If you're one of the 94 million iPhone users in the United States, you're no doubt always keeping an eye out for the cheapest iPhone plan. Fortunately, you've got plenty of options. All of the major cell phone companies, plus many smaller independent ones, offer a variety of plans.
Whether you're looking at unlimited data plans or just need a cheap iPhone plan for texting and calling, there's something for almost everyone's needs. In this guide to the cheapest iPhone plans, I'll give you an overview of what's available from which carriers and how much it will cost you.
iPhone Plan Comparison
While several mobile carriers seem to be stuck in a marketing strategy that uses various incarnations of the word "simple", doing an iPhone plan comparison is anything but. With a multitude of possible combinations of buying, leasing, or installment payments on your device, plus a wide range of service options, nailing down the right one for you can be dizzying. Here are some tips to make it easier for you to compare iPhone plans:
- Consider your device. Are you the type of person who always wants immediate access to the newest iPhone? Or do you try to stretch out your investment by hanging onto that older model for as long as possible? If you're bringing your own device you can rule out carriers with a comprehensive upgrade plan such as AT&T Next.
- Assess your usage. Before you compare iPhone plans, monitor your current data usage for at least one billing cycle. This will allow you to get an idea of exactly how much you actually need so that you don't waste money buying too many data, or end up running out before the month is up. You'll also want to consider whether you frequently use tethering. Many plans limit your use of your device as a mobile hotspot.
- Prepaid or traditional? Are you looking for a postpaid iPhone plan or the freedom of prepaid? Each has its pros and cons, just keep in mind when you do your iPhone plan comparison that a prepaid plan typically requires that you bring a device or buy your phone outright. On the other hand, this option can save you money over traditional plans.
- Got Features? Look for features which match your usage needs. These may include unlimited video and music streaming, or specific upgrade options. Some iPhone plans let you upgrade after a year while others require you to pay off a certain percentage of your device cost first.
Once you have a clear picture of what you want and need, finding the best cell phone plans for iPhone should be much easier.
About iPhone Plans
The term "iPhone plan" is a bit of a misnomer. The thing to remember when you're choosing an Apple iPhone plan is that you're really just picking from your carrier's standard selection of data plans. That means you'll get the same features and data allotment as you would with any smartphone.
Prepaid plans have advanced far beyond their initial "last resort" status and entered the realm of valid, competitively priced cell phone service options.
That means that whether you're shopping for iPhone 7 plans, iPhone 6 plans, an iPhone 6s plan, or even iPhone plans for older models, you'll be able to enjoy the same benefits as Android customers do. All you need to do is find your carrier's option which suits your data, messaging, and calling needs.
Sprint iPhone Plans
Sprint cell phone plans for iPhone are available in a wide range of options, including unlimited. Pricing per line for traditional data buckets is as follows:
- 1 GB - $40
- 3 GB - $50
- 6 GB - $65
- 12 GB - $80
- 24 GB - $100
- 40 GB - $120
You can add lines for $20 each, plus device fees of about $12 to $32 per month over 18 or 24 months. Data is shared. For example, Apple iPhone plans for two lines with 3 GB of shared data would cost you $70 per month plus your phone payments. Data amounts are for high-speed access. Once you hit your limit, you'll get unlimited access at 2G speeds.
If you choose the Unlimited Freedom option as your Apple iPhone plan, you'll get unlimited high-speed data. It is important to note, however, that after 23 GB of usage your data may be deprioritized (translation - slower speeds during heavy traffic). With Unlimited Freedom, video streaming is "mobile optimized" at 480p, unless you pay an extra $20/month.
In addition, Sprint does not yet have VoLTE (voice over LTE) - the feature which allows you to talk on the phone while performing data functions. In other words, you can't look restaurants up on Google while consulting with a friend via speakerphone about where to meet for dinner. The carrier has not yet confirmed a date for this capability, although they are in the testing phase now.
Verizon iPhone Plans
While this carrier doesn't have an unlimited option, Verizon cell phone plans for the iPhone do come in a generous selection of data package sizes.
- S (2 GB) - $55
- M (4 GB) - $70
- L (8 GB + 2 GB per line) - $90
- XL (16 GB + 2 GB per line) - $110
- XXL (24 GB + 2 GB per line) - $130
As of this writing, Verizon Wireless also offers a limited-time 12 GB + 2 GB per line option for $100 per month. These prices include one line. Each additional line costs $20 plus a device payment between $16 and $32 over 24 months.
Verizon certainly isn't your best source of cheap cell phone plans, however, the carrier can boast that they are the highest quality network available. According to RootMetrics, which does comprehensive performance studies on all of the major carriers, Verizon is number one in all six of their categories. These include reliability, speed, calling, and data.
AT&T iPhone Plans
AT&T comes in a close second to Verizon, according to the RootMetrics assessment. AT&T's cell phone plans are called Mobile Share Advantage and are priced as follows for one line:
- 1 GB - $50
- 3 GB - $60
- 6 GB - $80
- 10 GB - $100
- 16 GB - $110
- 25 GB - $130
- 30 GB - $155
Additional lines will set you back a $20 access fee each.
AT&T does offer an unlimited plan, however, you must be a DirecTV or U-Verse subscriber in order to get it. The cost is $100 per month. Like most other carriers, this provider may throttle your speeds after about 22 GB of data usage in a billing cycle.
The thing you need to know about AT&T cell phone plans for iPhone is that if you want to purchase a device from the carrier, you will have to choose from their Next or Next Every Year options. Payments range between about $13 and $32 per month over 12 - 30 months, depending on which model you want. The only other choice for buying an iPhone from AT&T is paying full retail.
T-Mobile iPhone Plans
T-Mobile cell phone plans for iPhone come in two basic types - Simple Choice and T-Mobile One. The carrier is shifting the focus to its unlimited One plan, although you can still purchase Simple Choice via phone or in-store.
Simple Choice T-Mobile iPhone Plans
- 2 GB - $50
- 4 GB - $65
- 10 GB - $80
The iPhone family plan pricing structure for T-Mobile's Simple Choice, which I will outline in the next section, becomes a bit more convoluted.
T-Mobile One iPhone Plans
- One line - $70
- Two lines - $120
- Lines three to eight - add $20 per line
- Lines nine and above - add $30 per line
You can buy your iPhone outright at retail from T-Mobile, or make device payments from $16 to $27 for 24 months.
iPhone Family Plan
With most carriers, any plan can be made into family plans for iPhone simply by adding an access fee. If you're not bringing your own device, you will be looking at a monthly device payment per line as well. In my analysis of the best family cell phone plans for iPhone, I considered not only price but what you get for that money as well.
Sprint: You can turn your Sprint service into an iPhone family plan by adding $15 - $45 per month, depending upon how you purchase your devices. You can have up to 10 lines per account.
Verizon: With a Verizon iPhone family plan you can have up to 10 lines at $20 per line plus device payment.
AT&T: With AT&T's regular iPhone family plan - Mobile Share Advantage - you can have up to 10 lines at $20 per line plus device fees. On their unlimited plan, you can have up to four lines at $40 each for lines two through four.
T-Mobile: With T-Mobile, you can have up to 12 lines per account, but it will depend upon your plan and your credit standing with the carrier. T-Mobile One iPhone family plan prices are listed in the above T-Mobile section.
Simple Choice family plans are as follows:
- 2 GB per line - $80 for two lines, $10/month each additional
- 6 GB per line - $110 for two lines, $25/month each additional
- 10 GB per line - $140 for two lines, $40/month each additional
Contact T-Mobile to see about your eligibility for adding more than four lines.
iPhone Prepaid Plans
Prepaid plans have advanced far beyond their initial "last resort" status and entered the realm of valid, competitively priced cell phone service options. Some of the best prepaid plans for iPhone include:
Virgin Mobile: Virgin's pricing makes their Data Love and Data Love+ options some of the best no contract cell phone plans out there. Get 5 GB of high-speed data for $35 per month or 10 GB of high-speed data for $45 per month. Both options come with unlimited music streaming. You can buy one of several iPhones priced between $200 and $670.
Cricket Wireless: This AT&T subsidiary also offers good deals on prepaid plans for iPhone. For $40 per month, you get 2.5 GB of high-speed data. If you want more high-speed access you can choose 8 GB for $50/month, 10 GB for $60/month, or unlimited for $70/month. If you enroll in auto-pay you'll get $5 per month off of these rates.
Other iPhone Prepaid Plans: While the above two are the cheapest iPhone plans as far as prepaid options go, there are other comparable choices. T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint all offer prepaid plans for iPhone ranging between $40 and $45 per month for 2 - 3 GB of high-speed data.
If you're looking for an opportunity to save money on your device as well as your prepaid iPhone plan, one way to control costs is to look at various ways to buy used cell phones, such as on eBay or even through family or friends who have upgraded.
Apple iPhone Payment Plan
In 2015, Apple introduced its upgrade plan, selling iPhones directly to consumers. The Apple iPhone installment plan allows you to upgrade to the newest model every year, as long as you trade in your current device and it's in good, working condition.
While there are benefits and disadvantages to the Apple iPhone upgrade plan, I found in my comparison of buying through Apple and buying through your carrier that there are some game-changers from Apple that give them an edge.
Pros of the Apple iPhone payment plan:
- All iPhones unlocked - take to your carrier of choice
- $0 down
- Free AppleCare+
- Upgrade to newest iPhone every year
- Sidestep dealing with your carrier over device issues
- Two options - make 12 payments and trade in, or make all 24 payments and keep your phone
Cons of the Apple iPhone payment plan:
- Slightly more expensive than purchasing through carrier - Apple payments between $32 and $46
- Two bills instead of one - service bill from cell phone carrier and Apple device bill
- iPhone Upgrade Plan locks you into a two-year commitment, requiring you to pay off balance if you want out early
When it comes to device purchase, Apple may very well be the best iPhone plan simply because of the free AppleCare+ warranty. Buying this protection separately costs $129, effectively nullifying the price gap between carrier device payments and the Apple iPhone payment plan - that is, if you were going to buy a warranty anyway.
The real coup de gras is the fact that all iPhones you purchase through Apple's upgrade plan are unlocked. This gives you total freedom to take your device to the carrier with the cheapest iPhone plan.
iPhone Protection Plan
Smartphones are expensive. Considering that a third of Americans have cracked their cell phone screen at some point, according to a Motorola survey, it's a good idea to buy an iPhone service plan. You've got a few choices as far as protecting yourself from huge iPhone repair bills.
All Apple devices come with one year of AppleCare. The AppleCare+ iPhone service plan costs $129 and covers two incident per year for two years. You will pay $29 to replace a cracked screen and $99 for any other type of damage incident. AppleCare does not cover theft or loss.
Most cell phone companies offer some kind of iPhone protection plan option with your service. It will cost you extra, however. For example, Verizon charges $11 per month for damage/theft/loss coverage. Replacement carries a $49 - $199 deductible, and a cracked screen will set you back $79.
Companies like Worth Ave. Group and Square Trade provide iPhone protection plans for about $4 - $6 per month depending upon the level of coverage you want. There is typically a deductible associated with these plans. Your credit card company may also offer an iPhone service plan, so be sure to check your terms of service before purchasing extra coverage.
Cheapest iPhone Plan - Recap
Choosing among the best plans for iPhone is a highly personal process. Analyze your usage, budget, and coverage needs in order to get the cheapest iPhone plan that will fit your specific situation.
Keep in mind that the era of two-year contracts is essentially over. This also means that there are virtually no subsidized devices available anymore. While you probably won't find yourself roped into a contract, you will find yourself with a device fee added to your monthly bill, which is essentially the equivalent of a one- to two-year commitment. So in the hunt for the best iPhone plan, evaluate not only your monthly service cost but device purchase options as well.