The iPhone 5s has been out for over six months now, and despite it being Apple’s latest flagship device, you can usually find some good deals on the device itself.
However, on top of the subsidized cost of the phone, plus your monthly service charges, owning an iPhone can get pretty expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Luckily, each carrier has its own prices and types of coverage that cater toward different subscribers, and thanks to competition, you can find some pretty great deals.
Many of us are loyal to a specific carrier no matter the cost, while others just want the best deal from their phone service, and you’ll usually them hopping from carrier to carrier in order to make that happen.
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 discussed different plans and prices last year shortly after the iPhone 5s launched, but carriers have drastically changed their plans since then, so we’ve updated this one with the latest info.
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.
How We Gathered Information
Before we get into the details, we want to make sure that readers know how we came up these numbers.
We looked at smartphone plans from AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and T-Mobile and discuss some of the differences between the different plans offered from each carrier. We go about it just like a regular consumer would: we picked the 16GB iPhone 5s and then looked at what plans each carrier offered with the iPhone 5s.
We then chose two plans with the best deal from each carrier (that were all similar as possible) — a plan for one person and a plan for two people. We then compared the cost of these plans over a two-year period with the other carriers to see which one is the cheapest. So without further adieu, here we go!
For two-year contracts, AT&T only offers their Mobile Share plans, which start at $60 a month for unlimited minutes and texting with 300MB of data. For each new line you want to add, you just tack on $40 extra per month. However, if you want 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 $5 and $20 more overall per month, respectively.
As for AT&T’s Next plans, these are off-contract plans that require you to pay full price for the iPhone, but you’ll pay less with each month of service. Plans start at just $45 a month for unlimited minutes and texting with 300MB of data, while you’ll pay $5 and $10 more for 1GB and 2GB of data, respectively.
If you’re just getting a plan by yourself, the cheapest way to go is AT&T’s Next plan, which will only cost you $1,850 over a two-year period for the 1GB plan, 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 date, where you’ll pay $3,228 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), and their new “Framily” plans are quite interesting as well.
Sprint’s individual plans are called My All-In and Unlimited My Way. My All-In comes with unlimited everything and even includes 5GB of free hotspot data every month, but it’s a bit expensive, costing $110 a month. Unlimited My Way starts at $70 per month for unlimited minutes and texting with 1GB of data.
Framily plans are bit complicated, but they’re fairly easy to figure out. You can add up to 10 people to the plan and the more people you have, the less each person has to spend. Each person also gets their own 1GB of data, but you can bump it up to 3GB or unlimited data for each for just $10 or $20 more per month per line, respectively.
For an individual, Sprint’s Unlimited My Way is the best deal, which will cost you $1,830 over the course of two years, and this includes the cost of the subsidized iPhone 5s (which is only $149 at Sprint).
For two users, the Framily plan is the obvious way to go, as you’ll pay $3,700 over the course of two years, and this includes the cost of two full-priced iPhone 5s units, since Framily plans are off-contract.
Verizon has a few choices for plans. It offers a Single Line Plan, which starts at $60 a month and comes with unlimited minutes and texting with 1GB of data, or $75 a month for 2GB of data.
There’s also Edge, which is the carrier’s off-contract plans for those who don’t want to be stuck for two years. You’ll pay full price for the iPhone, but you’ll get discounted monthly service fees. Edge plans start at just $40 a month for unlimited minutes and texting with 1GB of data, but you can boost that up to 2GB for just $10 more per month.
If you’re planning on having two or more people added to a plan, Verizon’s More Everything plans may be more your thing. You’ll first get your subsidized iPhone 5s, and then you’ll have to pay $40 per month per iPhone added to the plan. Then, you’ll pick out your data allowance, which starts at $15 a month for 250MB, but we recommend at least 2GB to share between two people, which is $50 a month.
For an individual, Verizon’s Single Line Plan is the best deal, costing you just $1,540 over a two-year period if you went for the 1GB plan, and this includes the discounted $99 iPhone 5s.
For two or more people, it’s actually just a tad cheaper to go with Verizon’s Edge plan, which will be $3,220 over the course of two years for two people. Going with More Everything would just be $100 more, surprisingly. Then again, that’s only about $4 per month, which isn’t that much, but it can add up for sure.
T-Mobile’s plans are pretty barebones, but that makes them really easy to understand for the everyday consumer. The carrier’s individual plans start at $50 a month for 1GB of data and unlimited minutes and texting, and it obviously goes up from there if you want more data, all the way up to unlimited for $80 per month.
For family plans, T-Mobile discounts them for every person you tack on, so the first line would cost $50 a month and the second line would cost $30 a month, if each line got 1GB of data. Of course, with all of T-Mobile’s plans, you’ll have to pay full price for the phones, but the overall cost is rather low.
For an individual, the only way to go on T-Mobile is the carrier’s own individual plan, which will cost you $1,850 over the course of two years, and this includes the cost of a full-priced iPhone 5s.
For two people, T-Mobile’s family plan is the obvious choice, where you’ll pay $3,220 over the course of two years for two people.
- AT&T: $1,850
- Sprint: $1,830
- Verizon: $1,540
- T-Mobile: $1,850
- AT&T: $3,228
- Sprint: $3,700
- Verizon: $3,220
- T-Mobile: $3,220
The Best Deal
In some circumstances, it’s a bit cheaper to go with an off-contract plan like Verizon Edge or AT&T Next. You’ll pay full price for the phones, but you’ll also be paying less per month.
In the end, Verizon turned out to be much cheaper than the rest of the herd when it comes to an individual plan, costing as much as $300 less than the competitors over the course of two years.
For plans with two people, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile pretty much have a three-way tie of the cheapest shared plan, while Sprint costs considerably more.
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 regional carrier about any fallbacks like that if you’re shopping around for a pre-paid provider.