iPhone 5: AT&T vs. Verizon vs. Sprint – Which Carrier is Best?

The iPhone 5 with 4G LTE is available from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint starting at $199. With the introduction of 4G LTE, iPhone 5 buyers have a bigger reason than ever to compare carriers.

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are the biggest carriers in the U.S. and depending on your needs, one of these carrier might be a better place to buy the iPhone 5. Smaller carriers offer the iPhone 5, and users can buy the iPhone 5 from Cricket to use as a prepaid plan, but this guide focuses on the major carriers.

Apple sells the iPhone 5 for Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, but user need to pick which carrier they want to use before buying the iPhone 5 because it’s not easy to switch carriers.

Read: Best iPhone 5 Carrier – T-Mobile vs. Sprint vs. Verizon vs. AT&T

Apple provides a handy tool to compare iPhone 5 plans on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint where you can see every plan combination. The cheapest iPhone 5 plans, most expensive iPhone 5 plans and the average iPhone 5 plans for each carriers are listed below.

Why You Want a Verizon iPhone 5

Verizon iPhone 5

The Verizon iPhone 5 connects to 4G LTE in more cities.

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Verizon offers the largest 4G LTE coverage around with the highest network quality rating and the highest customer service ratings for a carrier from J.D. Power and Associates.

While AT&T and Sprint will talk about 4G LTE coverage, Verizon’s coverage map below shows just how large their existing 4G LTE coverage is.

Verizon's 4G LTE network.

Verizon’s 4G LTE network coverage map.

Current Verizon customers can upgrade and keep unlimited data by paying full price, or upgrade from a smartphone keeping the old tiered plan. New customers, and first time smartphone buyers will need to sign up for a Share Everything Data plan that shares the data package with all users and offers unlimited voice and texting.

The Verizon iPhone 5 is unlocked out of the box, and can run on T-Mobile or AT&T with a Nano SIM card as well as on international carriers.

The video below shows off the speed of Verizon 4G LTE vs. AT&T 4G LTE on the new iPad.

Verizon iPhone 5 Plans

All of these Mobile Share plans are available to new and existing customers. Existing customers can keep their old plans.

  • Lowest Price: $80.00/month ($1,920 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, 300MB data.
  • Average plan: $100.00/month ($2,400 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, 2GB data.
  • Highest Price: $190/month ($4560 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, 20GB data.

These plans are part of Verizon Share Everything plans that include using the iPhone 5 as a personal hotspot at no additional charge. The Share Everything Plans offer data packages increases at $10 for 2GB per month, and charge $15 for a 1GB overage.

Why You Want an AT&T iPhone 5

AT&T iPhone 5

The AT&T iPhone connects to HSPA+ for faster than 3G download speeds.

AT&T is an attractive carrier for the iPhone 5 for users that already have an AT&T locked in unlimited plan, or for users looking for a new carrier that don’t want to switch to a shared data plan. While AT&T’s Mobile Share plans offer cheaper plans for multiple line families, new customers don’t need to choose a shared plan like on Verizon.

AT&T 4G LTE coverage

AT&T’s 4G LTE coverage map.

AT&T also offers 4G HSPA+ Speeds which are significantly faster than Verizon’s 3G speeds. AT&T’s 4G LTE coverage is smaller than Verizon’s but the HSPA+ speeds are available in many areas where Verizon only offers 3G. Check out the map above to see the difference and the video below to see the speed difference on the AT&T HSPA+ network versus Verizon 3G.

An unlocked AT&T iPhone 5 is more appealing to sell unlocked after the contract is finished, so it’s easier to sell for a higher price.

The AT&T iPhone 5 is the only model users can talk and surf the web at the same time, a deal breaker for many.

AT&T iPhone 5 Plans

AT&T continues to offer rollover minutes, something not available on Sprint and Verizon.

  • Lowest price: $59.99/month ($1439.76 over 2 years) – 450 minutes, 300MB of Data and pay as you go texting.
  • Average price: $69.99/month ($1679.76 over 2 years) – 450 minutes, 3GB of Data and pay as you go texting.
  • Highest price: $230/month ($5,520 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk, text and 20GB of Data.

Why You Want a Sprint iPhone 5

Sprint iPhone 5

The Sprint iPhone 5 is the only one users can buy with Unlimited data.

Sprint stands out as an iPhone 5 carrier choice thanks to being the only carrier still offering unlimited plans and avoiding restrictions on features such as FaceTime over cellular.

Sprint’s unlimited plans are free from the gotcha asterisks that plague many unlimited data plans. The unlimited plans are still good on Sprint 4G LTE, which is a major benefit considering how fast users go through data on 4G LTE and how slow Sprint 3G is.

Sprint announced a collection of new 4G LTE markets that will go live on in the months following the iPhone 5 release date. The expected Sprint 4G LTE rollout should deliver a Sprint 4G LTE coverage map like the one below.

Sprint 4G LTE Coverage Map

Sprint 4G LTE coverage Map based on new 4G LTE cities.

Sprint iPhone 5 Plans

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AT&T continues to offer rollover minutes, something not available on Sprint and Verizon.

  • Lowest price: $79.99/month ($1919.76 over 2 years) 450 minutes, unlimited messaging, unlimited data.
  • Highest price: $109.99/month ($2639.76 over 2 years) Unlimited everything.

Why You Don’t want an iPhone 5 on Verizon

  • iPhone 5 4G LTEVerizon may offer the largest 4G LTE network, but where there is no 4G LTE AT&T’s HSPA+ network is significantly faster.
  • New Verizon customers need to purchase a Share Everything plan, even for just one line.
  • The cheapest plan for new customers is $20 a month more than AT&T.
  • Sprint’s Unlimited data plan is available for a penny less than Verizon’s 300MB plan.

Why You Don’t want an iPhone 5 on AT&T

  • AT&T is known for dropping calls and poor network performance in major metropolitan areas like New York City and San Francisco.
  • AT&T constantly comes in behind Verizon for Network performance and customer service, and below Sprint in some areas.
  • AT&T’s top Mobile Share plan is vastly more expensive than Sprint’s unlimited plan.
  • No Mobile Hotspot feature available for the cheapest plan.

Why You Don’t want an iPhone 5 on Sprint

  • Sprint 4G LTE coverage is significantly less than Verizon, and lags behind AT&T.
  • Until Sprint’s new 4G LTE cities are live, users will need to rely on slow Sprint 3G speeds.
  • Low data users will find a better deal at AT&T.
  • The Mobile Hotspot feature is not included in plan pricing, costs $30 a month extra.
  • No data and voice at the same time.

Comments

  1. Hank P. says

    i believe currently verizon iphones can not surf web while on a call…will this still be the same with the iphone 5?

      • Bullet Tooth Tony says

        You have a galaxy s3, you can talk and surf at the same time on both 3g and 4g.

      • Heidi says

        Really? I have Verizon’s galaxy s3 as well. How do you get to the web when you are chatting with someone on the phone? I tried but couldn’t get it to forsure to the web. :(

      • Cliff says

        When Verizon goes VoLTE (Voice over LTE) in about a year or so they will be able to talk and surf at the same time on a network that is a full 18mos ahead of AT&T. They will have a huge advantage that will continue to grow.

    • jbundylive says

      LTE allows for simultaneous data and voice usage. I had this ability on my Rezound and Galaxy Nexus. With LTE, Wifi is no longer the only way simultaneous voice and data use is available on 2G/3G CDMA carriers.

    • Chad D. says

      You can talk and surf and/or check email on Verizon’s 4GLTE network. Data is separate from voice on the network now. My HTC Rezound is super fast on Verizon.

      • Peter says

        No carrier will provide this in the iPhone 5 because it would have required Apple to install a third antenna in the phone.

        • Nikolas Hesson says

          You’re wrong.. The AT&T version will support this due to the non-CDMA network that Sprint and Verizon use.

      • J0relle says

        All the time. If you’re placed on hold, go browse the Web. Boring friends yapping, browse the Web, someone ask you a question, browse the Web.

      • Gringa says

        If the map has turn-by-turn directions, then it can be used as your GPS in the car. I would want to be able to take a call on speakerphone.

  2. Tom says

    My question is – since this is now touting LTE – does that effect the ability to multitask as far as being on AT&T’s GSM network – and opening apps that need data simultaneously?

    and does with LTE now give Verizon or Sprint’s CDMA this ability?

  3. Kyle says

    Current Verizon customers can upgrade and keep unlimited data Is not a true statement. Verizon will either move you to a tiered data plan or you can switch to a share everything plan.

    • david nault says

      you CAN upgrade and keep unlimited data, as long as you pay retail price for the phone, or craigslist it, like i did with my s3.

    • Kevin says

      Incorrect. I’m grandfathered in and have been with Verizon for 11yrs. I’m still on unlimited data for $29 a month. I even gave my old phone to my son and changed to a family plan but they allowed me to keep my unlimited data. My son pays for 2gb which they doubled to 4gb at no extra charge.

  4. Laura says

    I’m with AT&T right now, but I’m thinking of going to Verizon for their lightning fast LTE. I’m just wondering how difficult it is to “unlock” from Verizon. Also, it seems the iPhone goes for less money when selling aftermarket when it’s from Verizon.

    • kkman says

      You can unlock Verizon iphone after 2 months. However, the problem is that it may not be able to use AT&T or T-Mobile sim card

    • johnc41 says

      Is the final sentence below correct?

      This is the final section from “The iPhone 5 Supports LTE – What Is That?” by Spencer E. Ante & Anton Troianovski on page B5 of Thursday’s Wall Street Journal:
      Can I talk and surf at the same time?
      On 3G networks, the CDMA wireless technology used by Verizon and Sprint didn’t allow users to browse the web while carrying phone conversations. But the GSM technology used by AT&T on its 3G network does. That advantage for AT&T may carry over into LTE, at least with the iPhone. Its network will still allow users to do both, while those from Verizon and Sprint won’t.

  5. gdub says

    Thank you for this article. I was planning on getting the iPhone from Sprint, but I’m in Colorado Springs, so no LTE. Looks like I’m changing to Verizon, because we won’t have LTE for who knows how long. I’ve heard too much negative stuff about AT&T as far as dropping calls and service issues. It’s going to cost a lot more, but I’m thinking it’s worth it.

    • N says

      One big feature of the GSM technology is that it is international. If you ever plan to travel and want to use your phone, GSM is THE way to go.

    • Bro says

      Did you get verizon? Is it better now? I’m in the same boat, i’m trying to get the best reception, which one (phone carrier) is best in Colorado Springs?

  6. johnc41 says

    Does the iPhone 5 on Verizon automatically fall back to 3G when in an area with no LTE?

    • [email protected] says

      yes, as with any other 4g phone.

  7. Chris Dunphy says

    The app ‘Coverage?’ will let you directly overlay the coverage maps from all the carriers, including a focus on just LTE. We wrote it for travelers like ourselves, but it is an incredibly handy tool for comparing and picking carriers.

  8. [email protected] says

    You DO NOT need to purchase the share everything plan with Verizon, even if you are new customer.

    • PJS says

      lucky.starr, yes please elaborate how you can get around the share everything plan as a new Verizon customer? I don’t need unlimited talk time and would prefer to pay for the bare minimum for vocie, also won’t be adding any other lines to the plan, so an individual plan would be greatly preferred. I don’t see any way on Verizon’s webpage to sign up as a new customer without going to the share everything plan. Thanks!!

  9. nvme says

    This article did not take into account regular 4g. I am not advocating for sprint, however 4g is still a significant increase over 3G and is something to think about

  10. PJS says

    Does the iPhone 5 support Sprint’s “4G” WiMax network? Seriously considering jumping ship back to Sprint (was quite fond of them before I went to AT&T a couple years ago for an iPhone). Portland, OR has great Sprint WiMax coverage, but it seems like their LTE deployment of Oregon and lower Washington isn’t going to be completed until next year, google ‘sprint lte portland, or’ to find a blog posting at Sprint’s LTE rollout blog. If the iPhone 5 doesn’t do WiMax that means I’ve got to sit on Sprint’s subpar 3g network for a while.

      • PJS says

        Xavier,

        Thanks for the reply, this was my fear and it has been confirmed. Despite Verizon’s Cadillac like pricing, I’m strongly leaning that way now.

        Also, thank you Josh Smith for putting this article together, very informative and helpful!

    • SMan says

      I’ve found, in Chicago, that WiMax 4G will drop when in transit. And, like you said, the 3G network is awful. While I have a fully unlimited plan, I never use it because I always give up. I do not advise going to Sprint, especially with no iPhone 5.

  11. Jeff Weinberg says

    It may be a great gimmick (sprint) to offer unlimited date to customers, but what good is unlimited data when you have no LTE coverage to use? Pretty sure a lot of people buying iphone 5 for the LTE compatibility? Thanks, but no thanks.

  12. 19872911 says

    You should also note that with all the sprint plans is “Any-mobile Anytime”… You call call any cell nuber and it wont count towards your minutes. Only calls to landline numbers count. So if you mostly call cell phones, Sprint is your best bet… LTE will be completed by the end 2013

  13. thebear21 says

    dont forget for those of you that travel over seas alot or down south… verizon is one of the best out of country carriers… i would love to go with sprint.. but i cant use it when i travel.

  14. Mike Smith says

    AT&T is the best overseas its not even close we have coverage in over 300 countries! That statement is totally false! When you fall off of LTE with Verizon your speeds will bed terrible like two g on At&t. There doing it the right way with back haul with Hspa plus and your new contract will be for two years just remember they will catch up quickly!!!

    • Gringa says

      On Verizon, however, you can get around paying International Roaming by using a local prepaid SIM while overseas. AT&T requires an expensive international plan.

    • Bonnie says

      I live in San Francisco and can safely say AT&T is terrible versus Verizon. Verizon dug up my entire yard when I was a kid “by accident” and I would still choose them over the terrible AT&T service we get out here. My roommate and I called to ask why we couldn’t even text inside our (tons of windows) apartment and the best they could tell us was “Suck it up”. SF Bay Area/Chicago/NYC (Yes, the rep told me on the phone these are their worst areas) AT&T is a joke! Boo.

  15. Edwin Alinea says

    T mobile with unlocked iphone 4 is the best! Unlimited talk n text, unlimited data plan.

    • K says

      T mobile is the worst phone company in existence. Their customer service is so below par its disgusting, when you upgrade your phone you get a charge added to your bill to ‘pay off’ the phone, the hidden fees are astronomical, their service is terrible just about everywhere that isnt a major metropolitan area (and even sometimes there)- T mobile could be $25 a month and you wouldn’t catch me dead with them as my carrier.

      • Agmois Greasycabbages says

        I have been with prepaid T-Mo for the past 6 years, and for basic voice I couldn’t be happier – I am in L.A. area, using unlocked iPhone 3Gs.

        As for data services, I have none as I use WiFi for that. There are plenty of Starbucks and McDonalds out here.

        I play $100 for 1000 minutes, and that lasts me about half a year. If I need data, I could get EDGE speed for 1$ a day – if I have some emergency and need to be in touch. I usually don’t.

        While traveling in Europe and Asia I use local SIMs. That works great for data and voice, my iPhone becomes my internet terminal. I even tether it to my laptop, where it acts as my modem. Usually 3G speeds are the norm in bigger urban sprawls.

        Prices in U.S. for mobile internet are too high for my taste. I prefer to take the money and use it to travel and see the world.

  16. Bullet Tooth Tony says

    …Or any non-Apple 4g phone while in a 4g area… or any HTC phone while in 3g or 4g, as well as the Galaxy S3 in either 3g or 4g.

    SVDO has been around since the Thunderbolt.

  17. naross says

    I have been with verizon with unlimited data since 2006 and if we update to the iphone 5 even paying full price we have to change to the tier data-that is what verizon told me yesterday

    • Onewhoknows says

      Wrong. You can keep unlimited data by either paying full price for the device OR upgrading one line that doesn’t have unlimited data and moving the device to a line that does. This is a fact. It’s also a fact that most people dont use nearly as much data as they think they do.

  18. Gringa says

    Is it true that Verizon will unlock the phone for international travel, enabling you to buy a SIM overseas without having to pay for a Verizon International plan (such as with AT&T)?

  19. SMan says

    I have Sprint service in Chicago. It’s terrible and has gotten slower with more drops over the seven years I’ve used it. Switching to Verizon when the iPhone5 comes out. Done with it.

  20. cj says

    sprint is awful in Chicago and suburbs. They are “upgrading” but it has caused nothing but constant problems for the last year. Can’t take it anymore. Dropped calls, texting problems, network failures. You name it. It is so much work to even get them to do anything or give you anything for it. And when they finally do, you have to keep calling for them to give you credits monthly because it NEVER shows up on your statement. The hassle and crappy service is not worth the unlimited data and cell calls at a low price. I regret ever switching to them. Going to verizon

  21. Djmx5 says

    All I can say is when you go to the store to by new iPhone 5 ask them which company has more iPhone 5 available to sell that day and who sells out first. This will tell you which carrier in you are works the best…that would be the best way to choose company where you live for best network experience…. Just because I have Sprint device, live in Chicago and have major issues does not mean I will have same issues in Alabama or Nevada, etc… Same apply with all companies…good luck

  22. Abhi says

    Wich netwrk should i go with ? If i wanna unlock nd use it with other gsm network overseas.

  23. dave says

    Hello Josh,

    i was wondering if you know if Virgin Mobile will have the iphone 5, and if so when do you think it will have it. since VM already has the iphone 4 and 4S, it is probably true that they’ll have iphone 5 too.

  24. Mike Willis says

    I’m currently with Verizon and have a $50 credit to upgrade my phone. Well, in Verizon’s infinite cash cow mentality, they have decided to impose a $30 upgrade fee along with their $36 new phone activation fee… so I’m $16 in the hole by staying with them. AT&T has the plan I’m looking for at the lowest cost available from the “big 3″. Hey, Verizon… bye bye….

  25. Robert Bamford says

    If I purchase an AT&T iPhone 5 to use on a T-Mobile network (also read that T-Mobile may get its own iPhone 5 next year), would I be able to disable cell data access and strictly have the phone use WiFi for data? My current T-Mobile account does not have data, and I would rather keep it that way, and don’t want the phone accessing data and then getting me a pay-as-you-go charge for the use. Thanks for any insights you may have. -Rob

  26. Derrick says

    I will stick with my android phone on sprint. Best prices, good 4g speeds, and I can do pretty much anything with or to this phone and no one breathes down my neck about it. In fact, it is encouraged.

    • Ray says

      no doubt all these people talking about verizon and at and t i love the unlimited data slow but i dont have to worry about going over at all unlimited txting and well who talks on the phone much and i have 1500 minutes for my family and we are lucky if we use 800 mins all together txting is our biggie as im sure with most ill keep with sprint Peace out…

  27. K says

    I have an iPhone 4s and CAN talk and search the web, use maps, fb, etc at the same time…. and I have been able to for some time now. That came with the iOS 5 update.

  28. Charlie says

    Great post! I was thinking of getting the iPhone 5, especially since the reviews all look really positive. Do you know when it’s coming out in Canada?

  29. Corien Loots says

    I make $82h while I’m traveling the world. Last week I worked by my laptop in Rome, Monti Carlo and finally Paris…This week I’m back in the USA. All I do are easy tasks from this one cool site. check it out, Fox70.com

  30. Anjaleena Robert says

    I originally signed up with an iPhone Sprint with a 4S. It was by far the worst service I ever had and when I called customer support, they told me that the salesman should have told me that Sprint was upgrading their network in my area. Even Siri did not work correctly. I ended up making phone calls from my landline which was ridiculous. I pay about $30 more for Verizon a month, but the service is so much better. I’ve been with pretty much every carrier in the last 14 years and Sprint was by far the worst. Even Nextel was better was when I was with them, and that’s not really saying much.
    Find your smartphone’s Current value

  31. jim says

    it’ amazing how un-informed people are about their phones. Everyone Thinks they know what’s going on but they obviously don’t . When I got my 3rd iPhone people still thought they were $600

  32. Jerry says

    The iphone5 is nice. I had all the Apple deivces.But the service suck in my area and at work and i know you all having that problem too. in said of paying $1920 over two years Plus iphone $400 come to $2320, i went with the pre-paid phone for only $100 for 1000 minutes with T Mobile. oh bye the way phone was free too. so good luck enjoy(:

  33. Brett says

    It’s just mostly an opinion, but personally I think that Verizon is the way to go I have Verizon but I used to have AT&T but I switched last May and I have no regrets switching.

  34. Linda Ma Witson says

    My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do, Be84.comCHECK IT OUT

  35. thom says

    Forgot to mention the talk time. Sprint offers any mobile anytime with all of their data plans, allowing you to call any cell on any carrier free.

  36. Jeremiah says

    I have a legacy ‘unlimited data’ plan with AT&T and they are constantly screwing me with their throttling. What happens is that when you hit 3GB of data use (which is fairly easy for someone with limited wifi access to do), they automatically drop your data speed to dialup levels. This cuts off a lot of apps that require faster access.

    I tried calling AT&T in the past and got the tired old “we need to limit your access so other people can get their ‘fair share’ BS. Which I promptly reminded them that the fact that THEY can’t provide the service they promise their customers is not my problem, especially since I’m one of their oldest customers. Asking their customer service rep to explain what ‘unlimited’ means only produced stuttering.

    Anyway.. my point is that ‘unlimited data’ with AT&T is really no better than their cheapest plans. They have absolutely no problem cutting off your service if they feel you’re getting more than they want to give you. Whatever integrity their company had is now gone.

    I’m switching to Sprint as soon as my contract is over, and I’ll never go back to AT&T.

  37. Alex Bäcker says

    Whoever wrote that u can surf and talk on lte Verizon on the iPhone 5 is not correct. Just tried it.
    But this article missed the greatest limitation of Verizon’s network: no switching between calls on hold, nor between merged and private calls, and no conferencing more than two lines plus caller. How could you miss that? That’s AT&T’s killer feature. Hopefully Verizon will fix that with voice over LTE.

  38. Brandon1234 says

    I like us cellular. They have 4g lte now and it’s fast and i have never had a drop call.

  39. William says

    Dude just looking at the plans on Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint makes T-Mobile look really good right now. T-Mobile is offering Unlimited 4G Plan for $90 and now they are doing the same plan on prepaid for $70 a month. They are currently working on rolling out their 4G to work on AT&T frequencies, meaning that you will get fast 4G on IPhone. Plus T-Mobile is working on getting LTE on in couple weeks. I expect T-Mobile to be a big hit in 2013!

  40. JOHN says

    William PLEASE TMOBILE DOESNT HAVE ENOUGH MONEY TO COMPETE WITH THE BIG BOYS I HAVE VERIZON AND IT IS BY FAR THE BEST NATIONWIDE, OVERALL.

  41. deb says

    With VERIZON, You can no longer up grade your phone without changing to a share everything plan (in the bay area). I have been with Verizon for 11 years. I have had the unlimited plan for years. I now want to upgrade to the iphone 5 and i am forced to get the share plan…. AND when I checked on upgrading to other phones it was the same… no matter what phone I looked at, I would be FORCED to change plans… VERIZON is a big greedy bully.

  42. Erika says

    I am in a dilemma! I have an iphone 4 with AT&T and thinking to change to Galaxy 4 with Verizon. Would that be a better deal and better service? I have to be with AT&T or Verizon since I get 25% off of service through my company.

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