Sprint and T-Mobile remind you about their iPhone 6s deals

Rivalry between the nation’s smallest major carriers could work out in your favor.

iphone 6s upgrade plan

If you’re looking to pick up an iPhone 6s for less than its $650 suggested price, Sprint and T-Mobile are eager to help.

Both wireless carriers are leasing the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus with monthly installment plans that are cheaper than those of AT&T and Verizon. They’ll also save you money over Apple’s new installment plan .

Here’s how it all breaks down:

T-Mobile Jump On Demand

With T-Mobile’s iPhone 6s deal, you pay $20 per month for the hardware with no money down, or $24 per month for the iPhone 6s Plus. After 18 months, you can either give the phone back to T-Mobile, or pay another $164 to buy the phone outright. (This would bring the total payment to $524, which is still $125 cheaper than full price). Either way, you’re free to leave T-Mobile at that point. You can also sign up for a new hardware plan, though the cost may increase as the $20 per month deal is a limited-time offer.

Keep in mind that you still need to tack on an actual service plan, separate from the $20 per month hardware charge. T-Mobile’s individual plans start at $50 per month for 1GB of data, and go up to $80 per month for unlimited data.

To sweeten the deal a bit further—and fight back at the perception of inferior coverage—T-Mobile says it will refund your phone and service costs if you return it within the first month. If you’re unsatisfied after that, T-Mobile will still refund a month’s service and unlock the phone so you can take it to another carrier—though you’ll have to pick up the full tab for the hardware. (Update: Just to clarify, T-Mobile will still let you pay off the phone in monthly installments at the reduced price, even if you've moved to another carrier.)

Sprint iPhone Forever

With Sprint, you can pay as little as $15 per month for the iPhone 6s, though you must trade in an old phone to get that price. Without a trade-in, the regular price is $22 per month.

Either way, you’re signing up for a 22-month lease. After that, you can either keep paying the lease on a month-to-month basis, trade in the device, or pay the remaining hardware cost ($319, it seems) to keep the phone. One more thing: Whenever there’s a new iPhone, you’re free to trade up at no extra charge, though you’ll presumably start another lease cycle by doing so.

As with T-Mobile, Sprint’s advertised $15 per month price doesn’t include service. But unlike its rival, Sprint requires you to get either an unlimited individual data plan or a family shared data plan. So while Sprint cheerfully points out that its plan is $20 per month cheaper, you don’t have the option to pay less if you’re not a big data user.

Who wins?

It’s hard to declare a clear victor here, given that T-Mobile and Sprint structure their plans differently. But purely from a price perspective, T-Mobile works out better if you intend to buy your phone outright down the road. Sprint should be cheaper if you need unlimited data and plan to continually swap out for a new phone.

Both plans are much less expensive than Apple’s own plan, which starts at $32.41 per month for an iPhone 6s, with one free upgrade per year. But this does include AppleCare+ coverage, and gives you the freedom to roam between any carrier you want.

Subscribe to the Best of Macworld Newsletter