You’ve likely seen the Sprint commercial that shows phones from the four most prominent smartphone carriers—Sprint, Verizon, At&T and T-Mobile—racing up a chart, almost as if they are those mascots that race at sporting events, in order to display the differences in their data plans. And while it’s been around since about late July, this commercial might not have struck a chord with you until the October 4 announcement that Sprint would for the first time be carrying the iPhone. With the new iPhone 4S slated to hit stores tomorrow at 8 AM, many of you have a tough choice to make in terms of which network to get it on. So, how are you supposed to decide?
Obviously, people already under contract will stick with what they’ve got, but where you cell phone free agents end up depends on precisely how much texting, talking and e-mailing you plan to do. Each of the networks carrying the new iPhone—the aforementioned four, minus T-Mobile—offers plans at different price points, and figuring out your usage habits ahead of time is the best way to get the coverage you need without incurring extraneous costs. To help in this endeavor, we took a look at the best carriers for different types of smartphone consumers:
If you constantly use your phone to surf the Web, watch streaming video, listen to streaming music, upload pictures, set up a mobile hotspot etc., you have a choice to make between the fastest speed and the lowest cost. AT&T offers the fastest network at $84.99 per month, which includes a 4 GB data plan (with mobile hotspot) and 450 anytime minutes, but no texting. SMS messaging would run you an additional $.20 per text or $20/mo. for unlimited (bringing your total to $104.99/mo.) and every GB above 4 would cost an additional $10/mo. Sprint, on the other hand, offers a plan with unlimited data and texting as well as 450 anytime minutes for only $79.99 a month.
Our Choice: Sprint
Do you love to talk? Well, if making phone calls is your top priority and you don’t care too much about texting, downloading or perusing the Internet, AT&T and Verizon both offer unlimited anytime minutes for $69.99 per month (not including data and texting, which you can purchase on a per-use basis). You aren’t going to get an iPhone without a data plan though, and the minimum cost of such a plan is $15 with AT&T and $30 with Verizon, which brings the total monthly cost for these networks to $84.99 and $99.99, respectively.
You can only get unlimited anytime minutes from Sprint with the Simply Everything Plan, which also includes unlimited data and texting and costs $109.99 per month. Sprint also offers a Talk plan, which nets you 900 anytime minutes for $59.99, not including the required minimum data plan, which will bring your total to $84.99. Each additional minute on the aforementioned Sprint Talk plan costs an extra $0.40.
Our Choice: AT&T.
In contrast to the above group, it seems that the youngest smartphone users care less about actually hearing the voices of the people with whom they are conversing than they do texting, tweeting, streaming, facebooking, downloading, what have you. As a result, the network offering the cheapest combination of unlimited texting and large amounts of data is likely the one young people should gravitate toward. The minimum number of minutes you can get across all networks is 450. So with that in mind and with unlimited texting and at least 4GB of data, AT&T would cost $104.99/mo., Verizon – $109.99, and Sprint – $79.99.
Our Choice: Sprint, by far!
Jack of All Trades
If you want the ability to do a little bit of everything with your cell phone, from talking to texting to surfing the Web, you’ll want a good all-around plan. Sprint’s Everything Data plan offers unlimited data and texting as well as 450 anytime minutes for $79.99/mo. With Verizon, you can get 2 GB of data, 250 texts, and 450 anytime minutes each month for $74.99. Finally, with AT&T, you get unlimited texting, 2 GB of data and 450 anytime minutes for $84.99/mo.
Our Choice: Sprint (even though it’s $5 more than Verizon, you get much more)
Ultimately, Sprint seems to be the cheapest option for most types of consumers, but whether or not you get an iPhone on the Sprint network depends on how much you value speed and reliability. According to CNN, AT&T’s network has the potential to be 40% faster than its competitors. Also, Verizon has garnered the reputation as being the most reliable network, and from the looks of its prices, the company is charging a premium for that service. So what’s it going be: Sprint, AT&T or Verizon? Low cost, high speed, or reliability? The choice is now yours to make.