Wireless Providers Compared: What You Need to Know Before You Buy
We completed reviews of the wireless service and early upgrade plans offered by each of the major wireless carriers.Those reviews (all of which can be found here) include the 2-year cost of ownership with each provider.
So how do the prices compare among wireless providers?
Let’s compare costs and see if we can save some money on our next wireless purchase.
For individuals, we looked at the 2-year cost of ownership for a 5 GB data plan (or closest plan available) with the purchase of a new 16 GB iPhone.
For families we examined the two-year cost of ownership for a 10 GB data plan (or closest available option) with the purchase of two new 16 GB iPhones.
Obviously, each of the plans has some fine print on early upgrades and other matters that you will want to know about.But if you want to start with the wireless carrier that will cost you the least amount of money, and allow you to upgrade as frequently and cheaply as possible, here is what you need to know.
One last note: we do not subtract out the money you can get from re-selling your used phones because the carriers require you to trade in your old phone to take advantage of upgrade incentives whether you own or lease the device.So most customers will not have a phone to re-sell regardless.
Also, carriers seem to price their plans to disincentive phone ownership, so being able to re-sell a phone for $200 after two years does not seem to offer any cost savings over the long or short term.
Lastly, prices reflect current promotional offers from T-Mobile and Sprint for their leasing programs, and assume you will trade in an eligible paid-off smartphone to take the maximum discount available for those programs.
You can read the individual provider reviews for more details on how much you will be paying for the privilege of buying or being able to trade in your phone with that carrier.
Individual Plans Compared
Remember, each of these cost of ownership includes the purchase of a new 16 GB iPhone as a point of comparison.
Sprint: Unlimited Text, Talk & Data
As you will see,Sprintoffers the lowest cost option for individuals, while providing a truly unlimited plan (including 4G LTE data).
On top of that, the Sprint leasing program currently allows you upgrade upgrade your smartphone to the latest and greatest device when a new version is released.
2 Year Cost
$0 down, $15/mo
$0 down, $27/mo
$200 down, $0/mo
Full Price/No Contract
$650 down, $0/mo
FYI, the Sprint lease assumes you trade in an existing smartphone to get the annual upgrade plan for only $15/month (normally $22/month).If you trade in an iPhone 6, they will reduce that cost to $1 per month!
T-Mobile: Unlimited Text & Talk with 5GB of LTE Data
T-Mobile offers several plans, including its Jump!early upgrade plans.T-Mobile’s 2-year cost of ownership will be similar to AT&T and Verizon.
With T-Mobile, you do get unlimited data.You just pay for the amount you want of 4G LTE high speed data.You can save by getting a lower amount of data and not worrying about expensive overage charges (though you will need to endure slower speeds if you frequently exceed your LTE cap).
The real benefit of T-Mobile is that its early upgrade program allows you to make multiple upgrades every year.This is the way to go if you want to try out the latest devices from different smartphone manufacturers (including Apple and Samsung). We prefer the Jump On Demand early upgrade program, which for $10/month also includes handset protection if your smartphone is lost or damaged.
Verizon Plan: Unlimited Talk and Text with 3 GB of Data
Verizon just simplified all its plans by introducing the Verizon Plan.But this simplification came at a cost.
So, while you appear to save a little but compared to AT&T and T-Mobile, this is because Verizon does not offer a 5 GB data plan option.You only get 3 GB of data (which are options for AT&T and T-Mobile, by the way).
And you do not even get an early upgrade option for that cost.
Still, some people will accept no compromise to the Verizon network.
Read Provider Reviews. If you are not ready to jump in and buy a new phone today, we recommend checking out individual reviews for the wireless plans you think will serve you best.You can find those reviews by clicking here.
Find Current Sales and Promotions. Alternative, you can check out our promotions page to see if there are any limited time offers you may be interested in.Find those hot deals here.
Tips to Save Money
Overall, we found that smartphone ownership costs seem to be declining, while users have better plans options.
We call that a win.
But there still are a couple ways to save even more money on your wireless service.Here are just a few:
Buy a plan with less data (and stick to that lower cap).
Don’t pay for an early upgrade plan, and then try to upgrade every 3 years or so.
Don’t overpay for a network.If your reception works well in your house and your neighborhood, that is what matters.And Sprint and T-Mobile are spending a ton of money right now to upgrade their network speeds and reliability.
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