The iPhone 4S is available on AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon in the United States. All three carriers offer a unique assortment of features, making the right carrier for you depend much on how you plan on using the phone.
On a basic level, the most important factor in choosing a mobile phone carrier is going to be whether or not that carrier has good coverage where you’re going to want to use your phone. While all three carriers offer service throughout the country, there are definitely places where all three shine and those where one or all three fail. Before making any carrier decision, talk to your friends and coworkers and see what carrier they use and how they think the coverage is in your area. Chances are if their phones drop calls or can’t get a signal in some places, your iPhone will do the same.
AT&T was the first carrier to ever offer the iPhone and is currently the only GSM carrier carrying the handset. While you typically won’t notice a difference between GSM and CDMA (what Verizon and Sprint use), one difference you will notice is what happens when it comes to using voice and data at the same time. On AT&T, you can talk on the phone and use data simultaneously; with Sprint and Verizon, you cannot. Times when you might simultaneously need data and voice include looking up restaurant information while making dinner plans on the phone with a friend, or making a phone call while you have your laptop tethered to your phone for internet use.
AT&T calling plans start at 450 minutes for $39.99 per month and require you to pay for text messaging and data separately. If you want to text using AT&T, you’ll either have shell out an additional $20 per month for unlimited messaging or pay per text at a rate of $.20 per text message and $.30 per picture or video message.
Data plans through the carrier are tiered, with the smallest 200MB plan starting at $15 per month. If you want to surf the web, download apps, and take advantage of all of the features the iPhone 4S has to offer, you’ll want to purchase at least a 2GB plan for $25 per month. AT&T also offers a 4GB data plan (with tethering so you can use your phone’s data connection for your laptop or other device) for $45 per month, as well as plans for 5GB for $55, 7GB for $75, and 12GB for $125.
If you are buying your phone with your family, AT&T offers a bargain for bundling several phones together. A family unlimited texting plan, offering unlimited texting for all of the phones on your family plan, runs $30 per month. An unlimited talk plan for the entire family is $119.99. Just 450 minutes and unlimited texting for one line will run you $69.99. When you look at being able to get unlimited minutes and texting for four phones for $149.99, that’s a substantial discount. Data for each phone will still need to be purchased separately.
Who should buy AT&T? Those who want to talk and surf the web simultaneously and families who want to bundle all of their phones on the same plan.