If you’re waiting for the smoke to clear and the full reviews to finally come in to pick up an iPhone 5 of your very own, you’re not alone. In fact, I’d recommend it hands down to buying any device the instant it becomes available. The question many potential iPhone 5 owners are (or should be) asking themselves is which carrier should they go with. Locking yourself into a contract is a big deal, and finding the right carrier is almost as important as finding the right phone.
In this article, we’ll take a quick look at the top US carriers currently offering the iPhone 5 to their customers in exchange for
their immortal soul a two-year contract.
AT&T is the flagship carrier for the iPhone in the US. It has gained that unofficial title because it was the original and only carrier for iOS devices for several years. It wasn’t until heavy customer demand mounted and the exclusivity contract with AT&T ended that the highly desired Apple phone became available on Verizon and Sprint. T-Mobile (another big GSM carrier in the US) doesn’t currently offer a subsidized iPhone 5, but you can use its service if you have an unlocked iPhone.
AT&T offers customers a number of exclusive features like the ability to surf the Web while being on the phone with someone. If multitasking like this is vital to you, then this may be the carrier of choice.
4G LTE on AT&T is very fast, at least for the time being. There’s no telling what will happen when more AT&T customers switch plans to the new technology, but it’s bound to happen sooner or later.
What you don’t get with AT&T is FaceTime without Wi-Fi (unless you sign up for a shared data plan). AT&T is also still relatively new to 4G LTE, so your coverage area might be a bit more restrictive.
On a personal note, I’m an AT&T customer and a former Verizon customer. I’ve had my issues with AT&T in the past, including the decision to restrict data usage considerably. I’m currently considering a switch to T-Mobile to take advantage of unlimited data and cheaper rates.
Sprint is one of very few carriers in the US still boasting unlimited data. This extra data will cost you, though. You’ll be paying $80 (plus taxes and fees) for voice, text, and unlimited data. On the bright side, you won’t face overage fees for using too much data.
You can also enjoy the benefit of using FaceTime without Wi-Fi. This is a handy feature for some folks, though not exactly a must-have.
The downside of Sprint is that its network hasn’t fully adopted 4G LTE just yet. The coverage map is extremely restrictive, and you’ll find yourself on 3G more than anything if you travel. You also can’t take advantage of simultaneous voice and data usage.
I’m not very fond of Verizon beyond its extensive coverage map and legendary voice service. You can get unlimited data, but it’ll cost you and there’s no promise that you’ll get to keep it for long. Verizon is actively pushing existing customers away from its unlimited plans in favor of an $80 2 GB plan (similar to AT&T).
You can’t talk and use data at the same time, though you can use FaceTime without Wi-Fi. Tethering is also easier to do on Verizon using basic plans.
Cricket is a big name in phone service here in Texas. It isn’t available in all areas of the US, but if you really want an iPhone and don’t have a lot of money for service, it’s one of your best bets. Cricket is a budget carrier. This means low prices, but it comes at a cost of spotty service and delayed improvements.
Cricket is a favorite among pre-paid phone advocates. It’s cheap and it works… most of the time. You’ll need to pay a bit more up front, though. Subsidies are only expected with a contract, so the cheapest iPhone 5 will run you about $500.
What about you? What is your carrier of choice? Why?