The best iPhone plan will save you up to $500 per year compared to Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint. You’ll get more 4G LTE data, without a 2-year contract, and the best iPhone plans run on the same networks as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.
Below I compare the total price for an iPhone 5s and two years of service and fees on various carriers, both traditional and prepaid. This list is by no means exhaustive, it’s an overview of popular plans with nationwide LTE coverage and good prices. For each carrier I selected the lowest priced plans with at least 500MB to 1GB of monthly data. Many carriers have additional options if you need more data or voice minutes.
Major carriers: not the best iPhone plan options
Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint offer iPhones at subsidized prices if you sign a 2-year contract. These plans have activation fees and monthly taxes/surcharges that really add up. Prepaid plans typically won’t have these fees.
T-Mobile has changed their plans recently so you pay full price for the phone, pay less for service, and don’t have a 2-year contract. You can spread the cost of the phone out over 24 monthly payments if you have good credit.
- With T-Mobile’s plans you choose the amount of 4G data you want, and after it’s used up your speeds are slowed to 2G-3G speeds for the rest of the billing period. Their LTE coverage is ok and getting better. Like AT&T, they have a fast HSPA network if you can’t get LTE (which they market as 4G.)
- Sprint’s LTE coverage is inferior, but they are the only carrier with truly unlimited data (no overages, no speed throttling, etc.) If you use a ton of data and live in an area with good Sprint coverage they may be a good option.
- AT&T claims their LTE network is the fastest and most reliable, but it isn’t quite as large as Verizon’s.
- Verizon has the best LTE coverage, but as you can see you’ll have to pay to use it.
The best iPhone plan, probably a prepaid option:
The best iPhone plan for you is probably one of these plans. Most of these plans run on the AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint network. They are all contract free, so you can cancel at anytime if you need to. Some officially offer the iPhone 5s and 5c. Others you’ll just get a SIM card that you can pop into any unlocked GSM phone.
The terms and conditions of these plans may vary, always be sure to read all the fine print. Although these plans run on LTE networks, some users have reported that the speeds they’re experiencing aren’t as fast as the LTE networks of the big carriers (but still much faster than 3G.) This probably isn’t an issue for most users, but you may want to do some Googling before signing up.
Also, the BYOD prepaid carriers may not offer SIM cards in the nano size (which is what the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s require.) You can get a micro SIM card and cut it down to size or buy a SIM cutter online. You may have to do a little work to get the best iPhone plan, but you’ll save a ton of money.
- The prepaid T-Mobile plan is only available from Walmart. It’s an incredible value if you don’t talk much, or use apps to make free calls over the internet.
- Virgin Mobile is also a good deal if you need more voice minutes. They also have a lower-priced plan with 300 minutes. Get 10% Off iPhone 5s 16GB for a limited time only at Virgin Mobile!
- Straight Talk is a little more expensive but runs on AT&T’s larger LTE network. A good option if you need better coverage, and much cheaper than a normal AT&T plan. Buy a SIM card and service plan at Walmart.com.
- Cricket is another interesting option. You can reduce your monthly bill by $15 after 18 months of on-time payments.
- Boost is similar to Virgin Mobile but offers unlimited calling. Get the Apple iPhone 5s Starting at Only $549.99 at Boostmobile.com!
- MetroPCS is the only prepaid option that claims unlimited data.
The best iPhone plan: choose a prepaid plan
One of the prepaid plans mentioned above is probably the best iPhone plan for the majority of people. T-Mobile is the best deal as long as you don’t need a lot of voice minutes. Virgin Mobile is a well-balanced plan that also offers $100 off the price of a new iPhone. The Straight Talk plans on AT&T offer good nationwide LTE coverage. Each of these plans also give you slowed data after you hit your monthly limit. It may be slow, but it’s better than nothing and you can still check your email or browse the web. MetroPCS offers an unlimited plan if you really need a ton of data. Whatever plan you choose you’ll end up saving a lot of money over two years.
If you really need Verizon’s LTE coverage then the only way to get around their high prices is to use a tablet data plan in your phone.
Buying an iPhone unlocked
The new iPhone 5c and 5s each come in three main versions for the US . Get more info about what version you need and where to buy it in our unlocked iPhone guide. If buying from a third party through Amazon, eBay, Craigslist, etc make sure you’re getting the right model and that the phone is unlocked or locked to your chosen carrier or it may not operate. If you want to use Sprint, Virgin Mobile, Cricket, or Boost mobile you’ll have to buy the phone from them directly and it will be locked to that carrier.