Is it Cheaper to Buy the iPhone SE Outright, or on a Subsidized Plan?

04 April 2016

The iPhone SE is the new 4-inch kid on the block. Physically identical to the iPhone 5s in almost every way on the outside, the SE has some surprisingly hefty hardware under the hood. In many ways it’s even comparable to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, although you won’t be surprised to hear that the lower price tag comes with a few notable sacrifices.

We’ve got another article covering the specifics about the iPhone SE itself, which you can check out for yourself.

Stick around if you want to learn the cheapest way of getting your hands on one. You can either buy the phone outright and take it to a BYO plan, or you can pick it up on a subsidized contract. Let’s take a look and see how the two options compare.

We'll be using the 16GB model of the SE for the comparison, but the differences in pricing between carriers should remain the same with the 64GB model.

These plans are from the perspective of someone living in Ontario. If that's not your province, then carrier and plan availability, as well as pricing, may vary. Unless you're in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or Quebec, the differences shouldn't be too huge, although you might not have access to Videotron or some of the smaller carriers.

To change your location, or adjust the search parameters for any of these tables, hit the "view full results" link at the bottom of each, and make your changes on the following page.

1GB plans

1GB plans are a good starting point for a flagship phone. It's enough to get use out of your fancy bells and whistles, although you'll want to keep an eye on that usage meter.

Light daily browsing and social media is ok, but make sure you avoid and video or music streaming services when on cellular data. Restrict yourself to downloading or updating any apps only over WiFi.

It's even a good idea to avoid sending or receiving too many images over IM programs, and definitely steer clear of GIFs whenever possible.

Contract Plans

(Smaller up-front cost. 2 year contract)

BYO Plans

(Buy phone for full price. Usually no contract)

At 1GB, the cheapest option is a Videotron subsidized contract but a little over $100.

Interestingly, Koodo's BYO and Virgin's Contract plans are almost identical over a 24 month period.

There's a fairly even spread throughout the results, so it really depends on which provider you want to go with, rather than a blanket victory for either BYO or contract.

2GB plans

2GB and 2.5GB plans are more comfortable than 1GB. Browsing and social media usage shouldn't be a problem, unless you're absolutely prolific on a daily basis.

Still try to avoid downloading any large apps, or doing multiple app updates while you're off of WiFi, unless absolutely necessary. Light music streaming is fine, but if you do it every day there's a good chance you'll go over. Video continues to be something to avoid, except on rare occasions, and it's probably a good idea to turn video auto-play off in any apps.

If you're a gif-heavy instant messanger, then you might want to rein it in, but feel free to go pretty nuts with images and stickers.

Contract Plans

(Smaller up-front cost. 2 year contract)

BYO Plans

(Buy phone for full price. Usually no contract)

Videotron takes the top two spots with a surprisingly large discrepancy between BYO and Contract, with the latter coming out on top by a few hundred dollars over 24 months.

After that it's a familiar pattern of back and forth between contract and BYO plans

5GB plans

5GB is were you can pretty much breathe easy, unless you're a seriously heavy user and don't often find yourself in range of a WiFi network.

Daily music streaming should be ok, and you can go pretty much as gif heavy as you want on IM apps. YouTube is still something to look out for, but feel free to watch away as long as you spare the occasional glance in the direction of your usage meter.

Contract Plans

(Smaller up-front cost. 2 year contract)

BYO Plans

(Buy phone for full price. Usually no contract)

Once again we have a fairly even spread. Interestingly, Videotron's plans are back to being pretty similar when comparing contract and BYO.

Virgin's contract option is quite a bit cheaper than its BYO, and even Koodo's BYO plan for once.



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