iPhone 6s payment plans: the best way to finance your new iPhone

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iPhone 6s
Where should you buy that fancy new iPhone 6s or 6s Plus from? We've got the skinny.
Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

There’s never been a more confusing time to buy an iPhone.

If you’re looking for the best deal on a new iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus, you have tons of options. From Apple to AT&T, Verizon to T-Mobile, carriers and retailers have expanded their options for buying a new iPhone. That, plus an upheaval in traditional cellphone pricing and plans led by T-Mobile, has us all rather confused.

Where can you find a comparison of all the major US options? Right here, of course. We spent the time with our spreadsheets and the websites of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Apple, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, Boost Mobile, and (yes) Consumer Cellular to help you cut through the confusion and find the best iPhone purchase plan for you.

This is a comparison of buying your iPhone 6s, not the coverage or monthly cost of phone calls, text or data on any specific carriers, though that will factor in to your choice, of course.

Is there a clear winner when buying an iPhone 6s or 6s Plus? While AT&T and Verizon will give you $300-$400 back in credit for switching to them and turning in your old smartphone and Apple adds the fantastic Apple Care+, you’re not getting any real discounts on the hardware itself. An iPhone costs what an iPhone costs, and most places are simply spreading the full price across a given number of months.

What’s the best value for your money, then?

If you always want the latest Apple device, and don’t mind trading in after a year, Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Plan is the best choice, as it allows you to essentially lease the latest iPhone year after year.

If you tend to break or damage your phone, you should also go for Apple’s plan, which includes Apple Care+, Apple’s pretty good extended warranty program. It includes two incidents of accidental damage, for a fee of course.

If you have an old smartphone to trade in, you can get up to $300 back from Verizon or AT&T, but it will be in the form of a gift card for future services, not a reduction in the price of your new iPhone. Verizon will take $100 off your bill if you are switching to them.

If you want to lower your monthly cost, Sprint will give you a monthly discount that varies with the specific model iPhone you want to buy. You can also save you up to $100 across the full two year agreement.

T-Mobile has a crazy deal, letting you turn in your old iPhone 6 and get a new 16GB 6s for as little as $5 a month (or $9 per month for a 16GB iPhone 6 Plus) if you go with their Jump! On Demand plan for 18 months. Clearly, if you want to use T-Mobile and can get their coverage where you live, this seems like a great deal (at least for the hardware).

Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless both will sell you an iPhone at the same price as Apple, but they want you to pay it all up front. Boost takes $100 off the top of all the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models for using its service, though, making it the better overall deal between these two.

Here’s the cost breakdown for the rest of the carriers.

Note: if you’re reading on your iPhone, be sure to rotate it to landscape to see the full chart info.

AT&T

This big cellular provider will let you break the cost of your iPhone 6s into 12, 18, or 24 payments, and offers a down payment plan to help bring down the monthly cost. You can still get a 2-year contract from them with a more traditional up-front cost, too, for not too much more in total than one of the new Next plans, which can seem somewhat misleading. The Next 24 plan is actually a 30 month agreement, Next 18 is a 24 month agreement, and Next 12 is for 20 months. You can turn your phone in after 24, 18, or 12 months and start a new Next plan at that point, or keep it and continue paying the monthly amounts for the full agreement term.

Next 24

 Next 18

Next 12

30% down payment

+ (28 months)

2 year contract

iPhone 6s 16G

$21.67

$27.09

$32.50

$195/16.25

$199

iPhone 6s 64G

$25

$31.25

$37.50

$225/18.75

$299

iPhone 6s 128G

$28.34

$35.42

$42.50

$255/21.25

$399

iPhone 6s Plus 16G

$25

$31.25

$37.50

$225/18.75

$299

iPhone 6s Plus 64G

$28.34

$35.42

$42.50

$255/21.25

$399

iPhone 6s Plus 128G

$31.67

$39.59

$47.50

$285/23.75

$499

Verizon

These guys have the least confusing plans for buying a new iPhone, and their trade-in program is pretty sweet. There’s not too much to complain about here, and the price is basically the same as the AT&T plan above. The trade-in program is generous, if you don’t mind getting money back in a gift card. There’s no tricky stuff here – you pay for the phone across 24 months, buying it outright. You’ll own the phone when you’re finished.

24 months

Full Price

iPhone 6s 16G

$27.08

$649

iPhone 6s 64G

$31.24

$749

iPhone 6s 128G

$35.40

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 16G

$31.24

$749

iPhone 6s Plus 64G

$35.40

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 128G

$39.58

$949

Sprint

Sprint has some interesting (if confusing) options, though, like a leasing plan that lets you turn in your iPhone 6s after 21 or 22 months in return for a lower monthly cost. If you don’t mind not owning your iPhone outright after a couple of years, this might be a good way to stay up to date with the latest Apple devices. Sprint also offers a 24 month lease, a more standard 24 month financing plan (similar to AT&T and Verizon’s) and the more traditional 2 year contract, as well. If your monthly cost is more important to you than getting to keep the phone at the end of your agreement, then Sprint’s leasing options are worth considering.

21 months lease,

no trade-in

22 months lease,

with trade-in

24 month

lease

24 month, 

no lease

2 year contract

iPhone 6s 16G

$22

$15

$20

$27.09

$199

iPhone 6s 64G

$26.77

$19.77

$25

$31.25

$299

iPhone 6s 128G

$31.53

$24.53

$30

$35.42

$399

iPhone 6s Plus 16G

$26

$19

$25

$31.25

$299

iPhone 6s Plus 64G

$30.77

$23.77

$30

$35.42

$399

iPhone 6s Plus 128G

$35.53

$28.53

$35

$39.59

$499

T-Mobile

The “un-carrier” has your new iPhone at the same monthly price no matter what size or gigabyte option. The way T-Mobile does it, they’ll take a down payment for anything over a 16GB model, and charge you the same monthly price from there. That way, if you have the extra money right now, you can save on your monthly bill, basically paying the same monthly fee as a 16G iPhone 6s or 6s Plus no matter how much storage you opted for. It’s not any cheaper than the other carrier plans, but it’s a novel (and less confusing) way to do it. Their trade-in plan is probably the best of all options, though, so be sure to check it out.

24 months

Down Payment

Full Price

iPhone 6s 16G

$27.08

$0

$649

iPhone 6s 64G

$27.08

$99.99

$749

iPhone 6s 128G

$27.08

$199.99

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 16G

$31.25

$0

$749

iPhone 6s Plus 64G

$31.25

$99.99

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 128G

$31.25

$199.99

$949

Apple

Apple’s got a great deal for you, too, and while the iPhone Upgrade Plan seems a bit more expensive than buying through a carrier like the ones above, you’ll get Apple Care+ (a $129 value), which is a great way to protect your iPhone 6s from accidental damage as well as extending your warranty for another two years. You’ll get an additional two years of regular warranty coverage and up to two accidental damage incidents, which will run you $99 each (which is much cheaper than a new iPhone 6s, for sure). If you just want a new iPhone for yourself, and tend to break them, this is a fantastic way to get your iPhone 6s or 6s Plus.

24 months

+Apple Care

Full Price

iPhone 6s 16G

$32.45

$649

iPhone 6s 64G

$37.45

$749

iPhone 6s 128G

$42.45

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 16G

$37.45

$749

iPhone 6s Plus 64G

$42.45

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 128G

$47.45

$949

Consumer Cellular

These guys will give you a discount (about $5 per month) if you are an AARP member, so you know who their target demographic is. Still, it’s a nice, simple plan that will keep your monthly payments down for the 24 months they offer. They’ve got a similar system to T-Mobile, in that you pay the same amount each month but just pay more up front for larger, higher-capacity models.

Downpayment 24 months

Full Price

iPhone 6s 16G

$50

$25

$649

iPhone 6s 64G

$150

$25

$749

iPhone 6s 128G

$250

$25

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 16G

$150

$25

$749

iPhone 6s Plus 64G

$250

$25

$849

iPhone 6s Plus 128G

$350

$25

$949

Still confused? We hope not. While the ins and outs of data plans are your next steps, we hope that this little trip has helped you figure out which is the best way to actually purchase your specific iPhone 6s or 6s Plus.

Deals of the Day

  • BoltmanLives

    Every transaction had to fit onto a little tiny iPhone screen. If the
    transaction details didn’t fit the screen, then it didn’t fit into
    Apple’s sense of who they wanted to sell to. Even Verizon store
    employees walk around with iPad-size screens, rather than little tiny
    4-inch iPhone screens.

    To get an iPhone using the Apple Upgrade Program, you have to haul
    your butt to an Apple Store. For us, that’s an hour and a half drive to
    Orlando.

    Worse, those little iPhones were constantly handed
    back and forth between employee and customer. To purchase something, you
    have to take into hand the little iPhone combined with credit card
    reader that the Apple Store employees carry and type in all of your
    personal identifying information, using Apple’s terrible native
    keyboard, and teeny-weeny keys.

    • Buck Virga-Hyatt

      You are a little off. With Apple’s plan Apple Care is included. So that 6s is $849, not $949. Also, Apple Care for the new phones isn’t $99, it’s $129.

      • BoltmanLives

        Not off look at the article ..top price with AC is $949

      • Oh Snap

        If you buy the phone from Apple, Apple Care is included. You get nothing when you buy from the cell companies

      • BoltmanLives

        But Apple is the place to buy it “for the experience” of waiting in roped lines and paying in front of everyone ..you dig! Its communal.

    • Jonathan R Wegner

      We have always bought our iPhones outright, so the Apple plan is great — if I’ve read it correctly, half-way through the 24 month period you essentially get a ‘free phone’ ie: two phones for the cost of one over two years. However, no carrier is handing out subsidized or free phones, its all paid for some way.

      Oh and, so how is it different if you fill out a paper or provide more easily captured verbal answers form in Verizon or AT&T compared to ‘typing on a tiny keyboard’?

      • BoltmanLives

        You in essence are paying for each phone AND warranty at full MSRP with a 24 payment plan + data charges…then you can opt to ‘upgrade” and exchange the old for a new phone paying for that new phone + warranty for 24 months until its paid for…. at some point you will pay the other year since neither phone will be fully paid off if you continue to “upgrade ” at paying 1/2 of it.

        So get FREE out of your mind and instead understand you are paying for the phone AND the warranty at full price over 24 payments. With option to “upgrade” at one year. BUT there is absolutely nothing free or discounted at all its all MSRP.

  • RyanTV

    I just buy mine off contract every year and sell the old one on eBay. Ends up costing me about $300-$400/ year depending on the luck of the eBay auction – Usually closer to the $300 mark. The trick is to just keep the phone in great shape so mine go in a case right out of the box and I keep all of the original accessories unused in the original box. Ends up costing me a lot less than the rental programs, i can upgrade whenever I want, and change carriers.

    • Seriously, I as well, and for the savy eBay seller this is always the best way to go. Don’t understand people wanting to pay more overall to lease something instead of own it? Guess it’s only if you can’t afford it up front.

      • pc jona

        not so savy if youre using ebay. the 10 percent they take is stupid. swappa is the way to go.

      • Meh, phones are going for way under value throught that service. A jailbroken (which always increases the phone value) iPhone 6 will yield me way more through eBay even with the their fee.

  • Could Sprint’s plans be a little more confusing? I have AT&T. I went with the Next 18 plan. It should be noted that AT&T only gives you the choice of a 2 year contract if you go to their stores. You can’t get it any other way.

  • Chais Freeman

    With verizon, you can upgrade in 12 months if you finance the 6s or 6s plus.

  • MetsandMegabytesMike

    Theres another option I used on my last two phones that isnt listed here…. get an Apple Financing credit card. I can finance the outright cost of my phone over a year with no interest. I actually spread out the cost of the subsidized phone previously, so it was 600something over 6 months. Now its a little higher, and I think I might be able to spread it out over 12 or 18 months. A few bucks a week that I set to autopay weekly, and I never think about it again.

  • Darla Mack

    Just want a bit of clarification as far as Verizon goes. I spoke to 3 different reps at 3 different corporate stores (was searching for the 6s plus which they currently don’t have). They all said that if I trade in my iPhone 6 towards the purchase of the new 6s Plus that trade in value CAN be applied to the purchase price of the new 6S plus AT time of purchase which would lower my monthly device cost. But here you are saying that Verizon isn’t doing that? I even asked for details as to how that works… and even with giving me a Verizon GC at time of trade in, that GC can be used when purchasing the new 6S Plus, lowering my monthly device cost. Is there better confirmation on this?