Apple today announced the iPhone 5 release for September 21st, with pre-orders starting on September 14th. The new iPhone 5 features support for new, faster 4G LTE services, available on Verizon Wireless, AT&T and Sprint. So which carrier should you choose when jumping to the iPhone 5? Read on as we compare iPhone 5 plans on Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. We’ll guide you through confusing process and help you find a plan that makes sense for you.

Compare iPhone 5 plans

Coverage Maps
First things first. This is not the same service you are accustomed to with your current service, provided you haven’t been using a different operating system that supports 4G LTE. These are entirely new networks, built around LTE, so data coverage maps have changed. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have been aggressively building out these networks for the next generation in wireless service. You can expect with the mass market release of the iPhone 5, the build out will continue at a breakneck pace.

Verizon 4G LTE coverage map

AT&T 4G LTE coverage map

Sprint LTE coverage map

You can find updated coverage maps for Verizon, AT&T and Sprint at their respective sites.

Activation Fees
AT&T and Sprint charge a $36 activation fee, while you can save $1 with Verizon’s $35 activation fee.

iPhone 5

Verizon iPhone 5 Plans

Verizon starts with a line coverage fee of $40, proceeded by one of the following plans. Let’s say you want unlimited call and text time, plus 2GB of data per month, it would cost you $100. As part of their Talk Text and Data Share Plan, each user on the account pays $40 for line access.

  • Unlimited + 300MB: $40
  • Unlimited + 1GB: $50
  • Unlimited + 2GB: $60
  • Unlimited + 4GB: $70
  • Unlimited + 8GB: $80

AT&T iPhone 5 Plans

If you are opting for an individual plan, AT&T has an entirely different structure to how they set you up. You first have to select your talk time plan.

  • 450: $39.99 (Includes 5000 minutes on nights and weekends)
  • 900: $59.99 (unlimited nights and weekends)
  • Unlimited: $69.99  (unlimited nights and weekends)
You are required to get a data plan, which in all honesty should be a requirement. Here are your options with AT&T
  • DataPro 3GB: $30
  • DataPlus 300MB : $20
AT&T’s Mobile Share Plan is similar to what Verizon is offering, but the pricing structure is more convoluted. Instead of a flat line coverage fee for iPhone 5 (or smartphone), the scale goes down as you increase the amount of your allowed data plan, at least up until the 10GB plan, where your savings per smartphone subsides.
  • 1GB: $40 plus $45 each smartphone
  • 4GB: $70 plus $40 each smartphone
  • 6GB: $90 plus $35 each smartphone
  • 10GB: $120 plus $30 each smartphone
  • 15GB: $160 plus $30 each smartphone
  • 20GB: $200 plus $30 each smartphone

Sprint iPhone 5 Plans

Sprint is the only carrier to offer truly unlimited data plans for the iPhone 5. You have to appreciate the clear and concise options offered by Sprint. They are unfortunately the carrier with the least 4G LTE coverage.

  • Simply Everything: Unlimited calling, text, data (on their network) $109.99
  • Everything Data: 450 minutes, unlimited data $79.99 (unlimited nights and weekends start at 7pm)
  • Everything Data: 900 minutes, unlimited data $99.99 (unlimited nights and weekends start at 7pm)

Which iPhone 5 Plan Should I Select?

The first you thing I’d recommend is to check out the coverage maps for your hometown. If all things are equal, think about who you call most and what wireless provider they are using. All of these carriers offer free calling between those on the same network. If your friends and family are predominantly Verizon Wireless customers, you’ll save a good number of minutes by calling in-network. Choosing a carrier is only the first step in finding a good plan.

Online Data Calculators

With iPhone 5 pre-orders set to begin on Friday, September 14th, you’ll want to look at a plan that meets your usage needs. Depending on which carrier you select, each has a calculator to help you decide.

  • AT&T data calculator (no longer available)
  • Verizon Data Calculator

Sprint is the only carrier with unlimited data, so no calculator necessary, other than to select the proper calling plan.

Sifting through carrier plans for the iPhone 5 is no easy task. We’ve only scratched the surface here and will continue to update this post with any additional charges and things that could affect your decision. If you have questions, need advice, please leave a comment or ask away in our iPhone forums.