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Charge adds voice and text options to its data-only plans

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Charge

Charge is today announcing a new set of voice and text plans to go along with the data-only smartphone plans it launched in March. The new options offer unlimited text for $10 per month or unlimited voice and text for $20 per month, in addition to the prepaid data service.

In addition to the new plans, Charge has lowered the price of its data service to $13 per gigabyte. Prior to this, data was billed at $15 per gigabyte, unless a customer purchased 3GB or more, when the price was discounted to $13 per gigabyte. Not all of the pricing changes are good news, however: new customers signing up for data-only plans are now subject to a $3 monthly fee. (Existing customers will still be able to purchase data without a monthly charge and will get the new lower data rate.)

Charge says it is introducing the new text and voice options — which it is labeling as "beta" for now — in response to requests from customers that were not yet ready to ditch their traditional phone numbers. It is offering the option to port numbers from other wireless carriers, as well. The service currently runs on Sprint's network.

Flexibility is Charge's main advantage

The company is highlighting the flexibility of its plans compared to traditional wireless carriers — the voice and text services can be turned on and off as needed, and those that are just interested in data service can still go that route. Data service purchased from Charge does not expire, unlike traditional plans that reset at the beginning of each month. Charge works with any phone compatible with Sprint's network, including most newer iPhones and iPads and Google's line of Nexus devices.

The pricing of the new plans is reminiscent of Google's Project Fi service, which offers unlimited text and voice for $20 per month, with data service an additional $10 per gigabyte. Charge's data is more expensive per gigabyte than Google's, but it can be used with a greater variety of devices than just Google's Nexus phones.

Charge's goal when it launched was to have everyone on a data-only service, but the realities of the market have proven that most people just aren't ready for that yet. Today's announcements are a bit of a concession for Charge — it still offers a unique data service, but its text and voice options aren't hugely different from other services.