The T-Mobile started selling the iPhone today with its un-carrier plans and 0% interest financing. The question remains for many, how does the iPhone 5 compare price wise across carriers?
As far as hardware goes, the iPhone 5 hardware is almost identical across carriers, except for spectrum and LTE deployment. The software for the unlocked iPhone 5 has been updated so that the iPhone 5 can be used the T-Moblie's fastest data spectrum, LTE.
Comparing plans can be very confusing to make your job easier, we rounded off all plans and prices. We found the most compatible plans across the board. We found that yes T-Mobile overall is the cheapest carrier for the iPhone. Sprint is second and can come close with LTE speeds as fast as 13Mbps.
The lowest priced plan from T-Mobile is $50 that includes 500MB of data (after which speeds are slowed to 2G). The $60 plan adds 2 GB to your included 500 MB of high-speed data. Smartphone Mobile HotSpot service included. Speeds slowed up to 2G speeds after 2.5 GB. The $70 a month plan offers unlimited Nationwide 4G data on T-Mobile's network. Includes up to 500 MB of Smartphone Mobile HotSpot (SMH) service.(Additional options available for more tethering data).
The most common iPhone 5 plan from Verizon is $100($60 2GB data $40 voice/text) the closest T-Mobile plan is $60 a month with more data(2.5GB), unlimited voice and text. For T-Mobile, buying an iPhone, paying $20 a month, you will pay a total of $2,020 while on Verizon will you pay $2,600 in two-years.
T-Mobile discounted the price for a 16GB is $580 vs the unlocked price of $650 from Apple. You can also put $99 down and pay $20 a month for 24 months. Other carriers charge $199 for the iPhone up front. Since you are committed to any carrier for two years you need to compare total costs over two years.
The cost of the iPhone 5 from AT&T is more complicated because you can still buy 450 minute plans with 300MB of data for $20 a month or 3GB of data( for $30 a month unlimited text messaging is $20 a month. The closet match without unlimited voice is $90 a month (see chart below click to view full size).
Sprint is offering a $100 discount to new customers who switch to Sprint, which is a limited time offer. If you opt for the unlimited data plan with 450 minutes it costs $80 a month. You can match the T-Mobile two-year price if you get the $100 new customer discount.
T-Mobile has the fewest markets deployed in LTE, Sprint will be launching more LTE markets soon. AT&T according to average LTE tests is faster. However we tested Verizon LTE in our area it was three times faster than AT&T.
If you talk a lot on the iPhone and use minimal data you could save $240 by using the $50 T-Mobile plan with only 500MB of fast data.
T-Mobile is by far the best deal for people who need unlimited voice and text minutes for iPhone. Click on chart to see it full size.
If you are tied into family plan, you may be able to share data to keep the overall price down. If mobile hotspots are needed then you have to choose between Verizon on T-Mobile.
It's always a good idea to check for coverage in your area. For example, in Sierra Madre a town near Pasadena, where we recorded Rose Bowl Float decorating, only Verizon Wireless offers full coverage north of Sierra Madre Blvd, AT&T coverage goes in and out.
An advantage of T-Mobile is that if you don't have good cell coverage indoors, you can use Wi-Fi calling so that you don't drop out while talking on the phone.
An advantage of Sprint is that they highly discount Samsung smartphones, which does not matter if you are want to buy an iPhone 5.
Sometimes Wirefly offers free activation fees for T-Mobile, however, does not offer any discounts on iPhones, at all. You can also get credits for trading-in your old iPhone or smartphone. In general we seldom see discounts on iPhones. The only way you can save is by reducing your voice and data plans you pay each month.
If you want to leave another carrier, don't forget that if you contract is not over you may have to pay an early termination fee as much as $350, which would blow your savings away...