Contract-free carriers Straight Talk Wireless and NET10 Wireless will begin offering Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C through Walmart (NYSE:WMT) stores on Friday, reports PR Newswire. Both carriers are brands of prepaid wireless provider and América Móvil (NYSE:AMX)(NASDAQ:AMOV) subsidiary TracFone Wireless. TracFone Wireless is America’s largest no-contract cellular service provider with 23 million users.
“With the holidays fast approaching, we are very excited to offer some of the hottest smartphone gifts of the year on one of the most affordable no-contract plans in the country,” said F.J. Pollak, CEO and president of TracFone Wireless, in a statement. “Our growing lineup of premium smartphones with the addition of iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C reflects our dedication to providing consumers with affordable plans on the top phones on the nation’s fastest and most reliable 4G LTE networks.”
As usual for contract-free devices, customers will be responsible for paying the full price of the iPhone 5S or iPhone 5C up front. However, Walmart will provide financing for Walmart credit card holders that qualify. All color options of the 16GB iPhone 5S will be available in store and online for $649, while the 16GB iPhone 5C will only be available online for $549.
Straight Talk and NET10 Wireless are just two of the latest carriers to start offering Apple’s iPhone without a contract. T-Mobile (NYSE:TMUS), the fourth-largest carrier in the U.S., began offering the iPhone via its contract-free Un-Carrier payment plans on April 12.
T-Mobile’s initial move toward unsubsidized smartphone sales earlier this year has also encouraged other carriers to experiment with no-contract service plans. Longtime iPhone carrier AT&T (NYSE:T) recently introduced a new “Mobile Share Value Plan” that separates the cost of a smartphone from AT&T’s service plan.
Some industry watchers have noted that the trend toward contract-free smartphone sales may negatively impact Apple’s iPhone sales. In the U.S. market, smartphone makers have traditionally partnered with a wireless carrier that subsidizes the actual cost of a device through a two-year service contract.
Since Apple’s iPhones are typically more expensive than other brands of smartphones, some industry watchers have speculated that this price difference could push more consumers to switch to a cheaper device. However, it should also be noted that Apple has a well-established sales paradigm of being able to charge premium prices for its products.
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