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I paid $820 for an iPhone 5 to keep unlimited LTE data on Verizon

There are many of us that are not eligible for the full $450 subsidy on the iPhone 5. Tradeoffs and decisions have to be made to choose the right carrier and phone for you and I am excited to get my Verizon iPhone 5.

I paid $820 for an iPhone 5 to keep unlimited LTE data on Verizon

Yesterday I wrote that the iPhone 5 announcement was a bit underwhelming  primarily because everything leaked out beforehand and there was no big surprise at the event. I acknowledged that the iPhone 5 looked to be a great device and would sell millions and I wasn't saying the iPhone 5 was junk or anything. After some more consideration, and since it is my job to check out the latest devices and provide my opinions, I decided to proceed with purchasing an iPhone 5 for myself.

Unlike other smartphone makers, Apple only loans out a few iPhones to select sites and thus if I want to check one out I have to purchase it for myself. While the discussion below pertains to me and my situation of currently having three carrier contracts, I thought some of the factors going into my decisions might help some of you as you try to figure out a game plan for the iPhone 5.

Do I buy a Verizon iPhone 5?

I have a grandfathered Verizon unlimited data plan and currently use either a Galaxy Nexus or my new iPad with the SIM. My first thought was to just buy an iPhone 5 at full price and then pop that SIM (with an adapter) into other devices and my iPad. I pay $85 per month for 450 minutes, unlimited data, and 250 text messages. The full unsubsidized price of the 32GB iPhone 5 I want (16GB just doesn't provide enough room to test apps and since I don't carry that much music then 64GB seems like overkill) is $749, plus nearly 10% tax in Washington. I could buy full price and keep my unlimited data or pay about $200 remaining on my contract in ETF and then pay $299 for the subsidized 32GB model. I could save $250 going this route, but would lose my unlimited data and then be forced into a monthly shared plan with their shared data for about $30 more per month. Thus, over a 24 month period I would end up paying a LOT more by accepting the subsidy.

Verizon is fantastic for rural areas of Washington and LTE is extensive near the cities where I work and play. I have been thinking about paying the ETF and dropping Verizon since their Windows Phone support has been minimal, but I get amazingly fast LTE and unlimited data is pretty compelling for a smartphone geek.

Or do I buy an AT&T iPhone 5?

I have a fairly new AT&T account I started when I bought the Nokia Lumia 900 and an ETF at this time would be about $300. The full price of the iPhone 5 is $749, plus tax, while the subsidy price of a 32GB model is $299. Thus I could buy at full price and keep my existing account and carry over minutes or I could pay the ETF and buy a subsidized phone with a new account. The savings of paying the ETF and starting a new account is about $150, but it is also a bit of a hassle to end a contact and deal with final bills. I have no grandfathered bonuses on AT&T and don't care about losing rollover minutes.

As you know I also buy and use smartphones running other operating systems and AT&T is the premier Windows Phone partner so I will likely be able to get a Nokia Lumia 920 when they come out in a couple months. There is also the possibility that T-Mobile's network rollout will let me use the iPhone 5 with my T-Mobile SIM over 3G in the near future. I get a good AT&T signal, but no LTE yet, so I won't see the super fast LTE speeds. AT&T also charges another $20 per month for text messages so the monthly fee is quite high.

Which one did I preorder?

There was talk online that you wouldn't be able to buy these devices at full price without a contract and when I walked through the Verizon site that looked like it might be the case since they tried to get me to select a plan. I went through the Apple site and my receipt clearly shows my unlimited data, 450 minutes, and 250 text messages remain intact. Thus, I ended up paying $820.16 for my iPhone 5 on Verizon and will be posting thoughts when it arrives next Friday.

BTW, another reason I went with the Verizon iPhone 5 is that it was pretty easy to unlock it and use it overseas while AT&T has never been friendly at unlocking iPhones in the past.