AT&T v. Verizon v. T-Mobile v. Sprint: the Smartphone Network Comparison

With the new iPhone 4, the EVO 4G, Droid X, and Samsung Galaxy S among other still-great phones like the Google Nexus One, choosing a new phone can be tough.  Sure, each phone has their own strong points, but as important as the specs of the phone can be, there’s also network costs to keep in mind.  Comparing the phones themselves is more of a personal choice, whether you personally like the design of the phone, feature set, or the OS (though that’s usually a 1 of 3 choice of Android, BlackBerry or iOS).

Sprint’s EVO 4G and AT&T’s iPhone 4 are probably the most closely matched phones when it comes down to features, but when it comes to the network, which will really cost more in the long run? We took a look at the main carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon.  AT&T and T-Mobile are both GSM networks so the phones will work outside of the US, and you may even be able to get away with swapping out the SIM card when roaming internationally for a less exorbitant bill.  Sprint and Verizon, however, will not work outside of the US, but have 3G across their entire network. Something to consider if you’re waiting on the Verizon iPhone and travel internationally. Here’s our roundup of what smartphones will really cost you by network – including a look at the Pay-as-You-Go networks you may not have considered.

AT&T Sprint T-Mobile (Best Deal) Verizon
Lowest priced data plan $59.99/month, 200MB data $79.99/month, “unlimited” data and 4G $59.99/month, “unlimited” data $89.98/month, 5GB data
Highest priced data plan $134.99/month, 2GB data $99.99/month, “unlimited” data $99.99/month, “unlimited” data $119.98/month, 5GB data
Insurance costs $7/2-years for Apple Care $4/month $6/month $8/month
International Roaming Yes No Yes No
Phones iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, Nexus One, BlackBerries EVO 4G, BlackBerries Nexus One, myTouch 3G Slide, BlackBerries Droid X, Droid 2, Droid Incredible, Palm Pre Plus, Backberries
2-year total for maximum data, talk time, texting and insurance, with contract $3,247, not including taxes and fees $2,495, not including taxes and fees $2,423-$2,544, not including taxes and fees $3,071, not including taxes and fees

Table updated to correct discrepancies in maximum pricing

Pay As You Go: Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile

There are also smaller pay-as-you go carriers to consider. They charge a lot less for service and don’t require contracts, though service can be spotty at times. Boost charges $60 a month for a BlackBerry with unlimited everything, with a BlackBerry 8330 costing $250. That’s $1,690 should you choose to keep the phone for two years.

Virgin Mobile, on the other hand offers a great deal of $35 a month for a BlackBerry with 300 minutes and unlimited SMS and data, with a BlackBerry 8530 costing $299 on the service.  That comes out to the cheapest of all possible options at $1,140 for two years.  These types of services really don’t have any type of insurance on their phones though, so keep a close eye on your phone during that time.

Both Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile run on top of the Sprint network: so don’t count on being able to roam internationally with the plans, but if you like Sprint’s network otherwise either will save you quite a bit in the long run.

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