iPhone 5 Carrier Comparison: T-Mobile vs. AT&T vs. Verizon vs. Sprint
The iPhone 5 is finally available on T-Mobile, joining the iPhone 5 on AT&T, Sprint and Verizon complete with access to 4G LTE and a collection of new iPhone 5 plans with the potential to add features and save money on your monthly bill.
Apple now offers the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4S on all the major U.S. carriers, which potentially means the best iPhone carrier is not the one you are currently using.
Starting in April the T-Mobile Phone is finally available direct from the carrier, for the low price of $99 up front. This is $100 cheaper than the iPhone 5 on the other major carriers.
Even with the new T-Mobile no contract plans, it’s not practical or easy to switch iPhone carriers so we recommend checking out the competition before buying a new iPhone. On the upside, the iPhone 5 works on multiple networks so it is possible to take an iPhone to another carrier in certain cases.
Apple doesn’t yet offer the iPhone 5 carrier comparison tool with the latest T-Mobile plans, but we’ve done the math to find the best iPhone 5 carriers, which may not always be the cheapest iPhone 5 plan or carrier. In our carrier comparison we look at various plans, and pick an average plan that fits most users, it may not be the average price paid by all customers.
Why You Want a Verizon iPhone 5
Verizon still offers the largest 4G LTE network in the U.S. and customers consistently rank Verizon with the highest network rating and the highest customer service ratings. The Verizon 4G LTE network covers 89% of the U.S. population according to Verizon. This means coverage of 486 cities across the United States.
While purchasing an iPhone 5 on Verizon, most users will need to pick a new Share Everything Data plan without unlimited data. While existing customers can still pay full price for an iPhone 5 to keep unlimited data, the average user will be going with a new plan.
Verizon sells the iPhone 5 unlocked, which means that users can take it to AT&T, T-Mobile or pre-paid carriers without waiting to get the phone unlocked. This also makes it easier to use the iPhone 5 on an international carrier while traveling.
The video above shows a Verizon iPhone 5 4G LTE speedtest in the Midwest.
Verizon iPhone 5 plans
Below we compare the cheapest, average and highest priced iPhone 5 plans on Verizon. These plans are for an individual user, but Verizon’s family share plans allow users to add-on an additional iPhone for $40 a month.
- 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: $415/month ($9960 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, 50GB data.
This makes the average cost of the iPhone 5 on Verizon $2,599 for two years.
Update: Verizon offers a $70 a month individual plan in store or on the phone.
These Verizon iPhone 5 plans include the use of the iPhone 5 as a personal hotspot for no extra charge. Users can upgrade to an extra GB of usage for $10 a month. Overages are $15 per GB for a month after the fact.
Why You Want an AT&T iPhone 5
AT&T doesn’t offer the same reach as Verizon’s 4G LTE network, but the AT&T is making great progress on the 4G LTE front. AT&T also backs up a 4G LTE network with a faster than 3G — HSPA+ ’4G’ network that fills in the gaps in smaller communities.
AT&T’s 4G LTE network is available in 154 markets and the slower 4G network covers 288 million people.
AT&T doesn’t make users choose a family share plan like Verizon does, but AT&T offers Mobile Share plans with a cheaper option for families and multi-user accounts.
The video above shows a Verizon iPhone 5 vs. an AT&T iPhone 5 with 4G LTE in San Francisco.
AT&T iPhone 5 Plans
AT&T offers individual and Mobile Share plans, and includes rollover minutes which are not available on other carriers.
- Lowest price: $59.99/month ($1439.76 over 2 years) – 450 minutes, 300MB of Data and pay as you go texting.
- Average price: $85/month ($2040 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, 1GB data.
- Highest price: $230/month ($5,520 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk, text and 20GB of Data.
AT&T Mobile Share plans start at $85 a month with 1GB of data and includes a mobile hotspot service in the price.
With these calculations, the average price of an iPhone 5 on AT&T, with a usable amount of data is $2,239 including the price of the 16GB iPhone 5.
Why You Want a Sprint iPhone 5
Sprint is no longer the only iPhone 5 carrier that offers an unlimited data plan with no limits, if T-Mobile’s claims hold up.
Sprint cannot match AT&T and Verizon 4G LTE networks, but the company has over 100 markets it plans to bring 4G LTE online in during the coming months. The Sprint 4G LTE map below shows current 4G LTE coverage, which is larger than T-Mobile.
Sprint offers some Family plans, but puts the marketing on the individual plans with Unlimited data. The video below shows off the Sprint iPhone 5 4G LTE speed test, compared to Verizon and AT&T.
Sprint iPhone 5 Plans
The big Sprint pull is the unlimited data plans, highlighted below.
- Lowest price: $79.99/month ($1919.76 over 2 years) 450 minutes, unlimited messaging, unlimited data.
- Average price: $109.99/month ($2639.76 over 2 years) Unlimited everything.
- Family Plan with 2 lines: $209.99/month ($5039.76 over 2 years) Unlimited everything.
The total cost of the iPhone 5 on Sprint, for two years, with a 16GB iPhone is $2838.76.
Why You Want a T-Mobile iPhone 5
The T-Mobile iPhone 5 can connect to 4G LTE, but there is a limited number of locations with 4G LTE connectivity. T-Mobile is launching 4G LTE with seven cities, and plans to expand to cover 200 million users by the end of 2013.
T-Mobile currently offers 4G LTE in Baltimore, MD, Kansas City, KS, Houston, TX, Las Vegas, NV, Phoenix, AZ, San Jose, CA and Washington D.C — with plans to bring New York City online soon.
The T-Mobile iPhone supports data and voice at the same time and it supports HD Voice. Sprint is the only iPhone 5 carrier with support for HD Voice. HD Voice promises better iPhone call quality.
The image above shows a T-Mobile 4G LTE speed tests, which illustrates how fast the T-Mobile iPhone can connect in 4G LTE areas.
T-Mobile iPhone 5 Plans
T-Mobile’s claim to fame is the lack of contracts for wireless service and the cheaper iPhone 5 up front price.
- Lowest Price: $50.00/month ($1,200 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, 500MB of 4G LTE data.
- Average plan: $60.00/month ($1,400 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, 2.5GB of 4G LTE data.
- Highest Price: $70/month ($1680 over 2 years) – Unlimited talk and text, Unlimited 4G LTE data.
The price of the iPhone 5 adds $20 a month to each of these plans and the up front cost is $99. This means the price of the average T-Mobile iPhone 5 plan, with the 16GB iPhone 5 is $1,979.
T-Mobile offers added lines for $30 for the 2nd line and $10 for additional lines after that.
Why You Don’t want an iPhone 5 on Verizon
- Verizon does not offer 4G HSPA+ so in areas without 4G LTE, Verizon is often slower than AT&T.
- New Verizon customers need to purchase a Share Everything plan, even without any other devices.
- The cheapest plan for new customers is $80, $20 a month more than AT&T.
- Sprint’s Unlimited data plan is available for a penny less than Verizon’s 300MB plan.
- No Voice and Data at the same time.
Why You Don’t want an iPhone 5 on AT&T
- AT&T is known for 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 plans are higher than Sprint’s unlimited plans for less data.
- No Mobile Hotspot feature available for the cheapest plan and no iPad hotspot support yet.
Why You Don’t want an iPhone 5 on Sprint
- Sprint 4G LTE coverage is less than Verizon and 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 or T-Mobile.
- The Mobile Hotspot feature is not included in plan pricing, costs $30 a month extra.
- No data and voice at the same time.
Why You Don’t want an iPhone 5 on T-Mobile
- T-Mobile claims the lowest 4G LTE coverage areas.
- T-Mobile only includes a small amount of personal hotspot data in its plans.
- While there are no wireless service contracts there is a device contract to pay off the Phone 5 over two years.
- T-Mobile offers a smaller coverage area with more gaps then AT&T, Verizon and Sprint – especially in rural areas.