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Apple finally embraces carrier monthly installment plans

An iPhone 6S costs $199 with a two-year contract, but who offers contracts anymore?

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple.
Apple unveils the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus at an event in San Francisco. James Martin/CNET

There is more than one way to pay for an iPhone, and Apple has finally caught up to that realization.

In announcing the prices for its newly unveiled iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus on Wednesday, Apple added a second slide to its usual on-contract pricing: one that broke out how much you would have to pay each month for one of its smartphones.

An iPhone 6S Plus begins at $31 a month, 6S at $27 per month, 6 Plus at $27 per month, 6 at $23 per month and 5S at $19 per month. After 24 monthly installments, customers will then own those smartphones. That's a far cry from the on-contract $199 starting price for an iPhone 6S or $299 for an iPhone 6S Plus.

The change is subtle, but represents an acknowledgement that consumers aren't necessarily signing up for service contracts that offer the lower, subsidized on-contract price. Instead, consumers are opting to pay for the device themselves to cut down on their service costs. T-Mobile no longer offers contracts, and Verizon earlier this summer killed off contracts as well.

"On an installment plan any iPhone you want is pretty affordable," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, at the event at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.

Without an installment plan, the 6S and 6S Plus will start at $199 and $299, respectively, which was the same price for last year's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Those older models will now be $100 less expensive, according to Schiller. Those contract prices, however, often come with higher service fees that don't go down once you pay off the device.

Apple's September product launch has been key for the company over the years. The tech giant typically introduces its newest iPhones in September and follows up with another event in October for the iPad. This year, though, Apple used the event to showcase both of those mobile devices, as well as a new Apple TV.

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