updated 08:30 pm EST, Tue January 8, 2013
Plans begin at $45 per month with $25 per month financing
Walmart will add the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4 to no-contract Straight Talk unlimited plans, with no carrier subsidy, starting on January 11, the company says. More than 2,000 Walmart stores and the online corporate site will sell the iPhone 5 for $649 (16GB model only) and the iPhone 4 for $449 (8GB model only). Qualified buyers will be able to get a Walmart Credit Card that allows for the phone cost to be billed in $25 monthly increments.
The plans are contract-free with two basic options: $45 per month for unlimited US talk, text and data use, or $60 for the same plan with unlimited international calling. The $25-per-month financing option on the cost of the phone is a no-interest option, but does require qualifying for a Walmart Credit Card (which has no annual fee but does charge interest on carried debt). A buyer can also opt to pay the cost of the phone outright.
The company says the Straight Talk plans and phone purchase will save consumers up to $950 per year compared with the cost of a conventional postpaid "unlimited" contract with traditional carriers such as AT&T or Verizon, though typical savings would generally be lower for most consumers. Walmart hasn't made clear if the iPhones are locked to Straight Talk Wireless or are sold unlocked (or can be unlocked once the phone has been paid off). Users can also bring their own existing unlocked iPhones to the Straight Talk service if desired.
Apple itself sells the iPhone 5 16GB model for the same price unlocked and contract-free, allowing users to choose from any GSM-compliant carrier in the US or elsewhere in the world. The unlocked, contract-free iPhone 4 8GB model is also GSM-only, and sells direct from Apple for $450, $1 more than Walmart's price.