Which Carrier Offers the Best Value for the iPhone 5?

During today’s announcement, Apple revealed that the iPhone 5  will support LTE and run on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless — though not T-Mobile. While the phone will cost the same on all carriers–$199 for the 16GB version, $299 for 32GB and $399 for 64GB–there’s a world of difference when it comes to the two-year contract. So which carrier offers the best value? We compare the data plans from Sprint, Verizon and AT&T to find out.

For the sake of comparison, we used the price of the iPhone 5 with 16GB of internal storage ($199), and plans with unlimited voice and text.

Verizon Wireless:

Of the three carriers, Verizon offers the most options when it comes to choosing data, with plans ranging from 1GB of data per month to 10GB per month. At its least expensive, an iPhone 5 on Verizon will cost you $2,359 over two years, and you’ll get 1GB of data per month. The 4GB plan costs $2,839 over two years, and the 10GB plan will cost $3,559.

AT&T:

AT&T offers only 3 plans for smartphone users: 300MB per month, 3GB per month or 5GB per month. The 300MB per month plan on AT&T will cost you $2,359 over two years — the same price as Verizon’s 1GB per month plan. Plans become much more competitive as data increases: The 3GB plan will cost $2,599 over two years, and the 5GB plan will cost $3,079, which is $240 more than Verizon’s 4GB plan. However, current AT&T customers who already have the unlimited data plan will be grandfathered in; those lucky individuals will pay the same as new users who select the 3GB plan.

Sprint:

Sprint offers only one unlimited talk and text plan for its smartphone customers, but the good news is that it comes with unlimited data. Even better news is that it will cost you just $2,839 over two years — the same as Verizon’s 4GB monthly plan and $240 less than the 5GB monthly plan from AT&T. Of course, Sprint users won’t be able to enjoy the benefits of the company’s 4G LTE network when the iPhone 5 goes on sale later this month, as the network won’t be fully deployed in more than 100 cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles for at least a few more months.

Simultaneous Voice and Data:

Unfortunately for Sprint and Verizon Wireless customers, only AT&T’s iPhone 5 will allow simultaneous use of voice and data. Because the technology behind 4G LTE networks handles only data, not voice transmissions, the iPhone 5 must revert back to the carriers’ old third-generation networks when connecting calls. UMTS, AT&T’s third-generation network, allows for parallel voice and data use; CDMA, the third-generation network used by Verizon and Sprint, does not.

Coverage:

With 337 markets, Verizon’s 4G LTE network dwarfs both AT&T and Sprint’s networks, which cover 53 and 15 markets, respectively.

Verdict:

If you want the greatest control over your data plans and the widest LTE coverage, Verizon is undoubtedly the network to choose. However, AT&T’s 3GB monthly plan actually costs less than Verizon’s 2GB plan, and its 5GB plan gives Verizon’s 4GB plan a run for its money. What’s more, only AT&T allows you to talk and use data at the same time. On the other hand, those who long for the halcyon days of unlimited data may find Sprint the most appealing option, but they should keep in mind that its 4G LTE network isn’t available in most major metropolitan areas yet.

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  1. Chris Dunphy Says:

    Check out the ‘Coverage?’ app – it allows you to directly overlay the coverage maps for all the carriers, including focusing just on LTE coverage areas. We wrote it for travelers who need to find fast wireless as they roam – and there is no single one best network everywhere nationwide.

    Anyway – it is a fabulously useful tool for helping decide which carrier is personally best for where you travel most.

  2. sam Says:

    Excuse me, but you missed the Mobile Share options AT&T now offers….this is a big slip up.

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