Arguably the biggest news out of Apple’s exhaustive press conference this morning wasn’t the iPad with a stylus or even the new Apple TV — It was the iPhone 6S pricing. For the first time in history, Apple’s new flagship phones, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, won’t be subsidized by all four major U.S. carriers.
Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have largely moved away from the on-contract discounts of yore to full MSRP pricing. Some have killed discounts and contracts all together. That fact isn’t without its benefits — like cheaper plan pricing — but will undoubtedly lead to sticker shock. That scary $650-and-up off-contract iPhone price is now pretty much standard.
Gone may be the days of getting Apple’s latest on the relative cheap, but there are other ways to nab a shiny new rose gold iPhone 6S for less than an arm and a leg. Not all carriers have eliminated subsidies entirely, and those that have now offer leasing and monthly installment plans. Even Apple’s jumping aboard the device payment trend: It’s launching an iPhone upgrade plan of its own later this year. But while the ways to acquire a new iPhone may be plentiful, they’re far from easy to navigate.
While a definitive list of every iPhone upgrade avenue is difficult if not impossible to compile, we’ve tried to aggregated the promotions you’re most likely to see online and at your carrier’s brick-and-mortar store. We’ll continue to update the list of plans and special discounts as they’re announced.
Here’s Apple’s suggested pricing for the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and the pricing that carriers which haven’t eliminated subsidies will adhere to:
iPhone 6s 16GB: $200 on contract, $650 full retail
iPhone 6s 64GB: $300 on contract, $750 full retail
iPhone 6s 128GB: $400 on contract, $850 full retail
iPhone 6s Plus 16GB: $300 on contract, $750 full retail
iPhone 6s Plus 64GB: $400 on contract, $850 full retail
iPhone 6s Plus 128GB: $500 on contract, $950 full retail
In addition, Apple’s offering something entirely new: a monthly rental plan. For $32 per month, you can lease the latest iPhone directly from Apple, return it after a year, and get AppleCare+ warranty coverage for the duration of your enrollment. It may not be the cheapest option, but unlike a leasing offered through a carrier, you aren’t tied down to a service plan for the duration of the plan.
Verizon may have done away with upgrade subsidies for new subscribers earlier this year, but it’s still offering discounts on smartphones to current customers. Assuming that policy continues unchanged, the carrier will follow Apple’s on-contract pricing (see above) when the iPhone 6S goes on sale later this year.
Don’t fret if you’re looking to move to Big Red cheaply, though. The new iPhone will all-but-certainly be available through Verizon’s monthly device payment program, Edge, and Apple says it’ll cost about $27 per month (or $31 per month for the iPhone 6S Plus).
AT&T is still offering subsidized smartphone pricing for new customers, so most people shouldn’t have to pay more than $200 for the base, 16GB model.
Existing subscribers have the option of paying full price or singing up for AT&T’s Next plan, the cheapest of which — the 30-month, Next 24 plan — starts at $27.54 per month. Next 18 (24 months) and Next 12 (20 months) cost $34.42 per month and $41.30 per month, respectively.
Pre-orders for the iPhone 6S go live on AT&T’s website this Saturday, September 12, at 12:01 a.m. PST. Alternatively, AT&T will begin offering all models in stores on September 25.
T-Mobile’s a bit of a trailblazer in the no-contract arena — it did away with subsidies in 2013. Appropriately, it offers a wide range of device payment choices.
New and current customers can buy the iPhone 6S outright, of course, but also have the option of renting it or buying it over the course of several months. T-Mobile’s Jump! payment plan runs anywhere between $27 to $32 per month (24 months) for high-end phones, but if you don’t mind renting instead of owning the new iPhone, you can save a few pennies and pay a straight $27 per month instead.
Sprint, like AT&T, offers subsidized pricing, but also has the distinction of carrying the cheapest device leasing plan — iPhone Forever. You’ll presumably be able to rent an iPhone 6S through the program for $22 per month.
General iPhone 6S and 6S Plus pre-orders start on September 12 at midnight PST and sales come a bit later in the month, on September 25.
If any of those options are too rich for your blood, though, you can now get older iPhones for a smidge less. The iPhone 6 Plus now starts at $200 on contract (or $650 outright), a $100 reduction; the iPhone 6 is now $100 ($550); and the iPhone 5S is free ($450).
The monthly options are now cheaper, too. On 24-month payment plans, you can now get the iPhone 6 Plus for $27 per month, the iPhone 6 for $23 per month, and the iPhone 5S for $19 per month.