Sprint Wants $1 a Month for a New 16GB iPhone 6S
Sifting through iPhone upgrade and ownership options can be crazy-making. Lease or own? Apple Care or no? 16GB or… OK, not 16GB. Sprint has at least introduced a number everyone can understand: one. As in, a new iPhone 6S for $1 per month.
Let’s start with the fine print, since nothing’s quite as good as it seems. In fairness, though, this deal comes close. First, that $1 is for a 16GB iPhone 6S. The 64GB and 128GB 6S still come cheap, though, at $5.77 and $10.53 per month, respectively. The iPhone 6S Plus, too, will set you back more, with 16GB/64GB/128GB configurations costing $5, $9.77, or $14.53 (again, respectively). You’ll also have to trade in an iPhone 6 to be eligible, though presumably you won’t have much use for it any more. Lastly, you’ll have to join Sprint (or be a current, upgrade-eligible customer), which has ranked last in multiple carrier rankings and tests, including recent studies from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports.
OK! That wasn’t so bad, right? The basics of the deal are still in place: You really will pay just $12 over the course of a year for an iPhone that costs, full price, $649. When the year is up, you’ll be able to trade it in for a new one.
That compares favorably to any other deal you’ll find. T-Mobile comes closest; its similarly upgrade-happy Jump! On Demand plan calls for $5 per month. Verizon and AT&T offer installment plans that set you back $27.08 and $32.50 per month, respectively.
You may have noticed that’s quite a gap, for which there are a few perfectly good reasons. First, T-Mobile and Sprint are far behind Verizon and AT&T in the subscription battle and see the iPhone as a prime opportunity to lure defectors over.
“They’re behind in the carrier race,” says Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen about Sprint. “iPhone sales have traditionally very good. It seems safe to say that the 6S version will be as well. If you place your bets on a device that has traditionally pulled in users fairly well, that’s a good way to improve your chances of adding customers.”
Beyond riding the iPhone’s coattails, T-Mobile and Sprint’s plans are also structured differently from Verizon and AT&T’s. Both require you to turn in an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, devices which retain their resale value remarkably well. That softens the blow. T-Mobile and Sprint are also offering you a lease; you never actually own your iPhone, you’re just borrowing it until the next one comes around. AT&T and Verizon have structured their deals as installment plans, where at the end you own the device and are free to keep it, sell it, use it as a coaster, whatever you choose.
Slightly complicating this issue is Apple’s new iPhone Upgrade Program, which lets you circumvent carriers altogether. Its installment plans start at $32 per month, and includes Apple Care insurance—and it, too, lets you upgrade your iPhone every year if you so choose.
The rent versus own debate comes down to personal preference, but Nguyen suggests most people should be fine with the former. “You have this device, and at the point where it is no longer or of less use to you, do you still want it? Do you want a stockpile of old, last-generation phones, or would you rather trade it in for something new?” Nguyen says. “I would argue a good number of people would prefer the latter.”
Sprint’s betting hard that’s the case. T-Mobile is, too. And as long as they both continue their race out from the same hole—and you’re willing to make a few potential service sacrifices—the ultimate winner is you.