We know. You’re itching to grab the iPhone 5c in blue. Or one of its other four available colors. However, you first need to pick a carrier. The iPhone 5c will be available via AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. And with the new early upgrade plans offered by three of the nation’s Big Four carriers, choosing a plan can be confusing. Fortunately, we’ve done the math and considered the carriers’ LTE networks to help you make that decision.
|Carrier||Plan Details||4G LTE Markets||iPhone 5c (16GB) Cost||Activation Fee||Monthly Expense||Cost Over Two Years|
|AT&T #1||Mobile Share 1GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text||396||$99||$36||$85||$2175|
|AT&T #2||Mobile Share 4GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text||396||$99||$36||$100||$2535|
|AT&T #3||Individual 5GB Data (and hotspot) with Unlimited Text & 450 Minutes||396||$99||$36||$90||$2295|
|AT&T Next*||20 monthly payments of $22 on top of any plan above, no down and activation fees||396||$22 x 20 months||$0||#1: $107
|Sprint||Unlimited All-In: Unlimited Data (& hotspot), Talk & Text||151||$0 for new customers||$36||$110||$2676|
|Sprint||Unlimited My Way: 1 GB Data (1 GB hotspot) with Unlimited Voice & Text||151||$0 for new customers||$36||$80||$1956|
|T-Mobile #1||2.5GB Data (Including Mobile HotSpot) with Unlimited Talk & Text||154||$22 x 24 months||$10 SIM Starter Kit||$82||$1978|
|T-Mobile #2||Unlimited Data (2.5GB Mobile HotSpot) with Unlimited Talk & Text||154||$22 x 24 months||$10 SIM Starter Kit||$92||$2218|
|T-Mobile JUMP!||Additional $10 monthly on top of any plan above, minus down & activation fees||154||-||-||#1: $92
|Verizon #1||Share Everything 2GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text||500||$99||$35||$100||$2499|
|Verizon #2||Share Everything 4GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text||500||$99||$35||$110||$2739|
|Verizon Edge||Additional $22.91 on top of each plan above||500||$22.91 x 24 months||$35||#1: $123
* – monthly expense indicate amount due for first 20 months
There are two ways to get the iPhone 5c on AT&T — monthly payments for early upgrade with Next or the carrier subsidized model.
With a two-year individual Nation or a Mobile Share plan, you can get the 16GB iPhone 5c for $99 or the 32GB model for $199 upfront. Choose the number of minutes and messages you want with the individual plan, or get unlimited voice and texts with the Mobile Share plan, which lets you share your data with up to 10 devices.
Alternatively, AT&T’s Next allows you to upgrade your handset every year. With Next, you pay 20 monthly intallments of $22 for the 16GB iPhone 5c (32GB at $27) instead of the $99 upfront cost. The activation fee is also waived and you’re eligible for a device upgrade (at no additional cost) after 12 payments.
If you go for the individual plan and pick 450 minutes at $39.99 a month and 5GB (AT&T’s max) of data for an extra $50 monthly, you can get the 16GB iPhone 5c for $99 and a $36 activation fee, adding up to a total of $2,294 over two years. The 5GB data also allows you to to use your phone as a mobile hotspot. On the same plan with Next, you would make 20 monthly payments of $22 plus the cost of the plan for a total of $2,599.
AT&T has a growing 4G LTE footprint of 396 markets, with speedy performance in New York City that outpaces Verizon’s LTE network.
If you’re switching carriers to Sprint, you get $100 off any phone, meaning you can get the 16GB iPhone 5c for free and the 32GB model for $99 with any two-year plan. Sprint is the only of the Big Four carriers not to have jumped on the early upgrade plan bandwagon, so you’ll have to hold on to your iPhone 5c for the next two years if you decide to go this route.
Sprint offers unlimited data on its unlimited My Way or My All-In plans. The My All-In plan offers unlimited minutes, texts and data (with 5GB for mobile hotspot) for $110 a month. The My Way plans start from $50 monthly for unlimited minutes and texts and an additional $20 each month for 1GB data or $30 for unlimited data. You can choose to add 1GB, 2GB or 6GB for mobile hotspot at monthly additional fees of $10, $19 and $49 respectively.
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Say you’re a carrier-switcher and you want Sprint’s unlimited My All-In plan. The 16GB iPhone 5c will be free for you, and you’d make 24 payments of $110 and a $36 activation fee for a total of $2,676 over two years. If you want the My Way plan with just 1GB of data and 1GB mobile hotspot, you’d pay $80 a month and the activation fee, adding up to $1,956 in two years.
Sprint’s 4G LTE network is considerably smaller than market leaders AT&T and Verizon, with just 151 markets covered as of July 2013. For example, Manhattan, NY still isn’t covered, but the company announced late July that its 4G network is available in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The carrier continues to roll out its growing 4G coverage but is lagging behind competitors.
T-Mobile kick-started the early upgrade plan frenzy when the carrier announced JUMP! earlier this year. For a $10 monthly fee, T-Mobile customers can upgrade their phones as soon as 6 months after enrollment. The 16GB iPhone 5c on T-Mobile costs 24 monthly payments of $22, with any of the carrier’s no-contract plans. The 32GB model will cost an additional $99 upfront, and the carrier charges $10 for a SIM starter kit with every new line.
T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan offers unlimited voice and text with 500MB of data for $50 a month. Customers can add 2GB or unlimited data for an extra $10 and $20 respectively. The unlimited data plan also comes with 2.5GB of mobile hotspot tethering.
If you pick T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan with an extra 2GB of data, you would pay $60 a month. With the phone’s monthly cost and the activation fee, the 16GB iPhone 5c would cost you $1,978 over two years. This plan would not allow you to use your phone as a hotspot. If you opted for a JUMP! plan so you can upgrade to the iPhone 6 when it comes out, the total for two years would be $2,218.
T-Mobile’s bright pink umbrella is bringing its 4G coverage to more markets and currently reaches 154 metro areas, slightly ahead of Sprint. The company expects to bring its 4G LTE network nationwide by late 2013. T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ network also offers good speeds as a backup to LTE, and the carrier is currently the only national provider to offer nationwide HD Voice for high-quality calls on iPhone 5s, 5c and 5.
The 16GB iPhone 5c will cost you $99 up front with a two-year Verizon Wireless contract. If you can’t commit to a phone for that long, the iPhone 5c is also available for $0 down and $22.91 a month on the carrier’s early upgrade plan Verizon Edge. With Edge, the price of your phone is split over 24 monthly payments and in six months you can trade in your device for a new handset.
Verizon offers unlimited talk and text on its Share Everything plan that starts at $100 a month when you include 2GB of data. With that amount of data, the Verizon iPhone 5c (16GB) will set you back $2,499 over two years. A 4GB data configuration of the same plan would cost $2,739.
The same phone with a 2GB data plan on Verizon’s Edge would cost $2,949 over two years, while the 4GB plan on Edge would total $3,189.
Verizon has completed its initial 4G LTE rollout, and with 500 markets the carrier currently has the nation’s largest footprint. The network’s new Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) is expected to double the speeds of AWS-enabled devices, but it isn’t clear if the new iPhones will support the upgrade. Despite the wide coverage, we’ve noticed that Verizon’s network in New York City is often slower than AT&T’s in multiple locations.
Sprint offers the best deal on the iPhone 5c for new customers, shaving $100 off the handset’s price for carrier switchers. The 16GB iPhone 5c comes up to just $1,956 in two years on Sprint’s Unlimited My Way with 1GB of Data and 1GB hotspot tethering. Unfortunately, the carrier’s relatively small 4G LTE network means bargain-hunters might not be able to get 4G speeds on their new iPhones right away if they go with Sprint.
T-Mobile’s unlimited talk and text plan with 2.5GB of data is just $20 more at $1,978 over two years, and the carrier’s growing 4G coverage and exclusive HD Voice for crystal-clear calls make it a great choice for value. But if you want great coverage and speeds, AT&T’s 450 minutes and 5GB of data at $2,294 over two years is your best bet.
If you demand wide 4G LTE coverage and want unlimited minutes, Verizon’s 2GB Share Everything plan is fairly priced, but you’ll want to make sure you get good speeds in your neck of the woods.
Lastly, if you want the best early upgrade plan for your iPhone 5c, T-Mobile’s JUMP! offers the best value at just $2,448 over two years for unlimited data, talk and text.