iPhone 5s: Which Carrier Has the Best Plans?

 iPhone 5s carrier

So you’ve made your decision. You’ve thought about it, compared the best phones and decided the fancy new fingerprint sensor in that beautiful shade of gold is worth trading in your old phone for. Now that you’ve made up your mind, you’ve got an even more important decision to make. The iPhone 5s will be available Sept 20 on all the Big Four carriers, but what with early upgrade plans like AT&T’s Next, Verizon’s Edge, T-Mobile’s Jump and Sprint’s rumored One Up, it will be tough to decide which carrier to pick. 

MORE: iPhone 5s: Full Review

To make things easy for you, we’ve done the math, created the tables and considered the network coverage so you can pick the best carrier for your iPhone 5s come Sept 20.

Carrier Plan Details 4G LTE Markets iPhone 5s (16GB) Cost Activation Fee Monthly Expense Cost Over Two Years
AT&T #1 Mobile Share 1GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text 396 $199 $36 $85 $2275
AT&T #2 Mobile Share 4GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text 396 $199 $36 $110 $2875
AT&T #3 Individual 5GB Data (and hotspot) with no texts & 450 Minutes 396 $199 $36 $90 $2395
AT&T Next* 20 monthly payments of $27 on top of any plan above, no down payment or activation fees 396 $27 x 20 months $0 #1: $112
#2: $137
#3: $117
$2580
$3180
$2700
Sprint Unlimited All-In: Unlimited Data (& hotspot), Talk & Text 151 $99 for new customers $36 $110 $2775 
Sprint Unlimited My Way: 1 GB Data (1 GB hotspot) with Unlimited Voice & Text 151 $99 for new customers $36 $80 $2055
T-Mobile #1 2.5GB Data (Including Mobile HotSpot) with Unlimited Talk & Text 154 $99 down +$23 mthly $10 SIM Starter Kit $83 $2100
T-Mobile #2 Unlimited Data (2.5GB Mobile HotSpot) with Unlimited Talk & Text 154  $99 down +$23 mthly $10 SIM Starter Kit $93 $2340
T-Mobile JUMP! Additional $10 monthly on top of any plan above, minus down payment & activation fees 154  -  $10 SIM Starter Kit #1: $93
#2: $103
$2340
$2580
Verizon #1 Share Everything 2GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text 500 $199 $35 $100 $2634
Verizon #2 Share Everything 4GB Data with Unlimited Talk & Text 500 $199 $35 $110 $2874
Verizon Edge Additional $27.15 on top of each plan above 500 $27 x 24 months $35 #1: $123
#2: $133
$3083
$3323

 * – monthly expense indicates amount due for first 20 months  

AT&T

Plans

The 16 GB model of the iPhone 5s will cost $199 (32 GB: $299; 64 GB $399) upfront with a two-year contract on AT&T, but if you aren’t sure you can fully commit to the iPhone 5s for the next two years, AT&T’s Next lets you get the phone for 20 monthly payments of $27 (32 GB: $32; 64 GB: $37).

Choose the number of minutes and messages you want with an individual Nation plan, or get unlimited voice and texts and pick how much data you want with the Mobile Share plan, which lets you share your data with up to 10 devices. Add $199 and an activation fee to get the iPhone 5s for two years.

MORE: iPhone 5s Specs vs the Competition: Top Smartphones Compared

Alternatively, AT&T’s Next allows you to upgrade your handset every year. With Next, you pay 20 monthly fees of $27 for the 16GB iPhone 5s (32 GB at $32; 64 GB at $37) instead of the $199 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 Nation 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 16 GB iPhone 5s for $199 and a $36 activation fee, adding up to a total of $2,395 over two years. With the 5 GB data plan you can use your phone as a mobile hotspot. On the same plan with Next, you would make 20 monthly payments of $27 plus the cost of the plan for a total of $2,699.

4G LTE

AT&T has a growing 4G LTE footprint of 396 markets, with speedy performance in New York City that outpaces Verizon’s LTE network. 

Sprint

Plans

New customers to Sprint get $100 off any phone, so you can get the 16 GB iPhone 5s for just $99 upfront (32 GB: $199; 64 GB: $299) with any two-year plan. We’re hearing rumors that Sprint is launching One Up, their early-upgrade program, in time for the iPhone 5s sale on Sept 20. But for now, the carrier has yet to launch an early upgrade program, so you may have to commit to the iPhone 5s for two years if you pick Sprint.

If you need unlimited data, Sprint may be the way to go as it is the only carrier to provide unlimited data plans. Get unlimited voice, text and data (with 5 GB for mobile hotspot) with the My All-In plan at $110 a month, or pick the amount of data you want with the My Way plans. Starting at $50 a month, the My Way plans come with unlimited minutes and texts. You can pay an extra $20 or $30 for 1GB of unlimited monthly data respectively. If you want to use your phone as a hotspot, you can also add 1GB, 2GB or 6GB for mobile tethering at additional monthly fees of $10, $19 and $49 respectively. 

MORE: How Secure is the New iPhone’s Fingerprint Security?

With Sprint’s unlimited My All-In plan, new Sprint customers can get the 16GB iPhone 5s for $2,775 over two years, including the upfront handset cost and activation fee. If you pick the My Way plan with 1GB of data and 1GB mobile hotspot, you’d pay $80 a month and with the handset and  activation fees, that amounts to $2,055 over two years. 

We will update this section with details on the rumored One Up plan if and when it happens.

4G LTE

Sprint continues to advance its 4G LTE footprint, announcing 151 markets covered as of July 2013. But it still lags behind market leaders AT&T and Verizon, and is just shy of T-Mobile’s 154 markets. Sprint’s yellow umbrella still doesn’t cover Manhattan, NY, although the company announced late July that its 4G network is available in the Bronx and Brooklyn. 

T-Mobile 

Plans

T-Mobile is offering the 16GB iPhone 5s at an introductory price of $99 (32GB: $199; 64GB: $299) down and 24 monthly payments of $22.91 with a Simple Choice plan. If you can’t commit to the phone, T-Mobile’s early upgrade program JUMP! lets you change your handset as soon as 6 months after enrollment for a $10 monthly fee. 

The carrier offers unlimited voice and text with 500MB of data on its basic Simple Choice plan for $50 a month, and you can add 2GB or unlimited data for an additional $10 and $20 respectively. The unlimited data plan also comes with 2.5GB for you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot. 

Say you pick T-Mobile’s Simple Choice plan and add 2GB of data. You would pay $60 a month for the plan and $22.91 for the phone for a total of $82.91 monthly. Add the $99 down payment for the phone and a $10 SIM starter kit fee that comes with every new T-Mobile line, you would end up paying $2,098 over two years. On JUMP!, the same phone and plan would cost an additional $10 each month, adding up to $2,338 over two years.

MORE: iPhone 5s vs. Galaxy S4: What Should You Buy? 

4G LTE

T-Mobile’s bright pink network now reaches 154 metro areas, crawling ahead of Sprint’s 151 market. The carrier continues to bring 4G coverage to more markets and expects its LTE network to be nationwide by late 2013. T-Mobile is also the only national provider right now to offer nationwide HD Voice for high-quality calls on the iPhone 5s, 5c and 5.

Verizon Wireless

Plans

The 16GB iPhone 5s will be available on Verizon for $199 (32GB: $299; 64GB: $399) with a two-year activation or 24 monthly payments of $27.15 on Verizon’s early upgrade plan Edge.  With Edge, you pay the monthly device installment to be  eligible for a handset upgrade in six months. 

Verizon’s Share Everything plan costs $100 a month with 2GB of data and unlimited talk and text. With a $35 activation fee, the 16GB iPhone 5s on that plan will cost you $2,634 over two years. The same plan with 4GB of data will cost you $110 a month, adding up to $2,874 in two years. 

Get the phone on Edge and the 2GB plan would cost you $3,083 over two years while the 4GB plan would come up to $3,288

4G LTE

Verizon’s initial 4G LTE rollout is complete and currently covers 500 markets, making it the larges 4G network in the nation. The carrier also announced new Advanced Wireless Services that are expected to double the speeds of AWS-enabled devices, though it isn’t clear yet if the new iPhones will support the upgrade. Despite the wide coverage, we’ve noticed slower speeds on Verizon’s network compared to AT&T in multiple New York City locations. 

Bottom Line

With its offer of $100 off any handset for new customers, Sprint offers the best deal on the iPhone 5s, costing just $2,055 over two years for unlimited minutes and texts with 1GB data and mobile hotspot. Unfortunately, the carrier’s relatively small LTE footprint means value-hunters may not be able to get 4G speeds on their new iPhones right away.

If you want unlimited minutes and 4G LTE coverage wherever you go, your best bet is Verizon’s 2GB Share Everything plan, which is a good bargain as long as you get good speeds in your frequent haunts. But for great coverage and speeds, AT&T’s 450 minutes and 5GB of data is the best package at $2,395 over two years. 

For the commitment-phobic, T-Mobile’s no-contract unlimited talk and text plan with 2.5GB of data is great value at $2,098 over two years. The bright pink carrier also has the best early upgrade option with unlimited data, talk and text at just $2,338 over two years. 

AUTHOR BIO
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn Low
Cherlynn joined the Laptopmag team in June 2013 and has since been writing about all things tech and digital with a focus on mobile and Internet software development. She also edits and reports occasionally on video. She graduated with a M.S. in Journalism (Broadcast) from Columbia University in May 2013 and has been designing personal websites since 2001.
Cherlynn Low on
Twitter Google+
LEAVE A REPLY
Name*
Email* (will not be published)
Website
*Indicates required field
Comments*
Submit Comments

  1. evo34 Says:

    Your mag has now published 40 articles on the new iPhone. How can that number possibly be justified?

  2. Bryan Says:

    This is why I use Net10. Unlimited everything for $50 per month. I got the galaxy s 3 for $400. You pay more up front, but save big time in the long run.

  3. Tammy Martin Says:

    I go through Mr. Beeper, in Columbia, S.C. I get it all unlimited for $40.00 a month no contract. I take advantage of Refurbished phones with insurance. My phone isn’t a status symbol its a tool. I lived in DC so I understand, still I believe its pathetically sad. I have never understood living in a camper and driving a RR????

  4. Jojo Says:

    Michael–who gives a flying ____ what other people think about how your phone “looks”??–I could care less what folks think about how my phone looks–I care about best performance/price!! and you would be wise to do the same!! Get over such trivial bs pal and MAN UP!!!

FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE