By Sam Costello. iPhone/iPod Expert
Sam Costello has been writing about technology since 2000. He has published articles with CNN.com, PC World, InfoWorld, and Computerworld, among others. For those magazines and websites, he covered digital copyright, the rise and fall of Napster, mobile devices, and computer and network security. He has written about PDAs, monitors, and printers for Samsung's consumer websites.
Author of My iPad for Kids (2012), published by Que Publishing.
Let's start with the basics: the cost of the iPhone. In the most recent versions – the iPhone 5S and 5C – Apple sells three models, 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB. The 16GB iPhone 5C is priced at US$99 with a two-year AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon contract (these figures are all U.S.-specific. Different countries have other carriers and other costs), the 32GB model costs $199 with the same contract. Due to its higher-end components, the 5S costs more: $199 for the 16GB model, $299 for 32GB, and $399 for the 64 GB model.
If you're switching to a new cellphone company to get the iPhone, you'll get the $199/$299/$399 price. Make sure you don't have to pay your old cell provider an early termination fee (ETF) for leaving before your contract is over, though, since those can run up to $350.
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AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon Customers without iPhones
If you already use AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon, but don't yet have an iPhone, you've got some options. First, check to see if you're eligible for an upgrade. If you are, you'll get your iPhone at the prices listed above. If you're not upgrade eligible, you've got a choice: either wait until you are, switch to a new carrier (though, remember, this may include termination fees), or pay the early upgrade price (usually about $200 more than the discounted price).
If you want to buy the iPhone without being tied to the two-year contract--which will allow you to pay for your service month to month and switch to other compatible carriers whenever you want--the phone can be yours for anywhere from $649 to $849, depending on the model you want.
These prices are so much higher than the others because they're not subsidized. Phone companies pay Apple the difference between the actual price of the phone (which is the contract-free price) and what they charge new customers as a
way to attract new business. But, if you're not going to sign a two-year contract with them, they aren't going to subsidize your phone. So, contract free means freedom from contracts, but it means a more expensive phone, too.
Regional and Pre-Paid Carriers
You can pay a little less for the iPhone--about $50 in most cases--if you buy it through one of the smaller, regional carriers that offers the phone in some parts of the U.S.
Pre-paid carriers, on the other hand, don't require a contract and charge less per month for their service, but charge closer to the iPhone's full price--hundreds more than Apple's listed price.
Once you've purchased your phone, you have to factor in the cost of phone and Internet service provided by the phone company you sign up with.
IPhone plans can include monthly costs for data service, calling, texting, and other services. Expect to spend around $100/month with major carriers for the services that most people use.
With some carriers and plans, you have to factor in text messaging plans, which range from $5 to $20 for different numbers of messages. Text messaging is included in some plans, and iMessage offers free text messaging to and from all iOS devices.
With pre-paid carriers, plans are much cheaper, generally running closer to half the price offered by the major carriers, though data connections are often slower or have their fastest speeds limited based on how much you use. Expect to spend more like $50-$60 for calling, texting, and data with those companies.
Since the common AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon contract is two years, that's what I'll base the calculations on.
- At the cheapest. a two-year iPhone contract costs $1,539.00 from AT&T. This offers unlimited calling and texts, but just 300MB of data.
- At its most expensive. an iPhone service costs $19,359.00 from Verizon. This is likely to be purchased too often, though, since it included 100GB of monthly data in addition to unlimited calls and texts.
This calculation doesn't include add-ons that carry service fees such as insurance .
How Much Does an iPhone Cost?
Here's the breakdown of the total iPhone price over a new or upgrade-eligible two-year AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon contract (not including overages, tax, or additional charges).