Instead of pressing customers to sign a two-year agreement, T-Mobile will let iPhone buyers either pay full price for the device at the time of purchase, or spread the cost over 24 months with installment plans. A 16GB iPhone 5 will sell for $99 up front with 24 months of $20 payments — that’s $579 over the two years, $70 less than buying an unlocked iPhone 5 from Apple. Similarly, the iPhone 4S will cost $69.99 down plus $20 per month and the iPhone 4 will cost $14.99 plus a $15 monthly charge. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet on what happens if you cancel your plan or want to buy a new phone before those 24 months are up.
T-Mobile can’t let people buy iPhones for $99 and then decide they no longer want to keep paying. From what I’ve gathered, you’re free to stop playing your phone bill whenever you want, but you’re going to have to keep paying that $20 each month until the 24 months have passed. It’s kind of like having a semi-contract.
Basically, if you get an iPhone 5 at T-Mobile instead of ATT, Verizon, or Sprint, you’ll save about $600 over two years. Certainly not an insignificant amount of money, but not enough to make me give up Verizon’s coverage in NYC and the Bay Area. I’ve had T-Mobile in Berkeley, and it wasn’t even close to a pleasant experience.