Cricket has set an ambitious path for itself in recent months, first by inking a roaming deal with national carrier Sprint to expand its service footprint, and now by introducing its first Android handset.
The Zio, which is made by Kyocera, would be a low-end Android handset on any other carrier, but it is one of the only smartphones available from the pre-paid, no-contract carrier (Cricket also offers the BlackBerry Curve 8530).
The Zio has a 3.5-inch touch display, EVDO Rev. A 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, and a 3.2 megapixel camera. It has the typical Android 1.6 set of tools, including Google Maps, and pre-loaded Facebook and Twitter software.
The Zio is an important device for Kyocera, which has struggled to land distribution deals with major U.S. carriers. It offers a few handsets through Sprint and other pre-paid carriers, but the Zio is a landmark in that it is the company's first smartphone since the Palm OS-based 7135 from years ago.
"This is an important milestone for Kyocera, as we launch the highly anticipated Zio and bring the power of Android to Cricket consumers," said Eric Anderson, vice president of sales at Kyocera Communications Inc in a prepared statement. "Zio is the first in a series of Android devices Kyocera will bring to market and we’re excited to partner with Cricket to set the standard by offering a Smartphone device that encourages individuality for the customer who desires unlimited expression."
Perhaps what's more interesting than the device itself is the special Android rate plan that Cricket has cooked up to go with the device. For the low monthly price of just $55, Zio customers will get unlimited talk, text, picture mail, web browsing, email, and international texting. Oh, and that $55 includes all taxes and surcharges. That means the bill will always be $55.
That price is significantly less than what competitors charge for the same bundle of services. The trade off, of course, is Cricket's significantly smaller coverage footprint.
Still, all things considered, $250 isn't a bad price for a phone you'll own outright, with a no-contract cost of $55 per month. That's about as budget-friendly as a smartphone can get.