MetroPCS, Cricket Offer Financing for High-End Phones

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - As smartphones get larger and more sophisticated, handset prices are increasing accordingly. Passing that price along to consumers is somewhat easy for large carriers. But, smaller ones, the "no contract" providers with low monthly service charges who make you pay for your new phone upfront - their high-end sales are hurting.

So, two of those companies, MetroPCS ( PCS) and Cricket, a division of Leap Wireless ( LEAP), are offering slightly different short-term financing plans for customers who want to own bigger/better/higher-priced models. For instance, the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is currently selling at the sale price of $399 on MetroPCS' Web site.

The idea is similar to larger carrier T-Mobile's "Value" plans - the big difference being T-Mobile requires you also sign a two-year service agreement. Listen carefully to its new TV ads, where T-Mobile boasts that new phones "start" at low advertised prices.

MetroPCS will let you have up to 60 days to pay off the price of any of its new 4G LTE phones. The short-term loan doesn't come cheap. The company handling the financing, Billfloat, will lend you the money at APR rates as high as 36%, along with a service charge between $9 and $18.

Cricket offers financial help with phones that retail for more than $200. The carrier will let you finance up to 90% of the charges for as long as nine months, but will waive interest charges if you pay everything within the first 90 days.

Cricket has also launched its own 4G LTE network in a handful of cities, including Philadelphia, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

--Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to: tips@thestreet.com.
Gary Krakow is TheStreet's senior technology correspondent.

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