Which carriers save you the most money when buying an iPhone 14? Not the Big 3

So you’re considering buying Apple’s latest smartphone, the iPhone 14. Like thousands of people, you’ll probably be drawn to buying the phone from your carrier, which has long been the best way to save money. But is this always the case?

by WalletHub cell phone savings calculator(Opens in a new window) lets you compare the initial cost of a new phone plus monthly charges, to see how much the next two years of your life will cost you. In the infographic below, he provides a full price breakdown for a 128GB iPhone 14 on each carrier, as well as all MVNOs that use the carriers’ networks.

These types of comparisons are not straightforward, as everyone has different needs, for example individual diets versus family diets. And some buy the handset with a payment plan, while others buy their phones in advance. Some people even buy their phones directly from Apple through an installment plan. WalletHub also breaks down these costs.

If you think you have to stick with the three major US carriers and only have one phone, the cheapest way is to use T-Mobile. The carrier installment plan with a new iPhone 14 purchase will cost $2,173 over two years, and that’s cheaper than buying the phone up front without a contract. You save an extra dollar if you buy the phone from Apple on its own installment plan (Apple’s iPhone Carrier Device Payment Program), which allows users to upgrade to a new iPhone every year and includes comprehensive AppleCare+ coverage.

But you can save over $659 more by buying your iPhone 14 outright and switching to a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), the type of carrier that doesn’t have its own network. In this case, the cheapest option is to go with Visible: for a no-contract option, the total cost, including phone, over two years is $1,513. It is by far the cheapest MVNO using these criteria – the second cheapest is Straight Talk at $1,817.

Visible is owned by Verizon and uses the Verizon Wireless tower network. Straight Talk uses towers from all three big carriers and is now also owned by Verizon. But you don’t always get 5G coverage with an MVNO. This is more reserved for customers of direct carriers.

Family plans are pretty much the same when it comes to major carriers, with T-Mobile offering the best prices when you get an iPhone 14 on installment. The price savings when you upgrade to a discounted family plan with MVNOs that have more than four lines are only a little better, less than $300 in savings per line over two years, but for that you have to opt for Cricket Wireless (an MVNO owned by AT&T). Again, this will only save you money if you buy the phone upfront, which isn’t always an option for people.

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Here is the complete infographic of WalletHub(Opens in a new window)which also shows that real savings come from using your old phones with the MVNOs listed above, depending on your individual (Visible) or family (Cricket) plan.

For more, read The Best Cheap Phone Plans for 2022 and Virtual Carriers Beat AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon on Customer Satisfaction.

PC Mag logo Hands-on with the Apple iPhone 14 Pro range
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