iPhone SE Buying Guide: Which Carrier Offers the Most Affordable Plans — AT&T vs. Verizon vs. Sprint vs. T-Mobile?

BY Kelly Hodgkins

Published 5 Apr 2016

AT&T Verizon T-Mobile

Buying a new iPhone is filled with decisions — which color phone do I get, which capacity best meets my needs and so on. Once you have the phone part nailed down, you still have to spend some considering the carrier. Coverage is one consideration, so is cost. Which carrier –Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint — offers the best rates? Read on to find out the best option for the iPhone SE.

Cellular Plans 101

If you haven’t purchased a new phone in the past several years, you may be surprised by all the changes in the wireless industry. With the proliferation of smartphones, carriers now base their wireless services around data, offering unlimited calling and text with all plans. Plans also share data between devices, allowing customers to pick their data allotment first and then add on devices that can share that data. These new plans make it easy for subscribers to have a single account with multiple phones, tablets and other connected devices. As a result, monthly charges include two parts — the data allotment that is shared among devices and the mobile access charge for each device.

Another new wrinkle is the monthly payment plan for a phone. Instead of subsidizing a phone and requiring a contract, carriers now allow you purchase a phone pay for it over the course of two years. You don’t have a contract and are free to change or cancel your wireless service. The phone is now separate from the wireless plan so you will have to pay off the remaining balance of the phone if,you cancel your plan.


Verizon has the best coverage coast to coast, but that mobile reach comes with a cost. Hands down, Verizon is the most expensive carrier when it comes to its plans. Why do people continue to subscribe to Verizon even though they are more expensive?,,It all comes down to convenience. People don’t mind paying for the peace of mind that comes with almost always having a cell signal.


Verizon’s wireless service plans are available in four basic tiers starting with a “small” 1GB plan for $30 a month, followed by a “medium” 3GB/$45 plan, a “large” 6GB/$60 plan, an “extra large” 12GB/$80 plan and, lastly, an “extra extra large” 18GB/$100 plan. Customers can add as many devices as they want to the lines, paying $20 for a phone, $10 for tablet or hotspot device and $5 for a connected device. For a limited time, Verizon also is offering a 20GB/$80 plan which includes four phone lines ($20 per line).

Check Verizon’s website for a breakdown of the plans and their monthly charges.


AT&T is mid-range in price with its,Mobile Share plans that are more affordable than Verizon, but pricier that the very competitive T-Mobile. AT&T offers all its customers their Mobile Share plans, which provide Unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and rollover data that allows you carry over unused data into the next month. Plans start at 300MB for $20 per month and climb to 50GB for $375. You can see the breakdown of plans in the table below.


AT&T also charges a monthly access fee that varies based on the type of device on the line and the plan to which you subscribe. All phones add $25 per month to your bill if you subscribe to 5GB plan or less while those on a 15GB plan or more will enjoy a savings benefit with each phone costing $15 per month. Other devices that can connect to your plan includes tablets and connected devices for $10/month and laptops or hotspots for $20 per month.

Check AT&T’s website for more details.


Sprint may not have the network coverage of its competitors, but its plans are affordable, and the carrier bends over backward to get customers to switch from their current provider and join the Sprint family.


Sprint’s regular plans are affordable, offering unlimited 2G data, unlimited talk and unlimited text on the Sprint network with a starting plan of 1GB for $20 a month. Wireless service options continue in increments until the 40GB plan which costs $100 per month. Other intermediary plans include a 3GB/$30 plan, a 6GB/$45 plan, a 12GB/$60 plan,,and lastly a,24GB/$80 plan.

Unlike other carriers, Sprit still offered a two-year contract option along with full retail and installment plan purchases. Each smartphone on the above plans costs an additional $45 per month when purchased on a two-year contract though that price can be lowered to $20 per month when you sign up for an installment plan and buy your phone at full retail. Tablets and connected devices cost $10 per month per device.

You can visit Sprint’s website for a breakdown of the plans and their monthly charges.


Like Sprint, T-Mobile is among the most affordable carriers in the US with unlimited 4G data for $95 per month. The Simple Choice plans,allow you to rollover unused data and provides mobile hotspot tethering with plans starting at 2GB for $50 per month for the first phone.


If you need additional data, you can grab 8GB for $65 monthly, 12GB for $80 per month and even splurge for an unlimited plan, which costs $95 per month. T-Mobile allows you to add on phones with the second phone costing $30 per month and tablets $10 per month. Each secondary line gets 2GB of free data, with additional data available for a fee.

Visit T-Mobile’s website for a breakdown of the plans and their monthly charges.

Phone installment plan price comparison

Buying a phone is much different now that carriers are offering installment plans in addition to the monthly wireless service. Above we presented the monthly services prices for each carrier. Below is a breakdown of iPhone installment prices for the four major carriers using an 16GB iPhone SE,as a reference.

Monthly Pricing Terms (Months) Upgrade (Months) Extended Warranty Total Cost Yearly Cost
Apple – iPhone Upgrade Program Not Available n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
T-Mobile $16.67 24 24 No $400.08 $200.04
Sprint Easy Pay $16.67 24 24 No $400.08 $200.04
AT&T Next – down payment $10.00 with $120 down 28 12 No  400.00  200.00
AT&T Next $20.00
No $400.00 $240
Verizon Plan $16.66 24 24 No $399.84 $199.92

Unlimited Plans

Most of the major wireless carriers also offer unlimited data plans for those who need more than the normal allotment. These plans are usually come with limitations, for example, they usually only allow one line or require you to sign up for the carriers other services.

Unlimited Plan Monthly Cost Terms
T-Mobile Yes $50 for single line Offers unlimited LTE smartphone data. Can add up to 3 lines for $50 monthly for each. The fourth line is free.
Sprint Yes $30 Single line of service. Unlimited high-speed data, talk and text while on the Sprint network. Mobile Hotspot with 3GB of high-speed data per month. Unlimited 2G data and texting in select countries.
AT&T Yes $60 +$40 per device $60 for a single line of service and a device fee of $40 for each smartphone or tablet added to the plan. Fourth line is free. Only available to DirecTV and U-Verse customers.
Verizon No n/a n/a

What are you going to do

If you are purchasing an iPhone SE, have you decided which carrier is going to get your business? Did the final cost play the most important role? Let us know your decision and why in the comments.