay for your smartphone service. For those hoping to sign up for its iPhone plan, that means a $10-a-month hike.

The nation's third-largest wireless carrier on Tuesday (Eastern Time) introduced its "All-In" campaign, an effort to educate customers on what they'll actually end up paying each month. The "All-In" price for unlimited talk, text message and data is $80 a month, which includes $60 for the service and a $20 leasing fee for a base-model smartphone such as a 16-gigabyte iPhone 6.

Sprint positions the campaign as a simpler way to do business, noting that competitors often tout the price of the service, but exclude the device cost. But the move also means the elimination of Sprint's $50 plan specifically designated for iPhones (customers still had to pay the $20 device fee). Existing customers on the plan will be grandfathered in, but new customers looking to sign up will be out of luck.

The All-In pricing bundle marks a dramatic change from just a few years ago in how the industry touts its pricing. The carriers had previously promoted the low, subsidized cost of a smartphone -- typically $199 with a two-year contract -- and bundled in the service plan when you signed up. Now, carriers like Verizon and AT&T tout their family plans and data packages, but decline to mention the device cost, which can tack on another $20 to $30 a month to the bill. Sprint believes its All-In offer gives customers the best sense of what they'll pay each month.

Sprint previously touted its $50 iPhone plan prominently on its site. Screenshot by Roger Cheng/CNET

"The industry has historically advertised a price point that wasn't entirely transparent in order to get people in the stores," Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Crull said in an interview on Monday.

As for the iPhone plan, Crull said it was a promotional program that would be phased out with the $80 All-In plan. He noted that the offer for unlimited data remains the best in the industry. A comparable unlimited data plan at T-Mobile costs $80 a month, in addition to the cost of the device. Verizon Wireless and AT&T don't offer an unlimited data plan.

The move could be the first of the price hikes on unlimited data that CEO Marcelo Claure hinted at earlier this month. He said he expected to raise the price of unlimited data in the second half, and would consider eliminating it if it became too expensive to offer.

Sprint hopes customers respond to its clearer pricing, and hired soccer superstar David Beckham to help pitch the new program. The genesis of All-In came from a discussion between Claure and Beckham about the confusion of wireless pricing, and they agreed to work together on a campaign.

Beckham can be seen in a video spot visiting each of the carrier stores and getting increasingly frustrated with the complicated plans before landing at a Sprint store. The ads will premiere during the US team's match of the FIFA Women's World Cup on Tuesday night.

"He'll be the face of the campaign," Crull said.