Save as much as $350 on a lease plan or $200 without one. Here's what you need to know.
Rick BroidaSenior Editor
Rick Broida is the author of numerous books and thousands of reviews, features and blog posts. He writes CNET's popular Cheapskate blog and co-hosts Protocol 1: A Travelers Podcast (about the TV show Travelers). He lives in Michigan, where he previously owned two escape rooms (chronicled in the ebook "I Was a Middle-Aged Zombie").
Can't stand the thought of spending $1,000 to get an iPhone X? You may not have to.
Two carriers are offering
's new phone -- which went on sale last week -- at a discount when you trade in your old phone. And one more will give you $200 when you BYO iPhone X, no trade required. Let's take a look at the options.
That network... well, it's
's. Most MVNOs are prohibited from mentioning it by name, but it's Verizon's.
The credit works like this: You buy your unlocked iPhone X elsewhere, then bring it to US Mobile. Whatever plan you select, you'll get $200 amortized over six months -- basically a $33.33 credit per month.
US Mobile offers both customizable and unlimited plans on the Super LTE network. Interestingly, the latter let you choose between three data-speed options: Standard, Fast and Ludicrous (1Mbps, 5Mbps and 150Mbps, respectively), which might be preferable to the usual "2GB of high-speed data and then unlimited 2G-speed data." (I'd argue that most mobile phone users would find 5Mpbs more than sufficient.)
Sprint's preorder offer goes like this: Get the iPhone X for no money down and $22.22 per month on an 18-month lease, a savings of $350. But that's only if you activate a new line of service and trade in an eligible model. Otherwise you'll pay the regular $41.67 rate.
Just as interesting, Sprint's preorder page still shows a ship date of Nov. 3, where most other carriers are now stating at least a few weeks out. And Apple proper is already sold out of its Nov. 3 inventory.
The lease deal is available on the silver or space-gray iPhone X with 64GB of storage. If you want it with 256GB, the same lease rates apply but you'll have to pay $150 up front. You'll also have to wait a bit longer, as that model is currently showing a Nov. 14 ship date.
The deal also includes iPhone Forever, which allows you to upgrade after you make at least 12 payments, and Sprint's price-match guarantee, which will pay you the difference if you find a cheaper deal from another carrier.
So, what are your trade-in options? These are the models that will net you the $350 savings: The iPhone 6 or 6S and 6 Plus or 6S Plus. Also the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The
Galaxy Note 5
, S7, S7 Edge, S8 and S8 Plus. The BlackBerry KeyOne. The HTC U11. The
, G6 and
. The Moto Z2 Force, Z Droid, Z Play, Z Force Droid and Z2 Play. And the Pixel and Pixel XL.
Of course, your lease payment doesn't include service, it's just for the phone itself. After 18 months you'll have paid about $400, meaning you'll then need to pay off the balance due or upgrade to a newer model.
Unfortunately, because of the requirement to activate a new line of service, you can't take advantage of Sprint's free-year plan; that requires you to transfer an existing number from a different carrier.
You can, however, get Sprint's unlimited plan for $60 per month (with auto-pay), and up to four additional lines for only another $40.
Watch this: First iPhone X preorders sell out in 10 minutes
It's a similar story over at Verizon -- trade in a phone and sign up for a lease -- but with a few key differences. First, your maximum savings is $300, and that's only when you trade a recent, higher-end model like the iPhone 7, Galaxy S7 or Pixel XL.
There's a second tier of eligible
, but those will net you only a $200 savings. And a third tier (think:
Galaxy Note 4
) tops out at $100. Of course, Sprint won't even accept those older models, so here you're getting something, at least.
Another big consideration: Verizon currently shows a Dec. 1 delivery date for the 64GB iPhone X and Dec. 13 for the 256GB model.
Finally, Verizon keeps you on the hook for 24 months, not 18. And assuming a $29.12-per-month payment (based on a $300 trade-in credit), you'll still have paid only about $700 -- meaning there will still be a balance due unless you upgrade again.
Verizon's unlimited plans start at $75 per month (with auto-pay) for a single line.
Lease or buy?
Assuming Sprint's delivery dates are accurate, it's both the fastest and cheapest way to get an iPhone X, at least for the moment. Depending on the age of the phone you're trading in, the $350 credit might actually prove the best possible deal. (If you were to sell, say, an
on your own, it's unlikely you'd get that much for it.)
That said, it's always a good idea to crunch the numbers and consider other options. For example, if you're able to afford buying the iPhone outright, you can take it to whatever carrier has the best deal -- and potentially spend less over the course of 18 or 24 months.
Indeed, don't leave service out of the equation. Eighteen months of Sprint Unlimited works out to $1,080, and 24 months of Verizon will cost you $1,800. But if you don't need unlimited data, 18 months of, say, Cricket's 4GB plan works out to $630. Or, if you're already with another carrier, buy the iPhone X from Apple (eventually) and bring it to Sprint for a year of free service -- at a savings of $900.
Like I said: Consider the options. If you've found a better one than any of these, by all means share it in the comments!
Editors' note: This post was originally published on Oct. 27, 2017, and has since been updated to include the US Mobile option.