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iPhones: So Many Options Now, How To Choose?

Wow, that headline sure has been a long time in coming, no? Tonight for the very first time, users will be able to pre-order a new Apple handset with a selection of three different U.S. carriers. But which provider to choose? Here are some fast facts to bear in mind.

Sprint: Cheapest ($80 for 450 minutes, unlimited data. That’s nothing to sneeze at. For more, hit up Emily’s post here.) Also, considering Sprint’s a new Apple partner, this network will be the least hammered by existing iPhone users — at least for now.

Verizon: Most reliable (and most expensive. Your coverage will be rock solid, but you will pay for that in monthly plan fees)

AT&T: Fastest (only carrier that supports 14.4 download speed. But coverage still stinks in areas like NYC and SF)

Of course, the older model iPhones are still an option, and all three have varying offerings. AT&T is the only one still offering a 3GS (for free), but it joins Verizon in offering reduced prices on last-gen iPhone 4 handsets. Given what’s available, that presents an interesting choice now: Get an entry-level 16GB iPhone 4S, or snag a super-roomy 32GB last-gen iPhone 4 for the same price. It’s a matter of deciding between better performance/specs/Siri vs. more storage with most of the iOS 5 enhancements.

All three carriers are also offering Apple’s $99 budget iPhone 4, with 8 GB (a new storage tier for the handset). Here’s the breakdown:

AT&T
Being the once-exclusive iPhone carrier, it is the one that has carried the iPhone the longest, so it still has the oldest model available.

  • iPhone 3GS, 8GB (free)
  • iPhone 4 existing handsets slashed to 16GB ($149.99) and 32GB ($199.99)
  • iPhone 4 new 8GB version ($99) available for pre-order
  • iPhone 4S 16GB ($199), 32 GB ($299), 64GB ($399), pre-orders open tonight at 12:01 AM PST

Verizon
As the second iPhone carrier in the U.S., it has never sold a 3GS version, and so a CDMA version of it doesn’t exist. But the others are available for the same retail contract price as AT&T’s.

  • iPhone 4 existing handsets slashed to 16GB ($149.99) and 32GB ($199.99)
  • iPhone 4 new 8GB version ($99) available for pre-order
  • iPhone 4S 16GB ($199), 32 GB ($299), 64GB ($399), pre-orders open tonight at 12:01 AM PST

Sprint
It’s the latest carrier to get the iPhone. Seeing it has no older stock to offer, it carries only Apple’s newest offerings, the new 8GB iPhone 4 and the iPhone 4S.

  • iPhone 4 new 8GB version ($99) available for pre-order
  • iPhone 4S 16GB ($199), 32 GB ($299), 64GB ($399), pre-orders open tonight at 12:01 AM PST

 

The iPhone 3GS seems like the best option for parents looking for an inexpensive first smartphone for Jr., technophobic users who wouldn’t know a Retina Display if it hit them in the face, or anyone who’s cash-strapped, but is desperate for an iOS experience (even if it is limited). Everyone else interested in an Apple smartphone will want at least the iPhone 4, if not 4S.

The last-gen price cuts are probably on their way to Best Buy, Target and other third-party purveyors too, so keep your eyes peeled. (Actually, Target and Radio Shack have already been putting out discounts on legacy models.)

 

Don’t want a carrier?

Don’t forget, thanks to a change of heart and policy, Apple now sells unlocked handsets.

  • Unlocked iPhone 3GS, 8GB: $375
  • Unlocked iPhone 4, 8GB: $549 (delivers 10/14)
  • Unlocked iPhone 4S: TBD (According to Apple Canada, the base price for a 16GB model is $649, with a 10/14 ship date)

 

A word about unlocked handsets

When it comes to unlocked phones, it’s crucial to consider networks. No matter how much you beg, an unlocked iPhone 3GS is GSM and won’t work on Sprint (a CDMA carrier), nor can you just pop onto Verizon with it. So consider your needs carefully before snatching one up.

Here’s what Apple has posted on the matter:

 

 

Interested in specs? Then check out our handy comparison page pitting the iPhone 4S against the 4, or hit up Apple directly for a three-way comparison that includes the 3GS.

Phew! Lots of options here. Am I missing any? Weigh in below if there’s anything else that needs to go on the page. Or simply tell us which combo of hardware and carrier you’re going with and why.

[via: PhoneArena, Unwiredview, Apple]


Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...

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