Virgin Mobile's $30-a-month iPhone plan is the cheapest in the U.S.… (Virgin Mobile )
When it comes to the many different networks that carry the iPhone and the myriad plans they offer it with in the U.S., Virgin Mobile's $30 a month plan is the cheapest over the course of two years.
That plan will become available to Virgin Mobile's customers June 29 when it begins offering the iPhone. It includes 300 voice minutes, unlimited messaging and a data plan that allows 2.5 GBs of usage before it begins throttling speeds.
The plan's certainly not a good fit for heavy talkers, but if you do most of your communication over text messages and you surf the Web on your phone as much as the next guy, then it might work for you. -- that is if you don't mind paying $649.99 for a 16 GB iPhone 4S.
But even with the steep down payment, Eric Zeman at InformationWeek has found that the $30 plan will be the cheapest available iPhone plan when it arrives on June 29.
When crunching these numbers, Zeman made his calculations based off the cheapest possible plans at each of the networks that support Apple's phone and threw in the cost of getting a 16 GB iPhone 4S -- the cheapest version of Apple's latest iPhone -- from each of them.
Virgin Mobile's $30 plan comes in first place with a total cost of $1,369. This accounts for the $649.99 phone, and the $30 plan over 24 months, which comes out to $720. To get the $30 price, customers of the prepaid plan have to sign up for automatic payments.
In second place is AT&T, which offers the iPhone with a $39.99 voice plan for 450 minutes. After that, you have to add another $20 for a 300 MB plan. You can also choose not to pay for a messaging plan, and your total is $59.99, which over two years is $1,439.76. Add the $199.99 iPhone and your total cost is $1,639.75.
The AT&T plan is the cheapest among the major carriers, but it's not effective. Apps like iMessage and Google Voice let you get around paying for texts, but not if you only have 300 MB of data. With that limit, you hardly have space to surf the Web, let alone send messages.
You can get around not having a messaging plan with apps like Google Voice and Apple's own iMessage, but you get such little data that you'd constantly being going past your limit. And again, if you're a talker, 450 minutes won't do you good.
Next up is Cricket, which comes in with a plan worth a total of $1,819. That's $499 for the phone and another $1,320 for two years of the network's $55 plan. That plan includes everything unlimited, although data do become throttled after 2.3 GBs. For that much, this is a great plan if you're a heavy Web surfer and/or talker.
And in last place is both Verizon Wireless and Sprint, which tied at $1,879.
Verizon's cheapest plan costs $39.99 for 450 voice minutes and another $30 for a 2 GB data plan -- and again, you can choose not to have a text message plan. That amounts to $1,679.76 and then you add in the $199.99 phone.
This plan is costly, but you can definitely get around paying for texts and just rely on your data. The upside of Verizon, of course, is the quality of its network, so you may only have 450 minutes to talk, but you probably won't have to worry about dropped calls.
On the other hand, Sprint's plan gives you unlimited everything for $69.99, which again comes out to $1,679.76, and the phone also costs $199.99. If you like to talk, message and surf, like I do, this is a good plan, but remember, Sprint's network is not as vast as that of the other major carriers.
So there you have it, Virgin Mobile offers the cheapest total deal over two years, but don't let me limit you. If you get creative and look for deals by retailers or refurbished iPhones, you can probably get an even better deal too.
Virgin Mobile to begin selling iPhone June 29
Cricket launching $55 monthly prepaid iPhone in June
Virgin Mobile plans to follow Cricket, will offer pre-paid iPhone
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