What You Need to Know About the True Cost of an iPhone

Choosing an iPhone and the Right Plan for You

Learning how much an iPhone costs isn't as simple as checking Apple's website for the listed price of the latest iPhone. That's because the cost of buying an iPhone depends on several factors and because you need to account for the cost of the monthly service, which varies based on your plan. So, figuring out how much iPhone costs requires some math.

The Cost of the Latest iPhones

iPhone 11 Models on Display in an Apple Store
Drew Angerer / Staff / Getty News Images

The first and most important factor in the cost of an iPhone is the phone itself. Prices vary based on which model you want and how much storage you prefer. In Apple's iPhone line up, a new phone can be yours for anywhere from US$49 (for a basic iPhone 8) to $1,449 (for the highest-end iPhone 11 Pro Max), depending on the model you want.

As of Fall 2019, the cost of a new iPhone from Apple looks like this:

Model 64GB 128GB 256GB 512GB
iPhone 11 Pro Max $1099   $1249 $1449
iPhone 11 Pro  $99   $1149 $1349
iPhone 11  $699 $749 $849  
iPhone XR $599 $649    
iPhone 8 Plus $549 $599    
iPhone 8 $449 $499    

These days, pretty much everyone pays the full price for their iPhone (more on why that is in the next section), so don't expect major discounts. But you can choose to pay full price up front or to pay in monthly installments.

The major phone companies offer a monthly payment plan when you purchase a new iPhone from them. This offers a lower upfront cost, but you must stay with the carrier until the iPhone is paid for or else pay the balance due before you change to another carrier. Alternatively, if you want to buy your phone in installments, but not be stuck with a phone company, check out Apple's iPhone Upgrade Program.

The iPhone almost never goes on sale. You might find short-term discounts when new models are released, or around the holidays, but those are usually small savings. Apple doesn't really put its products on sale, so don't wait for one. Just buy what you want when you want it.

Carrier Subsidies Aren't Going to Return

It used to be that iPhones cost much less — sometimes as little as $199 — for the latest model because phone companies paid part of the cost of the phone to entice you to use their service. Not anymore. In recent years, the major phone companies have done away with subsidies that allow customers who sign a two-year contract to pay significantly less for their iPhones. It's very unlikely that the subsidy system will return, so expect to pay full price for your iPhone from now on.

That said, when new iPhone models are released, major carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, will sometimes offer reductions in the cost for the latest iPhone if you trade in your older model iPhone.

Regional and Prepaid Carriers Sometimes Have Cheaper Prices

You can pay a little less than the sticker price for the iPhone — about $50 in most cases — if you buy it through one of the smaller, regional carriers that offer the phone in some parts of the U.S. These carriers don't always have the latest models, have more-limited monthly plans, and their service tends to be focused specifically on smaller, rural areas, but they are a cost-saving option for some users.

Monthly Voice and Data Plans

You should factor in the monthly cost of the voice and data service provided by the phone company you choose when thinking about the cost of an iPhone.

Monthly iPhone plans typically include costs for data service, calling, texting, and other services. Expect to spend around $100 a month with major carriers for the services that most people use.

With prepaid carriers, plans are cheaper, generally running closer to half the price offered by the major carriers, but data connections are often slower or have their fastest speeds limited based on how much you use. With those companies, expect to spend closer to the $50 to $60 range for calling, texting, and data.

Other Costs

You don't want to spend hundreds on a new iPhone and then toss it in your purse or pants pocket without a protective case. Plan to put a case on the iPhone as soon as you get it. Many protective cases cost around $40-$100.

The iPhone comes with Apple's standard warranty, but you may want to extend that protection with an AppleCare+ extends warranty available directly from Apple. The price of AppleCare differs based on your model — expect to spend $100-$200 — for two additional years of coverage. If you buy your iPhone through Apple's monthly iPhone Upgrade Program, AppleCare+ is included in the price.

Lots of other companies offer iPhone insurance, but we recommend against it. Find out why in 6 Reasons You Should Never Buy iPhone Insurance.