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Carrier price changes on handsets: casting for new subs, upgraders?

Handset prices at the major carriers continue to gyrate, week-by-week, suggesting that carriers-like retailers changing their window displays-are perennially in search of the right combination of brand, features and price to lure in new subscribers or retain current subs with an upgrade.
Yet some carriers obviously take a breather now and then, and in the first week of January, only T-Mobile USA Inc. among top-tier carriers continued to raise and lower prices on a substantial number of handsets.
This speculation on retail strategy-the carriers do not publicly discuss their pricing strategies-is based on post-holiday price changes across carriers and handset brands. The pricing pattern during the all-important, holiday-season fourth quarter tends to be downward, a simple cast and presentation of bait, in fishing terminology.
Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 8, T-Mobile USA dropped prices on Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s t609, from $50 to “free,” and knocked down the carrier-branded Sidekick 3 from $250 to $200. The carrier raised prices on four models: the Samsung t619 rose to $40 from “free,” where it resided during the holidays, the Samsung t629 rose to $100 from $50, the Motorola Inc. V195s crept up to $30 from $20 and the carrier-branded Dash hit $200 from $150.
Alltel Corp. was the other pricing gymnast last week, as it changed pricing on five handsets, four of them downward-perhaps reflecting efforts aimed at its larger competitors. At Alltel, the price of a Motorola Razr v3m ticked upward to $45 from $35. Meanwhile, incremental price drops included the Kyocera Wireless Corp. Strobe K612B (now $30, down from $50 last week), the Pantech PN218 (now $20, down from $50), the Samsung U420 (now $50, down from $60) and the LG Electronics Co. Ltd. AX355 (now $40, down from $70).
Boost Mobile L.L.C. dropped the price of its top-end handset, the i885, to $300 from $350, and shaved a full $100 off the price of its i875 model, from $300 to $200. Other phones getting the price-cut treatment include the i835, i835w and i835g models (all now $100 down from $130), the i455 (now $60 down from $90) and the i415 (now $40 down from $50).
Cingular Wireless L.L.C. discounted the LG CG225 to “free” from $10 and the Nokia Corp. 6102i to $10 from $50. Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Wireless took a breather from cutting bait.
(All prices cited include a two-year contract, except for Boost.)


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