The iPhone 5s is officially out, and as Apple’s latest flagship device, it won’t come cheap. On top of the subsidized cost of the phone, plus your monthly service charges, owning and using a smartphone can be pretty expensive. But it doesn’t have to be. Luckily, each carrier has its own prices and types of coverage that cater toward any specific subscriber, and thanks to competition, you can find some pretty great deals.
Many of us are loyal to a specific carrier, while others just want the best deal from their phone service. If you’re one of those types of people, we’re here to help you find which plan on which carrier offers the best value. We’ve taken a look at plans on each of the four major US carriers to see which one offers the best deal. Here’s what we came up with.
AT&T has an Individual Plan that starts at $80/month for 450 minutes, unlimited texting and 300MB of data. If you have two or more people in your group, the carrier’s Family Plans start at $130/month if you want 550 shared minutes, unlimited texting and 300MB of data for two people.
AT&T also has what they call a Mobile Share Plan, where a group of users share a pool of data. This starts at $120/month for unlimited talk and text, with 300MB of shared data for two people, but if you wanted a more-realistic pool of data to share, it would be best to bump that up to the next tier (1GB) or even 2GB, which only costs $10 and $20 more overall per month, respectively.
If you’re looking to go the pre-paid route, AT&T has a plan that costs only $40/month, and it comes with 500 minutes unlimited texting and 200MB of data (with every 100MB after that costing $5/each).
If you’re just getting a plan by yourself, the cheapest way to go is AT&T’s GoPhone pre-paid plan, which will only cost you $1,610 over a two-year period, and this includes the cost of an unlocked 16GB iPhone 5s at $650. If you have two or more people in your party, your best bet is a Mobile Share Plan with 2GB of data, where you’ll pay $3,760 over a two-year period for two people. This includes the cost of two subsidized iPhone 5s units as well.
Sprint is a unique carrier, in that they’re the only carrier to still offer unlimited data (or so they claim). Its individual plan, called My All-In, costs $110/month for unlimited talk, text and data. However, for two or more folks on your plan, Sprint’s Unlimited My Way plan costs $150/month for unlimited talk, text and data for two people.
If it’s pre-paid you’re wanting, the carrier’s No Contract Plan costs $70/month for unlimited talk, text and data with a smartphone. It’s a lot cheaper than the on-contract plans, but the kicker here is that you’ll be paying full price for the phone.
Sprint’s No Contract Plan is the best deal if you’re by yourself. The cost over a two-year period (plus the unlocked phone cost) would total $2,330, which is cheaper overall if you were to go with the My All-In plan. For two or more people, however, the Unlimited May Way plan is the best way to go, with costs being $3,800 over two years, and you’ll save $100 each, since Sprint is discounting the iPhone 5s to $99 for new customers.
Verizon has the most options in our opinion, but they only have two plans to choose from (all of the options are within those two plans). Its Share Everything plans start at $80/month, which will land you unlimited talk and text, plus 500MB of data. For two or more people, Verizon’s Share Everything plans are perfect, and you can get unlimited talk and text, with 1GB of shared data for $130/month, although bumping that up to 2GB for just $10 more is the better deal.
If you’re looking at pre-paid plans, you can get one on Verizon for $60/month, which comes with unlimited talk and text, as well as a generous 2GB of data per month — a lot cheaper than the Share Everything plans, but again, you’ll be paying full price for the phone.
Pre-paid is the way to go if you’re by yourself. The $60/month plan will cost you just $2,090 over a two-year period, and this includes the cost of the unlocked iPhone 5s. For two or more people, the Share Everything Plan is your only option, but the 2GB data pool is the sweet spot ratio with price and the amount of data that you’ll get. This will cost $3,760 for two people over a two-year period, including the cost of the subsidized iPhones.
T-Mobile is the most unique of all the major US carriers, since they no longer require contracts. Instead, it’s all off-contract with unique monthly payments to pay off the full price of a phone. An Individual Plan at T-Mobile will cost you $50/month for unlimited talk and text, plus 500MB of data. For two or more people, the carrier’s Family Plan is the way to go, with a two-person plan costing $80/month for unlimited talk and text, plus 500MB of data each.
Well, there’s only one choice when it comes to an individual plan, so you’ll be paying $1,850 over the course of two-years, and this includes the full price of a 16GB iPhone 5s. As for two or more people, the Family Plan is the only way to go on T-Mobile. The cost over a two-year period for two people would be $3,220, including the cost of two full-priced iPhones.
- AT&T: $1,610
- Sprint: $2,330
- Verizon: $2,090
- T-Mobile: $1,850
- AT&T: $3,760
- Sprint: $3,800
- Verizon: $3,760
- T-Mobile: $3,220
The Best Deal
In almost every circumstance, it’s cheaper to go pre-paid if you’re going at it alone (rather than sign an individual two-year contract), but if you have two or more people joining you on your plan, a family share plan is the way to go if you want to save the most money. Yes, you’ll have to sign a contract if you go with a share plan, but you’ll save more money in the long run, compared to if you just got pre-paid plans for everyone in your household. Plus, with some carriers, the more people you add on to your plan, the cheaper it is per month per user.
With that said, if you’re an individual looking for the cheapest carrier, your best bet is to go with AT&T, where you’ll pay over $200 less than the next-cheapest carrier over two years. However, if you have two or more people that you’re wanting to find a shared plan for, T-Mobile is the cheapest. Yes, you’ll be paying full price for two iPhone 5s units, but the monthly service fees are much lower.
Of course, price isn’t everything. You’ll want to make sure the carrier you choose also has good coverage in your area and has great customer service. Be sure to ask around to see which carrier you might prefer. You can also check out our carrier comparison with focus on the iPhone 5s to learn more.
On Regional Pre-Paid Carriers…
Smaller carriers like C Spire, Cricket and Straight Talk offer some great deals on cellular service. Straight Talk, for instance, offers unlimited everything for $45/month, so over a two-year period, you’d only be paying $1,850 for all the unlimited goodies. However, many smaller carriers don’t yet support LTE with the new iPhone 5s (Straight Talk does, though), so be sure to ask a potential carrier about any fallbacks like that if you’re shopping around.