I've been planning to write this article for a looooong time, but now is first time I've been able to get enough totally homework-free time to do it. But anyway, here's my perspective on what Tracfone is doing and where it's going.
The recent introduction of such phones as the Motorola c261, Motorola v176 and LG 3280 has markedly changed Tracfone's focus, at least in my opinion.By introducing these three phones, they've come back into direct competition with more feature-rich carriers, and their pricing structure is also changing (going lower, it looks like) to actually offer a viable alternative, albeit with tons more coverage, to single-network prepaids.
Why are the Motorola c261, v176 and LG 3280 so great? Let's start with the first phone. Offered now for $50 at a Wal-Mart near you (if you're in an area that has CDMA phones as opposed to GSM), it's pretty darn innovative. You can also get it online now.
For starters, it's the first color CDMA flip phone on Tracfone. Second, it's the first non-Nokia, non-Motorola phone Tracfone has had in a loooooooong time. Third, there is a hundredths place on the airtime balance display...which means Tracfone can now offer more fine-grained services (like pay-per-KB web access).
Fourth, and this isn't known by many people since it's buried in one of the higher-order (out of 144!) code info pages on the phone, MMS and web browsing (which look to be respectively 1 unit per message both ways and 0,5 units per minute) already have billing structures set in place. Waiting only for a firmware upgrade or such on the phone to reveal them in their full glory. That's right...I said firmware upgrade; the phone has OTA (Over The Air) firmware upgrade capability.
Furthermore, the phone has a function, though not enabled yet, for buying airtime directly from the phone (also in code pages are the various values for airtime...which are normal). And there's the new airtime adding function, that has a seperate step for entering promotional codes...yay ease of use!
Personally, the LG 3280 beats the pants off the GSM equivalent (Motorola v170). Everybody go CDMA! :) I like the idea of having a Verizon contract phone without the contract, which this phone basically is...a slightly modified version of the LG vx3300 (like the Nokia 2126 vs. the Nokia 2128i). Viva la SingleRate! Heck, texts are now 0.3 units both ways...er 0.30 units...on this phone, which is just as good as the new SingleRate phones. And Tracfones don't charge you for incoming texts until you open them up...so say bye to evil incoming spam message charges...the Erase function is your friend!
OK. Now to the Motorolas that wre introduced on the high end...
The Motorola c261 is, in a nutshell, amazing for Tracfone. First off, it's a really thin phone...well, not like the UTStarComm Slice, but then again this phone has a heckuva lot more coverage than just Sprint's network. And this Moto has a camera. And Cingular (or T-Mobile) postpaid coverage! Yes, I may be a bit over-excited, but it shows a change of focus when Tracfone gets on the bandwagon of such features.
What features? Well, web and picture messaging of course! Picture messages, taken by the phone's 640x480 camera (which is surprisingly OK, from the pix I've seen), are one unit to send or receive...so if a picture is truly worth a thousand words you're getting a good deal here...even though while you're sending\receiving picture messages Tracfone is zapping you at half a unit for every minute it takes. You see, the phone also has web access, charged by the minute, at half a unit per minute (so does the Motorola v176 actually...what I would call not quite feature-equivalent to the LG 3280 lol). Though right now it's limited. Ech...I get limited web for free on T-Mobile. But it will change\might have changed already to full access. Woohoo! Also, the Moto c261 has Bluetooth for the soul brave enough to unlock it...though nobody has been able to do that yet.
All in all, you get a lot for the $60 plus tax that the phone costs at Wal-Mart now ($80 is its online price...or $130 with a double-minute card, plus tax and shipping and tax on shipping). With this phone Tracfone has started a move toward new things as far as prepaid goes; it looks like everybody wanta a camera\web phone now and thus Tracfone must oblige to get a bit more income...and a bit more they'll surely get. When the Motorola c257\c261 showed up on PhoneScoop as being slated for Tracfone release, everyone thought that Tracfone would get the cameraless c257...everyone was pleasantly surprised and Tracfone got itself updated!
I for one am looking forward to how this innovation plan will unfold...it can mean naught but good to everyone, at least from here on out...nothing worse an happen really now that refer-a-friend is gone...and it'd be great to get the program back.
But anyway, I jsut love how Tracfone is marching forward...anybody with me?