Pre-paid, contract-free iPhones hit Walmart today

iPhone 4S (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

iPhone 4S (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Customers looking to own an iPhone 5 without the annual contract may be in luck.

Straight Talk wireless has announced it will offer a contract-free iPhone 5 or 4S, with unlimited talk and text, at 2,000 Walmart stores and on Walmart.com for as low as $45 a month starting today.

“We believe customers shouldn’t have to choose between saving money and having the latest technology,” said Seong Ohm, senior vice president of Entertainment for Walmart U.S., in an official statement. “Now customers can have the coveted iPhone with unlimited talk, text and data without a contract.”

The iPhone 5 in 16GB will available for $659 while the iPhone 4 for the 8 GB model will cost$449, according to Straight Talk. Aside from $45 a month plan, the mobile virtual network is also offering a $60 plan that includes unlimited international calling. To put less sticker shock for the upfront costs of the iPhone, Walmart is allowing customers to use its store credit card to pay for iPhone devices on an installment plan, for as low as  $25 a month.

Their statement claims that the no-contract plan could save customers as much as $950 a year in comparison to contract plans with similar unlimited text a and talk contracts..

When comparing this plan to other popular mobile service provider such as AT&T, the savings seem to be even greater than $950. The cost of an iPhone 5 along 2 year contract with unlimited voice and text, and 5GB of data will cost around $3550 with AT&T. A 2 year contract with Straight Talk’s plan , along with the upfront cost of the iPhone 5, will cost customers only $1729 according to Forbes.

“The new iPhone deal from Walmart is quite competitive, but not a game changer–yet,” says John Quain, technology expert from J-Q.com. “While the monthly charges are extremely low—a similar plan from the major carriers can cost nearly three times the price–customers have to buy the phone up front, rather than have its price built into a two-year contract. That up-front sticker shock can scare off some shoppers, but it’s a much better deal for consumers.”

The new iPhone 5, which was launched in September,  has been available at Walmart stores since last year, but the devices only came with a two-year contract. Walmart may have taken the hint once other major mobile retail carriers like Best Buy and Radio Shack began offering unlocked iPhone 5 devices with prepaid plans in November.

The TracFone Wireless CEO says that their plan, coupled with Walmart’s special financing plans will make their deal “the most affordable premium smartphone offer in America.”

“I expect that more carriers will offer even more of these plans in the future: pay for the phone up front, and then pay $45 to $60 a month for unlimited service without a contract.” Quain adds. “One caveat: if you travel a lot and use data services, some additional roaming fees can apply to these contract-free deals.”

Follow Brittany Tom on Twitter @brittanyrtom.