Best iPhone 5S Carrier: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, Or T-Mobile?

Seth Fitzgerald - Author

Sep. 11 2013, Updated 2:09 p.m. ET

Apple has announced two new iPhones, the 5S and 5C. The iPhone 5S is their latest and great flagship smartphone which should lead their smartphone category for at least the next year.

Now that the iPhone 5S release date has been confirmed and is set for September 20, the main question that remains for many people is “Which carrier should I use the 5S one?”

Well, Apple has confirmed that the iPhone 5S will be available on Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T right from the beginning, but each carrier is remarkably different from the rest.

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Verizon Wireless iPhone 5S

Verizon is by far the largest 4G LTE smartphone carrier and its LTE service covers more than 300 million Americans. While Verizon does have slower LTE speeds than AT&T, its massive coverage has repeatedly allowed it to come out #1.

In total, Verizon now covers 95% of Americans with its 4G LTE service, so unless you live in the Rocky Mountains, you should be able to access the high-speed network.

Since the iPhone 5S now takes full advantage of 4G LTE networks, it will be useful to have consistent LTE access. Although coverage is great, prices and customer service are not Verizon’s strong suit.

In order to get an unlimited talk and text, plus 4GB of data plan, Verizon will charge $110. This is a little more expensive than a comparable AT&T plan and does not come with a hotspot, unlike AT&T.

Some users–such as myself–will also cringe at the idea of not being able to use the iPhone 5S as much as possible with an unlimited data plan.

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AT&T iPhone 5S

Coming in second to Verizon–in terms of LTE coverage–is AT&T. AT&T now offers 4G LTE service to nearly 300 million people but does not have the same level of coverage as Verizon.

AT&T excels when it comes to LTE speeds. In practically every comprehensive study, AT&T has come out on top with nearly 10 Mbps faster download speeds than Verizon.

According to J.D. Power, AT&T is still behind Verizon when it comes to coverage, but is ahead of Verizon in speed and customer service.

For $110 a month, an AT&T customer can have an iPhone 5S with 5GB of monthly data, mobile hotspot service, and unlimited talk and text. This plan is better than its most direct Verizon counterpart. Plus, with extra family and share plans, putting together a custom data/talk/voice service plan for families is easier on AT&T.

As with Verizon, AT&T does not have an unlimited data plan.

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Sprint iPhone 5S

If you are looking for 4G LTE service without any restrictions, Sprint is your only true option. That being said, Sprint covers far less people with its current 4G LTE network despite working hard to reach new cities.

When using a Sprint phone in a 4G LTE area, the speeds tend to be similar to Verizon/AT&Ts but in most areas, the 3G speeds are horrendous.

It only takes a quick Google search to see hundreds of complaints regarding Sprint’s 3G service which sometimes fails to reach just 1 Mbps down. Since most people are not in an area which has 4G LTE under Sprint, the unlimited data benefit is nullified.

For $110, a Sprint iPhone 5S customer receives unlimited data, talk, and text, as well as a 5GB/month hotspot.

T-Mobile iPhone 5S

Out of the four major carriers, T-Mobile has been lagging behind the most. Despite making headlines with their new no-contract plans, T-Mobile’s 4G LTE service is horrendous when compared to AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint.

Unless you live in a large city–and even then, service is spotty–receiving 4G LTE with T-Mobile is simply not possible. So, an iPhone 5S on T-Mobile’s network is probably not worthwhile.

However, if you live in one of the few areas which does have 4G LTE through T-Mobile, the carrier offers more frequent upgrades as well as unlimited data.

On T-Mobile, an iPhone 5S user can receive unlimited everything for $70.

Best iPhone 5S Carrier: AT&T or Sprint

If you are looking for speed and coverage, AT&T is absolutely the best iPhone 5S carrier despite having a slightly smaller network than Verizon. Within the next year, AT&T should catch up to Verizon anyways.

However, Sprint is also a good choice for those of you that live in a major city which currently supports 4G LTE through the carrier. Between their data speeds and unlimited data offering, Sprint may still be a good choice for some people.


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