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
|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
|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
* – monthly expense indicates amount due for first 20 months
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.
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.
AT&T has a growing 4G LTE footprint of 396 markets, with speedy performance in New York City that outpaces Verizon’s LTE network.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.