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Which U.S. iPhone carrier and plan should you get: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile?

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Which U.S. iPhone carrier and plan should you get: AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile?

AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile — how to pick the perfect iPhone carrier for you!

We've got a wide range of options when it comes to purchasing a new iPhone in the United States. You can pick one up from your local carrier store (as the majority of customers still do) or order from your carrier online. You can get one at carrier resellers like Best Buy. Or you can get an iPhone from the welcoming embrace of your local Apple Retail Store, or from the Apple Online Store.

Where you buy will dictate what choices are offered, including how much you'll pay and how you'll be able to pay. So let's run through the options.

A few caveats:

  • These prices are always subject to change, though we'll do our best to keep them up-to-date
  • Prices listed are only for the device itself and do not include service (though some device payment options do impact the service charges, so we'll note that where applicable)

If you want to cut through all the muss and muck, the best deals for each carrier are at the end of their respective sections, and you'll find the best iPhone deals regardless of carrier at the end of this guide.

Where to buy a new iPhone

Apple Store

There are only a few places you can go shopping for a new iPhone on every carrier, and the Apple Store is one of those places. It just so happens to be one of the most pleasant places to buy a new iPhone as well. And if you're looking to participate in the Day 1 reverie of an iPhone launch, there's no better place to do that than an Apple Store.

2-year contract (Sprint)

If you're still attached to the traditional subsidized model, it's still available at Apple Stores for customers on Sprint. Pay a few hundred upfront and then you're done, right? Not quite — you'll pay more for your monthly service to cover the remaining cost of the device. In fact, you might end up paying more in the long haul. Sprint still offers 2-year contracts to new customers and you can set everything up at the Apple Store web site.

Model 16GB 128GB
iPhone SE Free Free
iPhone 6s Free $99.00
iPhone 6s Plus $99.00 $199.00
iPhone 7 $99.00 $199.00
iPhone 7 Plus $219.00 $319.00
Model 64GB 356GB
iPhone 8 --- ---
iPhone 8 Plus --- ---
iPhone X --- ---

We'll update the upfront costs of the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and the iPhone X once they are listed.

AT&T Next

While Sprint offers contract pricing in the Apple Store and T-Mobile phones are sold at full price, AT&T will sell you a phone at full price or on one of their Next payment plans. The Next plans divide up the full retail cost of your phone over a number of months (ranging from 24 to 30). There are a couple of options here, so we'll just shoot you over to the AT&T section of this guide for more info.

Unlocked off-contract (all carriers)

If you want to purchase your phone at full price unlocked, Apple will sell it to you just like that. No payment plans, no trade-in upgrades, just straight money for a phone.

Model 16GB 128GB
iPhone SE $349.00 $449.00
iPhone 6s $449.00 $549.00
iPhone 6s Plus $549.00 $649.00
iPhone 7 $549.00 $649.00
iPhone 7 Plus $669.00 $769.00
Model 64GB 256GB
iPhone 8 $699.00 $849.00
iPhone 8 Plus $799.00 $949.00
iPhone X $549.00 $649.00

iPhone Upgrade Program (unlocked, all carriers)

The Apple iPhone Upgrade Program is an easy way to get a new phone every year. In signing up you agree to pay Apple monthly installments over a 24 month period, but in exchange you'll get to trade in your current iPhone for a new iPhone every year, plus ongoing AppleCare+ coverage. Apple only currently offers the Upgrade Program for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X — clearly, if you're the type that wants a new phone every year, then you want the best new phone every year. Here's what the monthly payments look like:

Model 64GB 256GB
iPhone 8 $34.50/month $40.75/month
iPhone 8 Plus $39.50/month $45.75/month
iPhone X $49.91/month $56.16/month

This program does cost more per month than the monthly payment options, though it does have the $129 cost of 2 years of AppleCare+ built in as well. In essence, it's a payment and protection plan with a free upgrade every year.

The iPhone Upgrade Program is available in stores and online.

iPhone Trade-up program

The final option for Apple is an iPhone trade-in program. Bring in your old functioning iPhone, trade it in, and Apple will offer you a discount on a new iPhone or a gift card. Apple has simplified the program and the value for a phone in good working condition is:

Trade-in Model Estimate Trade-in Value
iPhone 5 $45
iPhone 5c $35
iPhone 5s $70
iPhone SE $135
iPhone 6 $135
iPhone 6 Plus $170
iPhone 6s $215
iPhone 6s Plus $260

That said, if your phone is in pristine condition you might be better off selling your iPhone through a service like Gazelle or eBay. Apple's pricing here is very fair — in fact, if you go for the monthly payments on a trade-in you'll save even more than if you were to take the payment as a lump sum. And you'll get to know that Apple's Liam robot is disassembling your iPhone.

So what's the best way to get an iPhone from Apple?

If you plan on buying AppleCare+ and a new iPhone every year, the iPhone Upgrade Program is a no-brainer. You're paying half the cost of a new iPhone and half the cost of AppleCare+, and you get a brand new iPhone a year later.

Even if you're not planning on getting AppleCare+ but still want a new iPhone every year it's a good deal. Right now if you try and trade in your iPhone for cash from a site like Gazelle, you can expect to get about $350, for a loss of around $300 on the trade-in. You might be able to sell it for more on eBay, but that's a new set of hassles that trade-in services seek to eliminate. With Apple's upgrade program, you're looking at a $65 annual loss if you end up not using AppleCare+.

  • If you plan on buying a new iPhone every year: get into the iPhone Upgrade Program. Even if you don't want AppleCare+, it'll still save you money over trying to resell or trade-in your old iPhone
  • If you plan on buying a new iPhone with AppleCare+: still get into the iPhone Upgrade Program. It costs the same, but you don't have to pay for it all upfront, and you can get a new iPhone next year.
  • If paying an extra $65/year for a protection plan with free upgrade privileges doesn't appeal to you, there's always buying the phone outright, renewing your existing contract, or getting onto one of the many payment plans offered by the individual carriers (see your carrier section for details).
  • If you have an iPhone to trade in, go for the iPhone Trade-in program, and consider the monthly payments option there because you'll save even more.

See at Apple

AT&T

AT&T's Next payment plans can seem complicated, but in truth they're pretty straightforward. You take the full price of the phone and divide it up over a number of months, and then pay that much each month. There are two options: At&T Next and AT&T Next Every Year. The Next Every Year program has 24 monthly payments, and the Next program has 30. you might need to pay 30% of the retail price up front depending on your credit. See? Not that confusing.

Regardless of the Next plan you select, you end up paying the same price at the end: the full retail price. Unless you upgrade first.

AT&T Next

Full price divided across 30 monthly payments, trade-in upgrade eligible after 24 months.

Model 32GB 128GB 256GB
iPhone SE $11.67/month --- ---
iPhone 6s $15.00/month $18.34/month ---
iPhone 6s Plus $18.34/month $21.67/month ---
iPhone 7 $18.34/month $21.67/month $25.00/month
iPhone 7 Plus $22.34/month $25.67/month $29.00/month

AT&T Next Every Year

Full price divided across 24 monthly payments, trade-in upgrade eligible after 12 months.

Model 32GB 128GB 256GB
iPhone SE $14.59/month --- ---
iPhone 6s $18.75/month $22.92/month ---
iPhone 6s Plus $22.92/month $27.09/month ---
iPhone 7 $22.92/month $27.09/month $31.25/month
iPhone 7 Plus $27.92/month $32.09/month $36.25

AT&T full price

And, of course, if you want to pay full price for the new iPhone, AT&T will gladly take all your money upfront.

Model 32GB 128GB 256GB
iPhone SE $349.99 --- ---
iPhone 6s $449.99 $549 ---
iPhone 6s Plus $549.99 $649 ---
iPhone 7 $549 $649.99 $749
iPhone 7 Plus $669.99 $769.99 $869.99

We'll add the pricing information for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X when it becomes available.

So what's the best way to get an iPhone from AT&T?

The answer here depends on how much you want to pay a month and how frequently you want to upgrade. If you want a new top-end iPhone every year, the aptly named Next Every Year payment plan will end up costing you $435 a year. You might be able to get slightly better returns by selling your iPhone to Gazelle or a similar service or selling it on your own, but there's no guarantee of that.

If you want to upgrade every two years, it's again a tossup between paying the full price and selling when you upgrade versus upgrading through the Next plan. You'll end up paying $696 over the course of two years for a $869 phone, but you could likely get more than you'll save for a 256GB iPhone 7 Plus by selling it yourself.

  • If you plan to update your phone frequently, purchase on the Next Every Year. It has the lowest cost to upgrade, and while you'll pay more per month, you'll pay less per phone.
  • If you plan to upgrade every other year, you should go with the Next plan.

See on AT&T

Sprint

Sprint offers an 18-month Flex plan for all their iPhone models. You'll make a down payment if necessary, and you pay each month for 18 months. Once the term is over, you either give the phone back or pay off the balance. It's almost the same as leasing a car.

Some models (iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus at the time of this writing) are part of the iPhone Forever program. After 12 months you can trade in your current phone for a brand new model.

For iPhones not covered under the iPhone Forever program, you can add the feature for $5 per month.

Sprint Flex18-month lease

Sprint is really big on leasing for their phones — you never really own the phone, but you end up paying less in the long haul. They only offer leasing on their top tier iPhones in an 18-month term. The 18-month lease payment is structured somewhat like the 2-year contracts of old: the downpayment varies based on phone's storage capacity, but the monthly cost is the same.

Model 16GB 32GB 64GB 128GB 256GB
iPhone SE $0.00 down
$9.18/month
$0.00 down
$16.67/month
$0.00 down
$18.75/month
$0.00 down
$20.84/month
---
iPhone 6s --- $0.00 down
$22.92/month
$50.00 down
$20.15/month
$100.00 down
$22.92/month
---
iPhone 6s Plus --- $0.00 down
$27.09/month
$50.00 down
$27.09/month
$100.00 down
$27.09/month
---
iPhone 7 --- $0.00 down
$22.92/month
--- $100.00 down
$27.09/month
$100.00 down
$32.65/month
iPhone 7 Plus --- $0.00 down
$27.92/month
--- $100.00 down
$32.09/month
$100.00 down
$37.65/month

As this is a lease and not financing, at the end of those 18 months the phone goes back to Sprint and you'll have paid to rent it from them. If you have poor credit, you may be asked to pay more upfront, but you'll also have lower payments throughout the lease term.

If you buy a phone that's part of the iPhone Forever program, you can trade it in every 12 months and never stop making monthly payments.

Sprint full price

And while Sprint is happy to offer an 18-month lease, they'd also be happy to take your money up front. So here's their off-contract pricing:

Model 16GB 32GB 64GB 128GB 256GB
iPhone SE $379.99 $399.99 $449.99 $499.99 ---
iPhone 6s --- $549.99 $599.99 $649.99 ---
iPhone 6s Plus --- $649.99 $699.99 $749.99 ---
iPhone 7 --- $549.99 --- $749.99 $849.99
iPhone 7 Plus --- $669.99 --- $869.99 $969.99

We'll add the pricing information for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X when it becomes available.

So what's the best way to get an iPhone from Sprint?

If you buy through the Apple store, or visit Sprint in person you can still get a 2-year contract plan for your new iPhone as listed above. While signing a contract may not be the cheapest way to get your phone overall, no or low payments up-front and the monthly charge added to your bill can be inticing. If you can avoid doing it though, skip the contract.

On the 18-month Flex program, don't pay the extra $5 per month to enroll the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus in the iPhone Forever program. You'll be able to sell your phone (if it's in good condition) and cover the payoff once the lease is finished and probably have a few dollars left for the downpayment on your new iPhone. And it didn't cost you an extra $60.00

If you're going to buy the top of the line 256GB iPhone 7, the iPhone Forever program sounds like a good deal, but the program is also a Payments Forever program where you never own your phone. It's not a terrible idea if you get a new iPhone every year and you don't want to worry about selling and shipping your old one. If you don't plan to upgrade every year, Apple's 24-month iPhone Upgrade Program includes AppleCare is a smarter way to buy if you want to finance.

See on Sprint

T-Mobile

T-Mobile, the Uncarrier of brash and bravado fame, has a blessedly simple price structure. Either you can buy the phone at full price, or you can pay for it over 24 months. But the also offer several JUMP! plans that muddy the water a bit.

  • JUMP! On Demand lets you change your phone every month if you like. Not all phones are part of the JUMP! On Demand program, and not all plans (including the T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan) are eligible.
  • JUMP! lets you upgrade your phone once you've paid at least 50% of the total. Every phone and every plan can use JUMP!, but there's a $9 - $12 monthly fee.
  • JUMP! PLUS is the standard program with added device protection and customer support. It costs $12 - $15 per month.
  • Check the T-Mobile coverage map for your area

T-Mobile 24 monthly payments

T-Mobile's pricing structure for monthly payments is simple: you'll pay the same per month regardless of the capacity of your iPhone. Each iPhone 6s capacity will be $27.08/month, while the iPhone 6 Plus will be $31.24. The storage price premium comes in with the initial downpayment: a 16GB iPhone 6s is free upfront, while a 128GB iPhone 6s will be $199.99 down.

Model 32GB 128GB
iPhone SE $16.00 down
$13.92/month
$20.00 down
$17.92/month
iPhone 6s Plus --- $125.00 down
$21.84/month
iPhone 7 $25.99 down
$21.84/month
$125.99 down
$21.84/month
iPhone 7 Plus $49.99 down
$25.84/month
$149.99 down
$25.84/month

See? It doesn't get much simpler than that. Well, apart from just paying full price up front.

T-Mobile full price

Naturally, T-Mobile will also sell you an iPhone at full price upfront too.

Model 32GB 128GB
iPhone SE $349.99 $449.99
iPhone 6s Plus --- $649.99
iPhone 7 $549.99 $649.99
iPhone 7 Plus $669.99 $769.99

We'll add the pricing information for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X when it becomes available.

So what's the best way to get an iPhone from T-Mobile?

T-Mobile keeps it simple. Pay over 24 months or pay for it all now. That makes it easy for us to make our recommendations too.

  • Regardless of how you intend to get a new iPhone from T-Mobile, you'll pay the full price for it. So it's up to you: pay it all upfront and maybe trade it in later, or pay for it all now and sell it later for a higher return. Your call.
  • T-Mobile's financing offers (if you have good credit) are 0% APR. It might make sense to finance through T-Mobile rather than put the purchase on a credit card.
  • The JUMP! programs aren't a great deal if you like the phone you bought and plan to keep it for a while. You can't use the new ONE unlimited plan with JUMP! On Demand, and the standard program costs upwards of $10 per month. That's money you're paying so that you can give back your phone, get a new one, and keep making payments forever.

See on T-Mobile

Verizon

Verizon, long the bastion of overly complicated plans that charged far too much for a phone, is no longer that monster of terrible pricing. At least on the device front — whether or not their data charges work for you is 100% your call. Verizon offers two options for new customers: monthly payments or full price. Like T-Mobile, they've completely ditched the 2-year contract. Well, not completely.

Verizon 24 monthly payments

Option one for Verizon: Full price of your phone divided over 24 months. No gimmicks, no interest, nothing crazy.

Model 16GB 32GB 64GB 128GB 256GB
iPhone SE $14.58/month $16.66/month $16.66/month $20.83/month ---
iPhone 6s --- $22.91/month --- $27.08/month ---
iPhone 6s Plus --- $27.08/month --- $31.24/month ---
iPhone 7 --- --- --- $31.24/month $35.41/month
iPhone 7 Plus --- $32.08/month --- $36.24/month $40.41/month

If you want to engage in upgrades, well, this is where things get complicated. If you were on Verizon's older Edge upgrade program prior to May 31, 2105, you can still take advantage of those upgrades. Namely, after 30 days and a minimum payment of 75% of the total cost of the device, you can trade it back in to Verizon for a new phone. Look, we didn't say it was a good deal, just that it was an option. If you got onto the aptly titled "The Verizon Plan" plan after May of 2015, sorry, there aren't any upgrades in the cards for you.

Verizon full price

In keeping with Verizon's super simplified payments structure, here's option two: all the money up front, you take your phone, and we never talk about it again.

Model 16GB 32GB 64GB 128GB 256GB
iPhone SE $349.99 $399.99 $399.99 $499.99 ---
iPhone 6s --- $549.99 --- $649.99 ---
iPhone 6s Plus --- $649.99 --- $749.99 ---
iPhone 7 --- --- --- $749.99 $849.99
iPhone 7 Plus --- $769.99 --- $869.99 $969.99

Turns out there's a third option. Kind of. If you're an existing customer on certain plans, you can still sign a two-year contract with Verizon. We really don't recommend signing new lengthly contracts with any carrier, but if that's the way you want to go, give them a call or visit a store and talk to a representaive for more details and to see if you qualify.

We'll add the pricing information for the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X when it becomes available.

So what's the best way to get an iPhone from Verizon?

There is no best way to get an iPhone from Verizon. Either you pay the full price up front, or you pay the full price over 24 months. Either way, you're paying the full price. The only difference is in the flexibility granted by having the device paid off: Verizon's legally required to unlock paid-off phones.

Verizon also offers 0% APR on device financing so it's cheaper to go through them than most credit cards.

If you have some sort of ancient killer data package that you'll lose by switching to the new unlimited plans you might be able to sign a new contract. But that totally ties you to Verizon for 24 months and will probably cost more. Talk to a rep about it.

See on Verizon

So what's the best iPhone deal?

We've always been advocates of picking your carrier first, and we'll continue to be. If your phone doesn't get a signal where you spend your time, it's of no use, so always always always pick a carrier before picking a phone. You can get an iPhone on every major network in the US, so there's no worry about missing out on that anymore like the old days.

So between Apple, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile, who offers the best deal on a new iPhone? Purely from a cost perspective (again, carrier coverage is important here, and we can't make that decision for you).

  • If you plan on upgrading your iPhone every year, you should look at the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. It might seem like the more expensive option, but once you factor in the cost of (lesser quality) insurance and support, it costs significantly less per month and overall. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile also offer ways to get a new phone every year so if you need to work with your carrier you hoave that option.
  • If you plan to get insurance, go with the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. AppleCare+ is included and there's no future promotional pricing expiration bill shock.
  • If you want AT&T, go for the AT&T Next Every Year plan. It offers faster upgrades at the lowest per-upgrade cost. In the end, you're not paying any more than if you were to pay off and keep the phone. But you'll be paying every month, every year.
  • If you want T-Mobile or Verizon, well, it doesn't matter. You'll pay full price regardless. You should probably steer clear of T-Mobile's JUMP! programs. not being eligible on their ONE unlimited plan makes them not worth it.

And that's everything you need to know to get a new iPhone in the US!

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