Cheaper No-Contract iPhones, More Sensible Data Plans Could Be Coming Your Way

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If the rumors are true, one day soon you’ll be able to buy an iPhone for under $400 without being locked into a contract. It also looks like Americans will have the option to share data plans with multiple devices, rather than having to pay for a separate monthly plan for each gadget.

First, the news on the iPhone, which at this point is straight-up rumors, not news. Techland and others have jumped on the AppleInsider post in which a Deutsche Bank analyst is quoted speculated that this fall Apple will introduce a “mid-range iPhone” in the neighborhood of $300 to $500 that won’t require the hated locked-in two-year contract.

The analyst, Chris Whitmore, doesn’t claim to have been tipped off by any insider from Apple. Instead, he just says that an unlocked iPhone for around $349 would seem to make sense to Apple and investors alike, noting that two-thirds of the world’s mobile phone users have prepaid phones, not the two-year contract type pushed on iPhone owners. The majority of mobile phones in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe are prepaid, so you can see why Apple would be interested in the prepaid wireless phone model.

But while it may seem perfectly logical for Apple to introduce a prepaid, less expensive iPhone, it doesn’t necessarily mean this will happen in the coming months, or ever.

(MORE: The Smaller, Cheaper iPhone for the Masses)

Next, the news on new data plans that will help the owners of multiple devices to trim monthly bills. This more reasonable data plan structure is more than a rumor, it’s a reality—albeit not yet in the United States. All Things D reports that France Telecom has become the first major to allow customers to share a data plan’s monthly allotment of megabytes or gigabytes with both an iPhone and an iPad. The post explains:

Users pay an extra couple of dollars a month for each additional device that shares data — similar to the way families and businesses here have long been able to share minutes between multiple phones.

Various shared data plans, which are cheaper than having to pay for an entirely differently data plan for each separate device, are now available in Austria, France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. No such plans are offered in the U.S., though both AT&T and Verizon give the impression to All Things D that wireless customers will have such options in the near future.

(MORE: Now Here’s What a Smartphone Really Costs You: $2,500)