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After years of neglecting the U.S. prepaid market, Apple has opened the floodgates over the last year or so, with subscribers flocking to Walmart and Straight Talk to get their hands on the iPhone 5.
GigaOM is reporting that TracFone-owned Straight Talk saw significant gains in both subscribers and revenue last quarter, adding 839,000 new customers following the debut of the iPhone 5 on its prepaid network.
While TracFone hasn't explicitly called out Apple's iPhone as the reason for its first-quarter 2013 gains, the numbers were clearly up from the end of 2012, which saw only 753,000 subscribers added. Ironically, Q1 saw TracFone actually beat out Verizon Wireless, whose subscriber base grew by only 720,000 new customers during the period.
Not so coincidentally, TracFone's Walmart-based Straight Talk division began selling the iPhone 5 in January. Prepaid subscribers can purchase the device outright for $649 (which Walmart spreads out over 26 monthly payments of $25 each), with unlimited talk, text and 3G data for only $45 per month -- which is a better deal than even T-Mobile's new "UNcarrier" plans.
TracFone owner América Móvil did confirm that its subscriber gains were indeed coming from its Straight Talk business as well as the Mexico-based Telcel América, but it's not hard to imagine an awful lot of those new subscribers are probably carrying around the iPhone 5.
Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter