About a week ago, Sprint sent us an invitation for an upcoming event in New York. The email, which is entitled “Making the Impossible Possible,” claims “yet another industry first.” While we can not wait to hear about some new gizmos, we were sad to see them notably missing from CES 2011 where CEO Dan Hesse put on a big show as he announced the 4G OverDrive mobile hotspot only a year earlier. The upcoming event, which features David Blaine, takes place just a week before the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where manufacturers usually announce new smart phones. It is also a month before CTIA, where Sprint launched the revolutionary HTC EVO 4G in 2010.
In addition to the invite, things got interesting after the press release Sprint published yesterday. According to the document, the company plans to add a $10 per month “Premium Data” charge to all new customers that purchase a smart phone on or after January 30th. Fortunately, the changes will not affect existing customers unless they choose to upgrade a device or change plans. Customers with 4G enabled smart phones are already paying the $10 premium, but the fee is now applicable to all smart phones users even if their device only supports 3G networks.
Sprint clearly has some motives for raising the price. They are probably anticipating a major data usage increase after the launch of a new mystery device next month. There is a slim chance that it could be the iPhone 4 since Apple already built a CDMA model for Verizon Wireless. However, there is a better chance that the announcement will bring a dual-core packing Android smart phone to the market. Although Sprint focused on launching three low-end Android devices late last year, Sprint will definitely launch a powerful 4G device next month.
If Sprint does not announce any truly tempting hardware next month, the new price hike could truly hurt subscriber numbers. Until now, Sprint’s $69 per month plan was a major incentive for potential customers as it distinguished them from other carriers. Who else offers unlimited data, unlimited text messages, unlimited mobile-to-mobile calls to any carrier, and unlimited night/weekend calls? Even with the new rates, Sprint still offers more perks at $80 per month than competitors. An equivalent plan on Verizon Wireless costs about $90.
Anyways, we are hoping for some good news and we will try to liveblog the upcoming event on Skatter Tech LIVE, so stick around for more details.