Early tomorrow morning, Apple will begin accepting preorders on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Which carriers in the United States have the best overall plans for individuals and families? The devil is in the details.
It’s important to note that the on- and off-contract prices for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the same, no matter the carrier:
- The iPhone 6 will be sold on-contract for $199 (16GB), $299 (64GB), and $399 (128GB).
- The iPhone 6 will be sold off-contract for $649 (16GB), $749 (64GB, and $849 (128GB).
- The iPhone 6 Plus will be sold on-contract for $299 (16GB), $399 (64GB), and $499 (128GB).
- The iPhone 6 Plus will be sold off-contract for $749 (16GB), $849 (64GB), and $949 (128GB).
Where things tend to get confusing is when you factor in plans like Verizon Edge and AT&T Next. With these types of plans, upfront costs are removed and are financed over time. This allows users to upgrade early. Adding more confusion to the mix is Sprint’s recently introduced iPhone for Life plan. Here, you aren’t buying or financing a new phone. Instead, you are leasing it.
The nation’s No. 1 carrier offers More Everything plans for individuals and families starting at $45 and $160 per month, respectively.
For $60, for example, an individual can enjoy unlimited talk, text, and 2GB of data per month. You save up to $10 on your monthly line access when you finance your smartphone through Verizon Edge.
With this service, the full retail price for the iPhone is broken down into 20 monthly payments and added to your bill. For example, this translates into $37.45 per month for the 64GB iPhone 6 and $42.45 for the 64GB iPhone Plus. You’re eligible to upgrade after 30 days and 60 percent of your current device is paid off.
For a group of four sharing 10GB of data, the price is $260 per month, or $160 when on Verizon Edge, plus the price of the phones.
For $65 per month, individuals on AT&T can get unlimited text and talk, plus 2GB of data. Family pricing begins at $130 for three members. This includes unlimited text and talk, plus 10GB of sharable data.
If you select to finance your new iPhone through AT&T Next, you’ll save $25 per month on Mobile Share Value plans of 10GB or higher, or $15 per month with plans less than 10GB.
AT&T Next consists of two separate plans. AT&T Next 12 divides the full retail price of the handset by 20, allowing you to upgrade your phone in 12 months. AT&T Next 18 divides these costs over 24 months, allowing you to upgrade after 18 months.
This translates as follows, using 64GB iPhones as examples:
- AT&T Next 12, 64GB iPhone 6, $37.45
- AT&T Next 18, 64GB iPhone 6, $31.20
- AT&T Next 12, 64GB iPhone 6 Plus, $42.45
- AT&T Next 18, 64GB iPhone 6 Plus, $35.38
Sprint is being very aggressive with its pricing ahead of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch. As part of its iPhone for Life leasing plan, the company is offering unlimited text, talk, and data for $50 per month for individuals. You’ll add $20 per month to cover the cost of the iPhone 6, or $25 per month for the iPhone 6 Plus.
If you wish to finance your iPhone, plans begin at $80 per month. On contract, the price for service is $85 per month.
Through the end of 2015, a family with up to 10 members can share 20GB of data and get unlimited text and talk for $100 per month through the iPhone for Life plan. After 2015, expect to pay an additional $15 per month, per line.
Easy Pay installment plans for groups are $220 per month, for up to 10 lines. For those with contracts, a family of four will pay $260.
The “Un-carrier” is offering the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for nothing down with 24 equal monthly payments to cover the full price of the handset you choose.
The 16GB iPhone 6, for example, will cost you $27.08 per month, while the entry-level iPhone 6 Plus will set you back $31.24.
Through the company’s Simple Choice plan, you can bring the upfront cost down as follows:
Individual plans begin at $45 per month, which includes unlimited text and talk, and 2GB of data. For $80 per month, you can get unlimited 4G LTE data.
A family of four can share unlimited text, talk, and data for $100 per month. Other group plans are also available.
Two other important factors
AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon are all offering deals on old iPhone trade-ins, while some are offering cash to add a line and/or switch from another carrier.
Sprint offers a $150 service credit for each smartphone switched, or $100 for other eligible lines switched from another carrier.
With Contract Freedom, T-Mobile offers up to a $300 trade-in credit based on the market value for each device, plus $350 per line based on the Early Termination Fees (ETFs) on your carrier’s final bill.
AT&T is offering a $100 service credit for any new line that is added with AT&T Next.
Our best advice is to look around before selecting or replacing a carrier.
Based on our analysis, it’s clear that Sprint and T-Mobile are doing the most to convince users to switch, by offering nice incentives and lower prices than the competition. Verizon and AT&T seem to banking on their national coverage maps to keep current customers happy.
As a reminder, you can preorder the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus beginning at 12:01 a.m. PDT on Friday, Sept. 12.