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.

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

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.