back to article Sprint introduces $10 smartphone premium

American operator Sprint is to start charging customers $10 a month extra if they're using a smartphone, as it attempts to even the playing field for data users. Sprint reckons smartphones use, on average, ten times the data of more-intellectuality-challenged handsets, so from the end of January all new activations will be …


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  1. PDS
    Jobs Horns

    Its only a matter of time

    Till Rogers sees this and think its a good idea to stiff those of us in Canada in the same way.... They just love their raft of little extra fees......

    Evil Steve... well cos they just are...

    1. Darryl

      One difference

      When Rogers (and Telus and Bell) decide to make us bend over some more, it'll be a $20 charge.

    2. Nathan 6

      That's Just Wrong Sprint

      Just switched to Sprint in the neck of time it looks like. In any case wouldn't charging by usage be a more fair way to handle this. For example I have a BB, and really only use for email. text messages, and of course phone calls, why should I pay 10 bucks more because they finally realized unlimited data plans are just not sustainable as smart phones become more computer like?

    3. eric_h

      they already do

      With selected 'dumb' phones you can get an unlimited mobile browsing plan for ~$20 or even less depending on the package, which includes mobile browsing, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

      If you have a 'smart' phone such as a Blackberry or iPhone, expect to pay $30 or $40 with some limits imposed!

    4. Mectron

      The free at rogers will more like 25$

      As canada IS the most expensive place on the planet to own a celphone

  2. An ominous cow herd

    What, no iPhones on the list?

    Are they saying iPhones aren't smart? Or would Apple dislike the extra charge and punish Sprint for its insolence?

    1. Veni, Vidi, Velcro
      Paris Hilton

      Re:What, no iPhones on the list?

      iPhones are not available on Sprint at the moment in the US. Only AT&T and, in February, Verizon.

    2. Blain Hamon

      No sense listing what can't be used

      Sprint uses CDMA like Verizon, not GSM like, well, the rest of the world. So even after jail-breaking, the current iPhones won't work with Sprint. The CDMA iPhones come out Feb 10th, so it's 100% moot until then, and even after then, the jail-breaking to switch carriers may be significantly different with the new chipset.

      TL;DR version: No iPhones on Sprint because it's not AT&T. No jailbroken iPhones on Sprint because it's not GSM. No new iPhones on Sprint because it's not Verizon.

      So why even mention them in a Sprint article?

    3. GBE

      Sprint doesn't offer iPhone

      The iPhone isn't listed because Sprint doesn't offer the iPhone. In the US, the iPhone is currently limited to AT&T (though it will be offered by Verizon later this month).

    4. Charles 9 Silver badge

      You forget.

      No iPhones on Sprint (not a GSM network). Only Verizon carries iPhones over CDMA.

    5. Anonymous Coward


      Sprint do iPhone? Or was that just an embarrassing dig?

    6. Hugh McIntyre

      Re: What, no iPhones on the list?

      Presumably just that iPhones are not available on Sprint.

    7. MeRp

      no iphones on sprint

      Currently the only way (and it is indeed quite new) to get an iphone on Sprint would be to buy one from verizon (with the 2 year contract) then jailbreak it (if the cdma iphones can even be jailbroken yet), unlock it from verizon, then get sprint to activate it.

      I guess if you are willing to go that far, Sprint will probably categorize you along with the people who make the minor change to their user agent to look like dumb phones.

  3. DrXym Silver badge

    There is a simple solution to this

    Charge by the GB usage, e.g. < 1Gb, $2, up to 5Gb at $4 per Gb, everything in excess $10 per month. Simple. Lite users don't get penalised, everyone else pays for what they use with heavy users getting punished.

    All these plans, tarriffs etc. just seem like an elaborate con job. A few years back 3G was meant to be the future, everyone would discard their fixed line broadband and walk away into a wireless sunset. The recent headlines suggest mobile operators have been caught out by their own success and somehow it means customers must pay more and more for less and less.

    1. Neil 8

      ISPs don't want to sell bits & bytes.

      Weirdly, in the UK you can often get a fairer deal like this with PAYG and avoid getting capped or ripped off with excessive per MB fees.

      For example on Three you can pay £10, £15 or £20 for 1, 3 or 5GB (I think). If you use it all before the end of a month, your access stops & you can chose to pay again or not.

      I'd happily pay for an un-capped home connection by the GB like this too if I had the option (though the amounts would have to be higher!)

      But here's the thing: ISPs and Mobile companies REALLY hate the idea of selling you bits & bytes. They want to sell you internet access *products*. Packages. Deals. 1000 minutes. *Unlimited* data. This way, nobody is quite sure what they're buying or using. Most customers are paying for more than they use, and anyone using more than average is 'not playing fair' and gets beaten up.

  4. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    Well, I won't be switching to Sprint then...

    ...even though I am unlikely to be affected by this change. I use a mobile for two reasons and two reasons only: as an actual telephone and as an SMS device. Never really saw the need for much else. My middle-aged eyes just have no desire to view any program on a 4-ish inch screen. I already have a GPS device and I seldom find the need for internet-on-the-go --- certainly not for what any carrier charges for that.

    This fee business has gotten completely out of hand here in the US. I have no problem paying for what I use - that's only fair. However, there are now so many BS fees/charges/taxes that cause my monthly bill to be a full 25% higher than it already should be. That's just legalized robbery. I can't tell them to fuck off because every OTHER available carrier is doing the same thing. And they're doing it because the moron politicians allow it. [/rant]

  5. Billl

    re: What, no iPhones on the list?

    Sprint does not sell IpHONES. AT&T and soon to be Verizon, are the preferred IpHONE


  6. Wile E. Veteran
    Thumb Down


    @an ominous cow herd iiPhone is not available on the Sprint network hence not in the list.

  7. Scoured Frisbee

    CDMA users can't switch phones...

    Sprint is a CDMA provider that provides locked handsets, so it always knows the make and model of your smartphone; no SIM switching available, and of course to change an ESN would violate something-or-other.

    I already pay the $10 fee on my wife's Evo, and knew about it going in; you just price-shop knowing that Sprint's data rate is $X+10, they made it painfully obvious on the site. The "fees" that bug me are the ones that aren't well-disclosed.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do we need regulation to sort out this mess?

    I am sick of the way telephone companies confuse me with their complex menus of alternative tariffs and options. Should the government force them to just charge by the gigabyte so that everyone can easily choose the cheapest and market forces can work properly?

  9. DryBones

    Sprint Seeking the Plot

    So let me get this straight. Sprint hasn't been paying attention to the amount of data other networks have been dealing with, or have just been stifling an operating deficit. And instead of going to a usage-based pricing scheme, they decided to charge a "non-pants OS" tax.

    Bloody pillocks.

  10. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Prices and automatic billing

    @Ugotta B. Kiddingme, I wouldn't switch to Sprint either. HOWEVER, if you use your phone for a phone and SMS, you have no reason to get a smartphone and therefore you would not be affected by thi.


    This $10 fee doesn't seem to smart to me. Verizon (CDMA) and AT&T (GSM) (Depsite AT&T's horrible network problems) are the two "high end" cell cos in the US, they charge quite a bit but have the largest networks, and tend to roll out the newest technology fastest*. Sprint (CDMA) and T-Mobile (GSM) are the next largest national carriers, but tend to be the budget carriers. Sprint's adding $10 for smartphones is getting them awfully close to the same cost Verizon or AT&T would cost.

    *AT&T's falling behind though. Their 3G expansion has been so slow of late, Sprint and T-Mobile are catching up (Verizon has nearly nationwide 3G). And in terms of 4G, Verizon and MetroPCS are rolling LTE, Sprint and CLEAR have Wimax (which thye are mulling over switching to LTE). AT&T and T-Mobile are just falsely claiming their HSDPA networks are 4G now. Which does beg the question, what will AT&T call their LTE they are planning to roll at some point?


    "Users may hide their smartphones, changing the HTTP User Agent to make the smartest of phones look dumb, but the network knows the handset's serial number, which can be traced to a make and model if Sprint can be bothered. Odds are that it won't bother, as long as the majority coughs up the new fee."

    The US carriers all keep pretty tight phone control. The CDMA carriers (Verizon, Sprint being the big 2, as well as US Cellular, MetroPCS, and Cricket) all have the ranges of ESNs (for older phones) and MEIDs (newer phones) that correspond to various models they sold. Besides checking against a lost & stolen list, Verizon and USCC for sure enforce having the right plan on the right phone, as well as all of them playing the "That's a *Sprint* Blackberry, you can't register it on Verizon" types of games. T-Mobile and AT&T (biggest GSM carriers) are starting to do IMEI checks too on certain models, so if you switch your SIM over you'll eventually get a text saying you must put the right data plan on.

    In fact, on howardforums one person ALREADY commented when they recently switched phones they saw "Premium Data ($0)" automatically added onto their account -- so Sprint's billing system is already fully equipped to automatically add the $10 plan, they're just putting a $0 placeholder on for now since it's not the 30th yet.

    However, there's no reason to hide with an existing phone -- in keeping with traditional behavior of the US cell cos, they will not force this new plan on anyone, if they keep their current phone their current rates are grandfathered in. This can work against people, years ago when prices were dropping the cell co would happily let you keep a grandfathered plan that cost more than current ones, but it's working out great in recent years when they're jacking prices back up.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wonder what a decent OS costs?

    so my Android phone keeps randomly rebooting (and still waiting for an official 2.2 upgrade), the Windows Phone I tried is about three versions away from being on par, and I just can't along with the iPhone (and not on T-Mo anyway)

    the carriers here in the US have way too much power - for instance Skype can only make calls over WiFi not 3G and all the carriers lock the phones down and fill them with crapware to "add value" ... this isn't going to change any time soon

  12. Kevin Davidson

    Of course no iPhones.

    There are no iPhones on Sprint. The CDMA iPhone is not available yet. And as there's no SIM in a CDMA phone I don't think it's likely any Verizon ones will appear on Sprint's network without some jiggery pokery.

  13. Efros

    Nickel and dimed to death

    Phones, domestic and cell in the US get hammered, by little additions, I pay a tax on mine for the state library(???) which is one of only several which when added up account for about 15% of my monthly bill. When you start looking at the cellphone charges themselves they are approaching exorbitant, rural users get particularly shafted as there is often no choice of carrier. 5Gb per month is charged at $30, 700 minutes per month will cost you $50, unlimited messaging another $10, unlimited minutes with unlimited messages $90 plus $30 for 5Gb month.

  14. Anonymous Coward


    I can only comment from a UK perspective, but US$10 is much more than anyone here would pay for a basic (read around 500MB) data "add on" (if you'd pay anything at all). Comparing US carrier websites with my own UK tariff (600 mins, unlimited texts and 500MB data) which has a total cost of £10/month including VAT (tax) (total US$16), there's only one conclusion... you guys really get scr**ed on phone charges!

  15. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    But the rest are worse

    The first company to offer a simple plan gets my vote. Voice, text and data ... is all 1's and 0's so how about a simple "access" plan based on the Mb transferred regardless of what information the data contains.

    1. bhtooefr

      There's always Revol or Cricket...

      Problem with them is, extremely limited data coverage areas (remember about 5-10 years ago, when you couldn't use data when roaming, at least on CDMA? They're that way, combined with not having much of their own coverage.) as well as limited VOICE coverage areas.

      However, they do offer cheap voice and text, and don't ask many questions when you sign up, as they're no-contract providers. (This makes them rather popular with drug dealers.)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I buy a cheep 'feature phone' then stick the SIM into my unlocked handset ;)

  17. Anonymous Coward

    More to this than meets the eye?

    At a generic network kind of level, IP style, charging by the GB is fine by me (and obviously by Dr Xym and others). And I'm not normally one to defend the telcos or mobile operators.

    But 3G/4G networks have a layer underneath the IP layer, the underlying RF signalling and wotnot infrastructure whose posh name I forget. Anyway there are now lots of smartphones running apps that have grown up from a genuine "always on" environment where a few IP packets every few seconds was neither here nor there. The network operators would have us believe that the effect of these few packets every few seconds on their RF/signalling infrastructure is quite disproportionate. As it's smartphones with dumb apps causing this (and typically not laptops with dongles) the smartphone surcharge is arguably not that unfair.

    Thoughts from anybody really in the know?

  18. Stephen W Harris
    Thumb Down

    That'll hurt in comparison shopping

    I've been a Sprint customer for almost 4 years. Was looking at getting a new phone, but maybe now Verizon will work out cheaper! (*sigh* good networks and CDMA, or crap networks and GSM. Lovely choice...)

  19. Gareth

    Bye bye Sprint

    Sprint is already having issues competing with the big two (AT&T/Verizon) and has recently tried to rebrand themselves with a focus on always-on data ("The Now Network"). Surely charging a big surcharge for data completely undermines that?

    Also, for a country as technologically advanced as it is, cellphone service and adoption here is years behind Europe/UK. Seems to be a combination of monopolistic practices (CDMA is a crappy, proprietary technology that the rest of the world ignores), calls that were already cheap so no incentive for the masses to start buying mobiles and texting, and the logistics of building the infrastructure over a much larger area. Whatever caused it, the US is a bit backwards in cell tech.

    1. Lance 3


      The 3G technology that most of the world uses is W-CDMA, notice the CDMA portion in it?

  20. Keith Smith 1

    Not Crappy

    "CDMA is a crappy, proprietary technology that the rest of the world ignores"

    No it's not. CDMA *was* a drastically superior tech to GSM, at it's original inception. It allowed 10 times as many voice calls in the same spectrum as GSM. It was also more expensive to implement, and required more licensing (Qualcom tech I think).

    Both GSM and CDMA have changed rather drastically over the last 5 years, and GSM has been re-engineered to come much closer to CDMA in terms of efficiency. Still not there AFAIK. Frankly most of the European carries blew it by adopting GSM. Many of the Blackberry handsets are dual CDMA/GSM units for the world travelers.

    The SIM card has never really lived up to it's promise either. A friend has a very large bucket of SIM cards in his phone store. The problem is all phones are not created equal, and the API's are changing constantly to the phones. Further *all* the carriers are forced to subsidise handsets, which pretty much trashes the SIM card model. Generally moving a SIM card from one phone to another will get you voice, and text if you are lucky. Anything else is very hit an miss even within manufacturers.

    With the advent of "The Cloud" (pffft) you can store all your phone data offline nowadays anyway. Further, in response to the earlier rant. the government doesn't need to be involved at all in deciding what fee's a carrier charges. If they were you could watch your bill double pretty quickly.

    Vote with your wallet and/or your feet. A Cell phone is not a "right". If you don't like it get rid of the thing.

  21. Tom 13

    I bought the Sprint Evo Android a couple months ago

    precisely because they were considerably cheaper than Verizon, so this change does not sit well with me. Moreover, while they talked a good game about 4G coverage, I've never seen anything but the 3G icon lit. And yes, I bought it not for the phone, but for the data link so I could sit on the train and play with my laptop. The GPS nav app has come in handy a couple of times. And there are some other apps related to tracking the damn train that I use. But I don't really use it all that much for a phone. I have a perfectly good land line at home with unlimited calling on it. I'd be willing to pay a fair price for just a data plan, but nobody wants to sell me one.

    1. Evil Twin

      HTC Evo

      If you have an EVO, you're already paying the $10 4G premium. I'm pretty sure the new fee is just extending that premium to the 3G phones.

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