Last Updated: April 24, 2014
Question: What Does it Cost to Switch iPhone Phone Companies?
If you're at the end of your phone contract, or are very unhappy with your current carrier, may be interested in switching to another company that offers the iPhone. If so, one of the crucial questions on your mind should be, how much does it cost to switch?
Switching your iPhone service from one carrier to another isn't as simple as just porting your number and signing up for a new service plan. Instead, it can cost you as much as US$789 (though it probably won't).
The price to switch is so high thanks to three costs:
1. You May Need a New iPhone
Depending on what iPhone model you have, you may need to buy a new phone when you switch carriers. That's because AT&T and T-Mobile use a different 4G network technology than Verizon and Sprint. Recent models like the iPhone 5S can work with both network types (though it may need to be unlocked from your old carrier first), but older phones (such as the iPhone 4S) work with one or the other. Before you switch, check with your new phone company about whether you'll need a new phone. If you do, you'll be eligible for the subsidized price of $199 for the 16 GB model, $299 for the 32 GB, or $399 for the 64 GB.
2. Early Termination Fees
If you're still under a two-year contract with your old company when you decide to switch, that company will charge you an Early Termination Fee (ETF), a penalty for canceling your contract early. AT&T's iPhone ETF is $325, while Sprint and Verizon charge $350. Because T-Mobile doesn't require contracts, it doesn't have ETFs.
The cost of your ETF fee is reduced by $10 for every month you've been under contract (e.g., if you've been under contract for 6 months, the ETF is reduced by $60). If your contract has expired, you're not subject to an ETF, so you'll want to check your contract status before beginning the switch.
3. You Need a New Case
This doesn't apply to new models like the 5S or 5C, but if you have an older phone you want to take to a new carrier, you need to consider it.
There are slight differences in the placement of the volume and ringer buttons on the left side of the Verizon-compatible iPhone when compared to the AT&T model. As a result of the changes, the buttons and openings on old cases don't line up correctly. Expect a new case to cost $20-$40.
In the worst-case scenario for switchers, you'll pay $399 for the phone, $325 for the ETF, and $40 for the case, leading to the $789 figure. That's pretty unlikely to happen, though. More likely, you'll be paying a partial ETF if you're switching early. You may want to buy a new phone or you may nothing if you're switching when you're out of contract and keeping your current phone.
As you can see, switching is complex and can be expensive. If you plan it correctly, though, you can move your iPhone to the phone carrier you want and play little or nothing.
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