Ting, the Tucows-owend Sprint mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that launched last year offering customers no contract wireless service with usage-based billing, has just started quietly supporting iPhones. Up until now, the carrier has expressed difficulties with getting access to sell the iPhone directly, which requires minimum purchase requirements from Apple and other stipulations, and it has not offered customers the ability to activate unlocked iPhones with one of its no-contract wireless plans.
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We’ve discovered Ting is now officially supporting the iPhone 4 and 4S through a deal with Sprint and Apple. The carrier has help documents buried on its website that walk users through how to activate the devices.
Ting hasn’t been able to pick up much mainstream steam since launching last year, but it’s competing with new no-contract wireless services like the Verizon-backed Zact and T-Mobile’s new Uncarrier strategy that are viewed as a more transparent way of offering wireless service to consumers. Ting offers customers the option of either purchasing one of several new Android devices it sells directly at full price or bringing their own unlocked Sprint device. Now that Ting has officially launched its iPhone beta, the iPhone is now an officially supported device.
The beta is still somewhat hidden and not being advertised on Ting’s website or anywhere else. Sources close to the company tell us that’s due to a deal with Sprint and Apple that puts Ting in iPhone beta mode until it can prove it’s capable of supporting iPhone customers, representing the brand, and properly screening for lost and stolen devices. The sources also say Ting is “scared to make Sprint nervous,” and that “Sprint is terrified to make Apple nervous,” since Ting doesn’t officially have a deal to offer the iPhone but Sprint does.
Ting’s plans are much different than T-Mobile’s, however, as the carrier bills customers based on usage and adjusts bills depending on how much data, call minutes, and text messages they use. The various tiers for each range from $3 to $60. It also has plans that allow users to pool data usage.
Sources say Ting expects to support the iPhone 5 “soon”, but that is being held up by Sprint, which doesn’t typically offer popular devices to its smaller carrier partners until they are at least a generation or two behind.