Prepaid Contract Options for the iPhone

So, you want to become a follower of the Great Jobs, but you can’t afford to pay nearly $100 per month for the privilege? Fortunately, due to the increased competitiveness of the prepaid cell phone sector, cost is no longer an obstacle to owning an iPhone.

These plans often have other perks as well, such as unlimited offerings, for less than the postpaid carriers. If you are interested in an iPhone, but are contract-averse or unwilling to pay a large monthly rate, follow these steps to get an iPhone on a prepaid network:

Buy the Phone

The only true advantage of a post-paid long-term contract plan is the subsidy of the cost of the phone. A brand new iPhone 5 will set you back $200 for the base model on a two-year contract. Without a contract, the same phone runs about $650 from Apple. Pricing directly from prepaid companies had not yet been announced, though Cricket (which has announced the iPhone 5) sold Apple’s iPhone 4s for $500 and Virgin Mobile (which has not) sold the device for $650.

Of course, if you don’t need the latest and greatest, older models, whether new or used, are significantly cheaper on eBay and Craigslist. Beware of stolen or “blacklisted” phones. If in doubt, call the phone’s carrier (such as Verizon) to ensure that the serial number is clear.

Buy the Service

If you’ve purchased the iPhone 5, your service options are a bit limited. The only prepaid carrier to officially support the phone, so far, is Cricket. It has a $55 unlimited everything plan. However, the newest iPhone is still compatible with other carriers at slower data speeds. Though the iPhone 5 is capable of LTE speeds (the fastest standard in use), most prepaid carriers are limited to HPSA+ (slightly slower), 3G (much slower), or EDGE (pitiful).

If you’re okay with last week’s phone, the iPhone 4S is still a fabulous device and your options are numerous for service. Virgin Mobile supports its own version of the device. Service is as little as $35 per month for 300 minutes and unlimited 3G data. Virgin Mobile runs the iPhone on Sprint’s network.

Another possibility is Straight Talk. It offers service for your iPhone at HSPA+ speeds, and unlimited talk/text/web, for only $45 per month. The network is rented space on the same network as AT&T, meaning you get the same coverage as the postpaid folks, for less money. Because this plan requires changing settings, it’s a bit more complicated than most other companies. Technophobes beware!

If you want the iPhone experience, but don’t want the high monthly cost or long contract, you might consider a prepaid plan. The available plans typically provide a lot more (often unlimited) service for about half of the cost of a postpaid plan. However, be prepared to shell out more for the device upfront. Then again, iPhones hold their value better than any other smartphone.

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Prepaid Contract Options for the iPhone