The iPhone 6s will hit stores very soon. In Canada, it’s the most-expensive iPhone to date with record high pricing both when purchased outright and on subsidized carrier plans.
In the US it’s a different story: the iPhone 6s will cost the same as its predecessor. On top of that, there are more ways than ever to get your hands on one, as well as some incredible plan opportunities not available to folks in Canada.
US carriers are being forced to innovate in the face of increasing competition. This in turn feeds more need for change, and consumers keep winning.
The situation is in contrast to the Canadian market, where nothing much has changed since the last few iPhone launches. The only notable difference is that Rogers has started offering Tabs for the iPhone 6s. This is a good start, but we'd like to see more.
Truly unlimited data plans, with no throttling, might sit alongside unicorns and leprechauns as far as Canadians are concerned, but in the US they’re becoming common-place.
One example is the aptly-named Sprint Unlimited Plan. With a 16GB iPhone 6s this plan costs $85 per month, plus $199.99 upfront for the phone.
Conversely, in most of Canada on Rogers, Telus or Bell, you’ll pay that same $85 for just 1GB of data, and between $389.99 and $400 upfront for the phone.
Leasing your smartphone, rather than buying it, might not sound too appealing at first, but think about it for a second. There are plenty of folk who would love to upgrade their smartphone every year. To do this in Canada today you'd need to:
- Sign up to a plan and grab your iPhone (let’s say iPhone 6)
- After 12 months, sell your iPhone and buy a new one (iPhone 6s)
- In another 12 months, at the end of your original 2-year contract, sell your current iPhone and sign up for another 2 years to get the next latest model (iPhone 7)
Wouldn’t it be easier if all you had to do was pay a reduced monthly fee for the latest iPhone, then swap it for the new one in 12 months?
Enter Phone Leasing. With a leasing option, you pay $0 up-front and agree to a contract length (differs between carriers; 18 to 22 months, generally). During this time you pay a monthly fee to hold on to the phone. This fee is less than the usual iPhone repayment fee in the US of $27.08, which works out to the full price of an iPhone over 2 years.
The best part is that at certain points along the line (once again dependent on carrier) you can upgrade your device with no excess payout fees. That means you only end up paying off, say, 12 month’s worth of that already-lower price before you upgrade.
The downside is that when you upgrade you sign up to a new lease and start all over again.
Basically, it’s like a Tab, except the monthly installments are smaller and you don’t have to pay off the entire phone before you swap, but as long as you keep upgrading the contract will keep renewing.
This plan model is definitely not for everyone; it is aimed purely at those among us who always want the latest and greatest device. If that sounds like you, shouldn’t you have a plan option that supports your increasingly-popular needs?
Thanks to the success of phone leasing in the US, there are even iPhone-specific schemes with even lower pricing.
Sprint iPhone Forever
iPhone Forever is Sprint's best value leasing plan and it is only for iPhones. It’s a better deal than Sprint’s other leasing plan, and ensures that you’ll always have the latest iPhone model as soon as you want it.
How much do you save?
To buy a new iPhone 6s for yourself, Sprint will charge you either $649.99 outright, or $27.09 per month for 24 months – coming to $650.16.
For an iPhone 6s with 16GB, Sprint’s iPhone Forever will cost you $15 per month with a 21 month commitment. After 12 months ($180), you have the option to trade in your iPhone and upgrade to the newest model. At this point you sign up to another minimum 21 month commitment and begin again.
Essentially, for $180 per year, you will always have the most up-to-date iPhone model. This is less than a third the cost of buying the phone and owning it, and you can forget all about bothering to find a buyer to recoup your investment a year later.
Admittedly, at the end of your 12 months you don’t get to keep your current iPhone; Sprint takes it back and hands you the newer version. Does that really matter? Chances are you were going to sell it anyway. $180 is around or less-than the market devaluation of an iPhone after 12 months (in the US). This way Sprint is simply taking the hassle of selling it out of your hands.
T-Mobile JUMP! On Demand
This leasing scheme is not iPhone-specific, and it starts at $5 per month with the option to upgrade when you want, up to 3x per year.
JUMP! On Demand will charge just $20 per month for an iPhone 6s 16GB at launch. That’s more than Sprint’s offering; it comes to $240 over the 12 months between iPhone launches, but you don’t have to stick with iPhone if you don’t want.
In theory, you could grab the iPhone 6s for $20 per month, then switch to the Samsung Galaxy S7 when it comes out early next year, then back to the iPhone 7 in Sept 2016. You would always have the latest big-brand phone.
JUMP! On Demand is an 18 month commitment. The price of $20 per month is specific to the iPhone 6s; each device on JUMP! On Demand incurs a different monthly fee. Each time you upgrade (or JUMP!) you pay nothing, but the 18 month period starts again.
No Contract? No Problems
US carriers are moving away from traditional contracts that lock you in to two years of service. Instead, they are now embracing month-to-month plans supplemented by payment contracts for the phone itself.
For the phone, you could buy it outright for the US pricing of $649, lease it (as mentioned above), or pay it off with monthly installments over 2 years. These installments are generally around $27.08, which works out to basically the same cost as buying it outright.
The plan itself costs whatever your carrier charges for 1GB; let’s say the $50 that Verizon or T-Mobile would ask. This plan carries a commitment of one month. You can leave at any time and all you’re locked-in to pay for is the phone itself. Of course, if 1GB isn’t your thing then you could go for another data inclusion.
Ultimately, for this 1GB example you’d be paying $77.08 per month: $50 for the plan and $27.08 for the phone.
The kicker? It’s likely that any phone you purchase this way will be locked to said carrier for 2 years, or until you’ve paid it off.
There’s an easy work-around for that: buy it unlocked from the Apple store. This way you’re free to sample various networks to find which one works best for you. Any time you become dissatisfied, just make sure that your next month is with a different carrier. Easy.
Such is the freedom of a market that is forsaking contracts and coming to embrace month-to-month plans as standard.
Apple’s Own Installment Plans
Apple has started iPhones on monthly installment plans in the US. The Cupertino company is taking carriers on head-to-head in where and how Americans buy their iPhones.
In US Apple Stores you can buy the iPhone 6s 16GB for $649 outright, or pay $32.41 per month for 24 months. That comes out to $777.84 all-up, which is obviously a fair bit more, but you might be willing to go the distance if a big, one-off purchase isn’t something you can afford, but you want the freedom that comes with a fully unlocked iPhone in a market filled with monthly plans.
Apple also includes Apple Care insurance for your slippery new iPhone, which helps to make the higher total price easier to swallow.
Imagine if Apple decides to launch the iPhone Upgrade Program locally in the near future. Rogers, Bell and Telus would need to scramble to become more competitive. It is exactly the shot in the arm the Canadian wireless market needs.