Prepaid and PostPaid, Voice and Data
Boost Mobile's launch of their first-ever smartphone, the BlackBerry Curve 8330, and its $60/month unlimited, prepaid voice & data plan, got me to thinking about the true cost of owning and maintaining various smartphones on the various US carriers. With the help of Billshrink's handy-dandy charts and infographics, I did a little research and came up with the following. Note that I stuck to national carriers - there are too many regional carriers out there for me to have included in this piece.
In general, what you'd expect is what you'll get: Sprint (and Boost) and T-Mobile are cheaper than AT&T and Verizon when it comes to talking, texting, and Web/Emailing from a smartphone. Now that's with respect to monthly voice and data fees, only - the price of buying your phone varies widely depending on which model you get, where you get it (carrier or third party store), what promotions are in effect when you buy your phone and so on. And, of course, network coverage and performance is a huge factor in many people's decision-making process - that's something I'm leaving out of this little research project, focusing instead on price and price alone.
The absolute cheapest way to run a smartphone on a US carrier is to pick up a super-cheap device on your own and run it on T-Mobile using their "Even More Plus" plans. Even More Plus plans are contract free and run $20/month cheaper than their "Even More" counterparts, but don't offer subsidized prices on new devices. So if you can bring your own smartphone to T-Mobile, an Even More Plus plan will net you the absolute best deal possible - low monthly rates and no contractual commitments.
If, on the other hand, you're in the market for a new device to go with your frugal plan, Sprint and T-Mobile offer the cheapest options depending on how many monthly voice minutes you need. Scratch that - Boost is the absolute cheapest, but your only option with them is paying $250 for a last-generation BlackBerry that costs somewhere between "nothing" and "very little" on the other carriers.
Here's a breakdown of single line monthly smartphone voice/data plan costs from cheapest to most expensive:
450 Minutes + Unlimited Messaging/Data
- T-Mobile Even More Plus: $59.99 (500 Minutes, No Contract, Bring Your Own Device)
- Sprint: $69.99 (Two-Year Contract)
- T-Mobile: $79.99 (Two-Year Contract)
- AT&T & Verizon: $89.99 (Two-Year Contract)
- T-Mobile Even More Plus: $69.99 (1,000 Minutes, No Contract, Bring Your Own Device)
- Sprint & T-Mobile: $89.99 (Two-Year Contract)
- AT&T & Verizon: $109.99 (Two-Year Contract)
- Boost Mobile: $60 (Requires $249.99 BlackBerry Curve 8330)
- T-Mobile Even More Plus: $69.99 (No Contract, Bring Your Own Device)
- Sprint & T-Mobile: $99.99 (Two-Year Contract)
- AT&T & Verizon: $119.99 (Two-Year Contract)
- Android fans can cross AT&T right off their shopping lists, at least for now, unless they're bringing their own devices. AT&T doesn't currently offer any Android phones.
- Want webOS in the US? You're limited to Sprint or Verizon at the present moment. Palm does not currently offer any GSM webOS phones through US carriers.
- T-Mobile's Even More Plus plans are super cheap, but you'll have to find a smartphone that supports T-Mo's AWS band if you want 3G data. Google's Nexus One and Nokia's N900 do, but most others don't, so you'll be limited to EDGE-only speeds.
- All sorts of other plans are available: Single line, family, and with various combinations of voice minutes, messaging bundles, and other options. Check out the carriers' websites for details.
- Prices listed above do not include activation and other fees or taxes.
To Sum It Up