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Phones

Here are the best iPhone 8 prices

Looking for the cheapest option for Apple's latest? One carrier thinks it has the others beat.

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There are plenty of options for purchasing the iPhone 8 or the iPhone 8 Plus.

James Martin/CNET

It's decided: You're buying an iPhone 8. Or an iPhone 8 Plus. Now to figure out where to get the best deal.

There are, of course, many variables. Can you afford to buy the phone outright, or should you look at a lease deal? Should you sell or trade in your current iPhone? And what about the carrier: stay or switch?

Let's take a look at what the Big Four have to offer, and whether any of them can beat Apple proper. Keep in mind, though, that this is just about the price of the phone. Whatever deal you get on the hardware, you'll still need a service plan.

AT&T

The deal: Although it's not specifically mentioned in this AT&T news release regarding iPhone 8 deals, an AT&T spokesperson did confirm an option that's been widely reported on the interwebs: If you buy an iPhone 8, you can get another one for free.

The catch: This buy-one-get-one (BOGO) deal is only for AT&T DirecTV and U-Verse subscribers, who can get up to a $699 credit when adding a second line of service via AT&T Next. In other words, you'll need to make lease payments and maintain AT&T service for a full 24 months. It's basically the old two-year contract all over again.

The verdict: For anyone already paying for DirecTV or U-Verse -- and in the market for two iPhones -- this could be a solid deal. But only if you're willing to stay in bed with AT&T for two years.

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Sprint

The deal: Sprint's new "Best Price Guarantee" promotion promises, well, the best price on an iPhone 8. But is it really?

For starters, it's a lease deal. Sprint's regular lease price for an iPhone 8 (64GB) is $29.17 per month, with $0 down and a lease period of 18 months. Regular lease price for the iPhone 8 Plus (64GB): $33.34, again with $0 down. (You can get the same rates for the 256GB models, but you'll have to put down $150 at signing.)

However, if you trade in an eligible phone -- iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy 8+, Samsung Galaxy S7, Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Moto Z2 Force, LG G6, LG V20 or Google Pixel/Pixel XL -- you'll get 50 percent off the lease price. 

That brings you down to just $14.58 or $18.75 per month -- compelling rates, to be sure.

Meanwhile, Sprint just added a second option: If you own an iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8 Plus or Galaxy Note 8, you can get a free iPhone 8 (64GB) when you trade it in, switch to Sprint and join up with Sprint Flex. This deal is good for new and existing Sprint customers alike.

The catch: The first offer is only for customers who switch to Sprint, not existing customers. What's more, the 18-month lease covers only 75 percent of the price of the phone, meaning you'll be on the hook for another $175 at the end. Sprint also promises to match any better deal you find from another national carrier -- but only within 14 days of the start of your lease. That second offer though is good for anyone, new or existing.

The verdict: This has the potential to give you the lowest month-to-month cost for an iPhone 8, especially if you're able to pair it with Sprint's new family plan. You could end up with a brand new phone and service for as little as $37 per month. But don't overlook your end-of-lease requirements. What's more, the value of your current phone may be higher than what you're saving here. 

T-Mobile

The deal: Trade in your iPhone 6 or newer -- in good working condition -- and T-Mo will give you "up to $300 off" your new iPhone 8 (or iPhone X, when that arrives later this year). 

The catch: "Up to" is awfully vague, and that trade-in credit comes in the form of an amortized discount on each of your 24 monthly bill payments, which are part of T-Mobile's installment plan. And you'll need service in the form of T-Mobile's Jump program (similar to the Apple Upgrade Program; see below). Ultimately, you're saving $12.50 per month.

The verdict: At the end of two years, you actually end up pretty close to what you'd pay Sprint at the end of 18 months (when you factor in the additional phone cost) -- for the hardware, anyway. So if you're keen to be with the "Uncarrier" and you have an iPhone you can trade in, it's worth a look. Same caveat applies, though: Make sure you can't do better selling your old iPhone yourself.

Verizon

The deal: Like T-Mobile, Verizon will give you a $300 credit when you trade in your current phone -- and you can trade in models other than iPhones.

The catch: Like T-Mobile, that credit is spread out over 24 payments, and it requires the purchase of an Unlimited plan. Also, you get $300 only for a "premium" phone like the iPhone 6S or better, the Galaxy S7 or later, the LG G6 or Moto Z2 Force. There are two additional tiers for older phones, which net you $200 or $100 depending on age.

The verdict: Verizon is still widely regarded as the country's best carrier, and if you can shave $12.50 per month off your bill, it's better than nothing. Same caveat applies, though: Make sure you can't do better selling your old phone yourself. 

Apple Upgrade Program

The deal: Finally, we come to the Apple Upgrade Program, where you'll pay $34.50 per month for 24 months (a grand total of $828) for the iPhone 8 (64GB) or $39.50 ($948 total) for the iPhone 8 Plus. That price includes not only activation on AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, but also AppleCare+.

The latter is a $129 value, meaning you're really just financing the phone over two years with zero interest. And after you make at least 12 payments, you can upgrade to a newer iPhone. Perhaps best of all, once you've activated your phone with one of the Big Four carriers, you're free to take it elsewhere.

The catch: There really isn't one, unless you count the fact that you're not getting any kind of discount.

The verdict: It's definitely not the cheapest deal, but it may be the best one. Find out more in CNET's overview of the Apple Upgrade Program.

Other deals

If you're a Sam's Club member, you can pre-order the iPhone 8 starting Sept. 22. When you do so, and then activate the phone on AT&T, Sprint or Verizon, you'll get a $100 Sam's Club gift card. You can also save $20 on an AppleCare+ plan or get an additional $10 Sam's Club gift card when you purchase a SquareTrade extended warranty. These deals are good through Oct. 1.

My advice

I don't like leases, and I especially don't like getting roped into service plans for 18 to 24 months. Thus, here's what I recommend:

  • Sell or trade in your current phone. It's hard to say what you'll get for it, because I don't know the model or specs, but let's say it nets you $250. That'll help lessen the pain of paying $700 for an unlocked iPhone 8.
  • Shop for the carrier that offers the cheapest service plan, or at least the one that's closest to your needs. That could be Cricket, which is $35 per month (when using the carrier's Auto Pay) for a plan that includes 4GB of high-speed data and unlimited everything else. Or Ting, which could run you half as much, depending on your usage.

Bottom line: When you lease your phone from a Big Four carrier (even if it's "lease-to-own," or an installment plan), you're not getting the best deal because you're locked in. But as with cars, if you want a new one every year and don't mind higher monthly payments, one of these plans might work in your favor.

First published Sept. 14, 3:05 p.m. PT
Update Sept. 18, 10:39 a.m.: Updated with additional information about Sprint and other options.