What to Know When Shopping for a Contracted iPhone

When you purchase a new iPhone you will have the choice to buy it up front in some form. This is usually done through Apple directly or a retailer such as BestBuy. However, if you want to get your phone with a working wireless plan, you will need to purchase a contracted iPhone through a wireless carrier. In the beginning, you could only do this through AT&T. However, today, there are a number of national companies that sell iPhones with their phone plans.

Shopping for a Contracted iPhone

Be Aware of Your Carrier’s Terms: GSM vs. CDMA

While cellular technology is advancing, there are bound to be a few hiccups along the way. One notable hiccup to consider before purchasing a contracted iPhone, specifically the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6S Plus is the whether or not the carrier uses a GSM or a CDMA network. In most cases, it won’t be a huge deal, especially if you are purchasing direct from the carrier that you plan to do business with. However, if you aren’t sure which carrier you want to go with, have a habit of changing carriers often or travel overseas (specifically Europe), then it can have a huge impact on what you choose. That being said, it is important to understand the difference in order to make an informed decision, and to make the most of your purchase.

With GSM, you can switch between networks easier. Note that two of the four national carriers are on one type and the other two are on another. This is where it gets tricky because your phone may not be able to access both types. GSM phones are usually those with SIM cards. With them you can take the card out and then place it in the new phone, thus bringing your phone to your new service with all of your old numbers or other information to your new phone. With CDMA phones are limited to certain networks, which is pre-determined by the carrier. This means that you could potentially purchase a phone but not be able to use it. This is because a phone that is linked to a CDMA network and not be able to use it with some carriers.

The newer iPhones are pretty flexible, but the older ones were not. In most cases, it is best to go with a GSM iPhone, and that is what most people prefer. In any case, make sure to check with your carrier before you purchase the phone to make sure that you will be activate it with the plan and service that you desire.

Understand Your Options

Not all carriers are created equal. We are not here to tell you which to choose, but we do think that it is important that you make an informed decision when you are thinking about buying an iPhone. If you already have a cell phone carrier try calling them before purchasing a private party or Apple direct and find out what restrictions that they have. Don’t forget to compare your options and calculate the overall total. With some carriers, upgrading to an iPhone will require you to lease the device. Doing this can in some cases mean that you are overpaying for the item because you end up in an endless upgrade loop, always paying far more that you would normally buy an iPhone for.

Know Your Popular National Carriers

Your heavy hitters for cellular service are AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless. What once was a daunting task that required locking into a long 2-year contract, has been simplified. Now, rather than contract, some of these sellers are offering a lower cost version of the basic iPhone model but tie that phone to the carrier. In order to stay competitive, each carrier offers its own option but you have to be willing to weigh out the pros and cons of each company and find a plan that will work best for your cellular needs and lifestyle.


With AT&T Wireless you will be able to avoid a contract if you want to. While you have the 2-year contract if you choose, they have loads of other options which You can by a new iPhone and pay for it on your own terms with variable down payment and installment options that range between 20 to 30-month payment options. Additionally, upgrades are available in as little as a year. They have multiple data plans and use GSM.


Sprint offers a popular and simple plan that includes an unlimited amount of data and use CDMA. With this plan you can also purchase your phone and use their service without being limited to a contract. However, if you choose a payment option where you put a certain amount of money down and pay for the rest of the phone over a period of time the phone will be locked and usable only with Sprint services.


With T-Mobile you get both budget plans and dynamic purchasing options when buying a new contracted iPhone. Each plan is relatively simple to understand and are able to stand alone so that you can compare each plan with ease. They are perhaps the quickest to allow new customers upgrading options as well. If you can’t afford the phone that you want today, why not purchase a lesser phone now and buy a new iPhone later? T-Mobile uses GSM.


Verizon is known for being very user friendly, with a straight forward plan options that are based on data usage and the kind of phone that you have. They use CDMA for their access and with an iPhone you are placed on the most expensive tier of pricing and have four data plans available. When you apply a new iPhone to your plan you can choose to pay the device off over time or at the start of your service. They offer fair upgrade options when you decide to change from one phone to the next.

But… I don’t want to use a traditional wireless carrier!

While the champions of cellular want you to choose them, you can purchase your contracted iPhone elsewhere. Companies like Cricket will usually take a locked phone. With them, you will need to purchase your Apple product and bring it in to them to be placed on their calling plan. It is wise to check with the non traditional carrier before you buy though. Just like Verizon and Sprint, some companies will use GMS and others will use CDMA.

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