Procuring an iPhone often isn't about how much the phone initially costs, but how much you will have to shell out each month. Smartphone service plans start at $140-plus a month from AT&T Wireless, Sprint and Verizon Wireless when you combine data, voice and texting fees.
Starting June 22, this monthly cost will drop to $55 when pre-paid cellular carrier Cricket Wireless, whose splotchy broadband data network map covers southern California, Arizona and New Mexico, most of the northern Midwest, swaths of the eastern plains, Texas and the gulf coast around to Florida, and the mid-Atlantic states, starts selling the iPhone 4 and 4S.
For that $55 a month, which, since it's pre-paid, you have to cough up before you use the iPhone that month, you get unlimited voice, SMS and data - no data caps such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon now impose.
How good a deal is that? The so-called post-paid carriers charge $30-$80 a month just for limited iPhone data plans, plus limited voice, which can cost even more than the data plan, and texting.
What's the Cricket catch?
You have to pay pretty much full price for the iPhone.
A Cricket 16 GB iPhone 4S will run you $499.99 (actual retail price: $649.99) and an 8 GB iPhone 4 will cost $399.99 (actual retail price: $549.99).
By comparison, at the three major post-paid carriers, a 16 GB iPhone 4S is $199.99.
Now how much would you pay?
So which is a better deal? I've done a little math for you comparing Cricket's deal with the comparative top-level iPhone plans from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.
A similar two-year voice/data/text 16 GB iPhone 4S deal at Sprint, which suddenly has imposed a 12 GB/month data cap (that's sort of news since it's been flaunting its status as the lone carrier offering unlimited data) will run $180/month, which means a two-year total of $4,520.
At Verizon, you pay $170 a month for a limited 10 GB/month of data and unlimited voice and texting, which comes out to a two-year total of $4,280.
Cricket's $500 for the iPhone 4S plus two-years of service at $55/month: $1,820.
That's right, if you pay Cricket a bit more up front for the iPhone 4S, you'll save $1,760 or $73.33/month (AT&T), $2,700 or $112.50/month (Sprint) or $2,460 or $102.50/month (Verizon) over two years.
That's a good deal if you can come up with $400 or $500 now for the iPhone.
Of course, with Cricket you're not getting full nationwide coverage, so check the carrier's data coverage map (you can check Zip Code-specific) to make sure you can get data coverage where you need it.