Most carriers offer the bring-your-own phone option, but all phones don’t work with every network. If that’s the case for your preferred new carrier, you’ll need to consider the cost of buying a new handset using the variety of purchase options available.
To properly compare carrier costs, determine how much voice, text, and data you use each month and then shop around among your preferred carriers for the plan that meets your needs. Then multiply the monthly service charges and applicable smart-phone installment payments by 24 months. Don't forget to add in any up-front phone payments and activation or other start-up fees. Use your chosen carriers’ online shopping carts to precisely calculate the monthly costs of each.
The tables below show the comparative two-year cost of service plus iPhone(s) for our model consumers, taxes not included. Where cells are blank, the carrier either doesn't offer that handset purchase option at all or doesn't offer it for the specific iPhone 5/5c model we constructed. Some carriers, like Verizon and U.S. Cellular, offer a bring your own phone option, but the phone has to be from the same carrier, which doesn't fit our premise of customers seeking better value at a different carrier than the one they're currently with.
Carriers are ranked from top to bottom according to their Consumer Reports overall satisfaction rating, with the best ones at the top. The lowest-priced deals within $100 of each other are shown in bold type. Since the best values, provide a winning combination of high satisfaction and low price, look for the bold-type prices appearing in the top half of each chart.
Note that this comparison snapshot was conducted in late June to early July, 2014 and is intended to illustrate and spotlight the value differences between brands and methods of paying for the phone. Since prices can change suddenly, your actual cost may differ from the two-year costs shown here when you shop; your own particular usage patterns and service needs can also affect your total cost.