Owning an iPhone is a great thing, but the plans sure aren’t. Favoring the carriers more than the consumer, up until now, if you wanted to use an iPhone in the United States, you had to sign yourself up to have your bank account drained for nearly $100 a month for the next twenty-four months.
Last week’s announcement that Cricket Wireless was entering the iPhone game radically changes the carrier landscape in the United States, at least as far as we customers are concerned. The prepaid carrier isn’t some regional oddjob: they service $7 million customers in all fifty states. For $55 a month, you get unlimited voice, unlimited data, unlimited texts… and no contract. The only rub? You have to lay out $500 for the iPhone up front.
It’s worth it. I decided to sit down with my calculator and figure out how much users can save if they get their next iPhone through Cricket instead of one of AT&T, Verizon or Sprint. The answer? A LOT. Here’s the data.
|Minutes||$39.99 (450)||$39.99 (450)||$69.99 (Unlimited)||$55.00 (Unlimited)|
|Data||$30 (3GB)||$30 (2GB)||$10 (Unlimited)||$0 (Unlimited)|
|iPhone 4S (16GB)||$199.99||$199.99||$199.99||$499.99|
A couple of notes of explanation. In the above chart, we decided to not nickel-and-dime the big carriers. You can get cheaper plans with Verizon and at AT&T, but these are outlier cases when it comes to usability. We decided that 450 minutes, unlimited texting and at least 2GB of data was the bare minimum service most people expect when it comes to their carrier.
Either way, it’s clear that the Cricket deal is a big one. The bare minimum most people will save if they go with Cricket for their next iPhone is $520 over the course of the contract. That’s more than the cost of buying the unsubsidized iPhone (in fact, according to the above data, you’ll make back what you originally spent on the unsubsidized iPhone by the end of the first year).
Cricket’s not going to be a perfect fit for everyone. Most prepaid carriers have slower 3G speeds and smaller service areas, so there will be the occasional annoyance. However, these numbers speak for themselves: Cricket is a serious challenger to buying your next iPhone from the Big Three. If you’re willing to sacrifice a few kb/s on 3G speeds to not be locked down on a contract, and if you can afford $500 up front, Cricket’s a no-brainer.