Low End Mac's Best Deals

Best Apple iPhone Prices

2012.09.26

Apple announced the iPhone 5 earlier this month, and it marks the first departure from the original 3.5" screen. The iPhone 5 has a widescreen 4" display and is the first iPhone to support high-speed LTE wireless networking - iPhone 5and 802.11n WiFi in the 5 GHz band. It's also hands down the most powerful iPhone ever with its dual-core Apple A6 processor. Unlike the iPhone 4, there are separate GSM and CDMA versions of the iPhone 5.

Prices (with a two-year contract) are $199 with 16 GB of memory, $299 with 32 GB, and $399 with 64 GB, an amount new with the 4S.

The iPhone 4S supports both GSM and CDMA networks, making it a true world phone that will be compatible with most carriers around the world. The 4S uses a dual-core A5 processor, which doubles computing power and vastly improves graphics performance over the iPhone 4. It supports 14.4 Mbps on 3G GSM networks. When inventory of the 32 and 64 GB models is depleted, only the 16 GB model will remain, at a very affordable $99.

Sprint carries the iPhone, and several smaller carriers have also started carrying it. Regional carriers include Alaska Communications (Alaska), Appalachian Wireless (based in Kentucky), Cellcom (Michigan and Wisconsin), GCI (Alaska, and GSM, so it can also sell the iPhone 3GS), and nTelos (national coverage).

We also have prepaid iPhone plans from Cricket and Virgin Mobile.

The iPhone 4 remains in the line as the entry-level model. It uses the single-core A4 processor and introduced the FaceTime camera and Retina Display. The iPhone 4 has 8 GB of memory and comes in separate CDMA and GSM versions.

iOS 4.3.x remains available for the iPhone 3G, and all newer models are compatible with iOS 6, although not all features are supported on the 3GS and 4.

Be sure you look at the whole picture, not just the cost of the iPhone. First, make sure you have coverage in your area - you don't want to order from a carrier that doesn't offer service where you live and/or work. Verizon has the broadest coverage, but there are areas one or more of these carriers doesn't have service.

Then look at the monthly cost of the calling, data, and texting combination you want. There's a $45/month difference between the most affordable Sprint and Verizon plans, but there are real differences between those plans as well.

If you want the fastest 3G network for your iPhone, that's currently AT&T, and AT&T is the only nationwide carrier with GSM service, which means you can talk on your iPhone while also using the data connection. You can't do that with Sprint, Verizon, or other CDMA carriers. 4G LTE coverage has been rolled out in most big city markets but is slower in reaching smaller communities, so if that's important to you, check coverage before you buy.

If you're a heavy Internet user, Sprint offers an unlimited data plan without going prepaid.

Ordering your iPhone through any of the links below helps Low End Mac.

Amazon.com has a wide selection of iPhone accessories.

Contract Plans

Prices are for the iPhone with a two-year service contract.

AT&T Wireless

Based on 2011 testing, AT&T has the fastest 3G network for iPhone users and claims to have the nation's largest 4G network. Only AT&T offers GSM service for simultaneous voice and data. Lowest cost plan offers 450 minute and 300 MB data for $59.99 (add $20 for unlimited messaging). Mobile Share allows you to have unlimited calling and texting with 1-20 GB of data; rates start at $130 for two phones and 1 GB of shared data.

nTelos

nTelos offers the lowest up-front costs on the iPhone, but this is offset by their fairly high rates. The least expensive plan with data is 600 minutes plus text and smartphone data for $79.99. The least costly unlimited talk and date plan for smartphones is $99.99 per month. At present, nTelos does not support 4G.

Sprint

Sprint offers unlimited data plans but has pretty limited 4G LTE coverage. Unlimited data prices start at $79.99 with 450 minutes. Lowest cost data plan offers 200 minutes plus data for $44.99 (add $5 for 300 messages per month, $10 for 1,000, $20 for unlimited). Sprint is offering to buy back your old mobile phone for up to $300 - see site for details.

Verizon Wireless

Largest 3G network and "more 4G LTE coverage than all other networks combined". Lowest cost plan offers 450 minutes and 2 GB data, $69.99 (add $10 for 1,000 messages, $20 for unlimited).

Prepaid iPhones

Cricket Wireless

Cricket's prepaid plan requires you to pay for your iPhone up front and charges $55 per month for unlimited voice, texts, and data (speeds are throttled after 2.3 GB). Because it sells its iPhones for $150 less than Virgin Mobile, it's the current best deal going for unlimited data. However, there is no 4G coverage at present.

Virgin Mobile USA

Virgin Mobile's prepaid plan requires you to pay for your iPhone up front and charges $55 per month for unlimited voice, texts, and 3G/4G data (speeds are throttled after 2.5 GB). 300 minutes with unlimited text and data is $35, 1200 minutes, $45. Virgin offers a $5 discount if you set up automatic payments from a credit card or PayPal. Overall, this can save you $500 to $800 over the first two years compared to Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. Virgin uses Sprint's network, so coverage is the same as Sprint, which means very little 4G coverage.

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