But because it is launching after May 1st, upgrading to the Elite will bump users on grandfathered $25 and $40 plans up to $35 or $45, respectively. Or will it? There's an interesting message thread on Virgin Mobile's Facebook page where a user asked "Can you get the Optimus Elite and stay granddfathered?" and the official Virgin Mobile account replied "As long as you purchase the phone before the 27th you're in the clear! :) ^Andrea E"
The same Virgin Mobile representative repeated essentially the same message three times. So it looks like you might be able to upgrade to the Elite and keep your grandfathered plan. In addition, a Howard Forums user is reporting that he emailed Virgin Mobile support and got a reply stating "If you make the phone swap before May 27th you will be able to keep your grandfathered plan even if you swap to a smart phone like the Optimus Elite."
Although the Elite isn't supposed to be available until May 15th, its starting to show up in some Walmarts. A user who managed to buy one reported on Howard Forums that he was able to activate the phone and during activation he asked about grandfathering and was told that as long as the activation was completed before the 27th he would keep his grandfathered plan.
My take is that you if you activate before an Elite before the 15th, you might be grandfathered, or you might not. The customer support reps who are saying the phone is grandfathered are near the bottom of the corporate food chain. They could be misinformed or misinterpreting some internal communication document. Virgin's official public communication says:
Starting May 27, 2012, if you are using the $25, $40, or $60 Beyond Talk plan and you upgrade to a Beyond Talk Smartphone launched after May 1, 2012*, you will need to switch to the $35, $45, or $55 Beyond Talk plan. When you switch plans, you will need to pay for your new plan and you will lose any minutes, messages, and money in your balance. This will also change your monthly payment date. So if you are considering upgrading to a new smartphone, we recommend that you wait until right before your next monthly payment date to activate.Which is vague enough to be interpreted either way. If you are the gambling type and want to try upgrading the an Elite before the 27th, go for it. However it is a gamble and you may end up losing your grandfathered status.
*The following smartphones launched before May 1, 2012 and are therefore not subject to the new device upgrade rules at this time: VentureTM, LG ® OptimusTM Slider, HTC ® Wildfire STM, Motorola TriumphTM, LG ® Optimus VTM, Blackberry ® CurveTM 8530.
It might also be tricky finding an Elite. The Virgin Mobile website was taking pre-orders but now says "We've reached our limit for pre-orders on this device. Check back on: 05/15/2012" The Elite hasn't shown up on the Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy or Radio Shack sites either so your best bet might be a nearby Walmart store.
Update 15-May-2012: Jayne Wallace who is in media relations for Virgin Mobile, has left a comment below confirming that customers activating the Optimus Elite before May 27 on a grandfathered plan can remain on that plan. The Virgin Mobile website is accepting orders now.