Chart Compares Total Cost Of Ownership For Popular Smartphones

You may think that buying an iPhone with AT&T service is an expensive commitment, and you’d be right. But as this chart from BillShrink shows, your total cost of ownership (TCO) for any of the latest smartphones is going to exceed 2 grand over a 24-month period. In fact, the highly-praised new Motorola Droid on Verizon works out to exactly the same TCO as the latest iPhone.

(Click chart to view full-size)


“Total Cost of Ownership: Motorola Droid vs iPhone 3GS vs Palm Pre vs MyTouch 3G” [BillShrink]

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  1. hypnotik_jello says:

    The chart needs to be updated for T-Mobile’s new plans.

    • schance says:

      @hypnotik_jello: It also doesn’t take into account many of AT&T’s plans. I pay $160/month for TWO iPhones, with 700 shared minutes (which we never come close to using, since most of our contacts are also on AT&T), unlimited data, and 200 texts/month per line. I’d pay about 145-150/month if we didn’t have the texting charges.

      • Charlotte Rae's Web says:

        @schance: we don’t text and our two phone bill is around 140ish.

      • SnoopyFish says:

        @schance: hmm. I just signed up for an iphone at&t plan today. 450 min, 200 texts, and unlimited data for $60 per month. I don’t see how you have 2 phones for almost triple of what I pay on one phone???

    • remington870_20ga says:

      @hypnotik_jello: It also needs to be updated for Sprint. $70 will get you unlimited data/text/ mobile ot mobile.

  2. c_c says:

    The avg. use plan for Sprint should be the $69.99 that includes unlimited calling to any mobile number.

    • FigNinja says:

      @cc82: And this is why I wish the Droid was coming to Sprint. They really have great plans.

    • Scatter says:

      @cc82:

      Yeah, Sprint would be great if it wasn’t for their network and all the disconnects I used to get with them.

      • Pickled_Herring says:

        @Scatter: I have both a sprint phone and an at&t phone – both do drop calls but I definitely have less network coverage issues with the Sprint – and I live in a major city!

      • ahleeeshah says:

        @Scatter: It might just be my area, but I’ve never had a dropped call with Sprint. The only issues I’ve had with them have been phone-related, but that’s my fault for buying an overpriced phone.

        I pay about $67/month for what is essentially an unlimited plan (I have a 20% company discount).

  3. KarateMedia says:

    As a Verizon customer, I was looking forward to the Droid as possibly my first smartphone. But if I’m facing a minimum of $60 more per month to upgrade to a plan that makes it worth owning a smartphone, there’s no way in hell I can justify it. I had no idea a worthwhile plan would cost that much.

    If we’re in a recession, how the heck do people afford things like this?

    • Hogan1 says:

      If you want to go down the smartphone route I’d suggest checking with your employer to see if they have a partnership with Verizon or another carrier. For example I get 20% off my monthly bill through my employer on my personal smartphone.

      • KarateMedia says:

        @Hogan1: Ah, you are correct – I already receive a discount on my plan, which means I”d actually be spending just under $60/month more to get the lowest plan on this chart, if all my math is correct.

        Thanks for reminding me – it also turns out that my company’s discount went up 5% from what’s reflected on my bill, so I just called to have it corrected for the next bill cycle.

        @nbs2: I thought I was paying $49.99/month, but it turns out I’m on a $39.99/month basic 450 min plan, plus about 20% off that. It would be close to $60/month extra to upgrade to the $109.99/month plan in the chart above, even taking my company discount into consideration.

      • lordcainx says:

        @Hogan1: Looking at the chart I’m glad I work as a telecom admin for a bank. They bought me my iphone 3G and pay the plan in full monthly. Makes up for the crap pay that banks pay IT staff. Course I can’t leave and expect to take the phone with me heheh.

        • LastError says:

          @lordcainx: So how does your bank feel about doing bank business on a GSM device which as a phone protocol has been completely holed and hacked and is insecure? Do they have a problem with that, or not? I think they should. You as an admin would not let them install a wireless router with WEP and run bank data over it, right? Well, GSM is to voice what WEP is to data: worthless.

    • nbs2 says:

      @KarateMedia: $60!? Are you out of contract on a really good voice plan or is there something else that would raise the price so drastically? I pay an extra $30/month, since all I did was tack data on to my existing plan (rates hadn’t changed). If I read my bill right the other day, I think I my changing employers resulted in a net drop, as now I am only paying $8 more than I was pre-smartphone. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to call and complain…

  4. nakkypoo says:

    Charts like this are not nearly as helpful as they may seem.

    The information changes so fast, as was pointed out with T-mobile’s new plans. Apple’s App Store has also hit the 100k app mark. And storage capacities on all by iPhone are limitless thanks to SD cards (similarly with battery life since you can have multiple batteries for the others as well).

    • destruktolux says:

      @nakkypoo: FYI, the Palm Pre doesn’t include an SD expansion slot of any kind. Sadly, I don’t think the new Pixi does either. From my understanding, since Palm engineered these phones from scratch, it would’ve either increased the cost or changed the form factor for the worse. Hopefully later WebOS devices will offer this, but I don’t think it’s all that significant of a black mark against the phone.

  5. shadowkahn says:

    according to a pricing structure I found, the droid will be $40/month voice and $30/month web&email. Assuming you add text messaging at $10 a month, that works out to $80. I have trouble believing that even Verizon will find $30 worth of BS fees to add to that.

  6. jaydez says:

    Where are they getting a data limit of 5GB on the iphone from? I thought it was unlimited.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @jaydez:

      Average iPhone user generates about 400MB/month in traffic.

    • 4hotdog says:

      @nbs2: @jvanbrecht: Where do you get your information from? I have never heard of this at all, and have never heard of anyone being billed for going over. I know that a soft cap was rumored in response to people tethering their iphones, but it was all rumor.

      Do you have any links or documentation to prove that the unlimited plan is really 5gb?

      • dvdchris says:

        @4hotdog: Seriously? It’s pretty well known all wireless providers have gone to a 5gb cap on data for some time now.
        Do a google search for ‘5g cap’ and you can pull up all the info you need.

        • 4hotdog says:

          @dvdchris: Seriously! I havent heard of any wireless providers offering unlimited contracts and then capping at 5gb. I am not saying it doesnt exist, but I have never heard of any iphone users being penalized. I asked a friend who works for att and he said he hadnt heard of it.

          Google searching for att iphone unlimited 5gb cap provides me with some people who say it exists and others who say it doesn’t. Nothing official and no first hand accounts.

  7. logicalnoise says:

    the pre isn’t the best phone sprint offers, the HTC hero is. The hero is also getting android 2.0 soon.

  8. INsano says:

    Why is the Palm Pre the Sprint contribution to this instead of the HTC Hero? Apples and Oranges is fun and all…

  9. henneko says:

    Where’s the row on the chart that tells us which company won’t try to screw us over?

  10. Colonel Jack O'Neill says:

    Why doesn’t anyone offer a 100 min a month plan for like $10.00. 100 min is more then I even use.

    I was thinking of getting the droid, but after I seen the price, hell no.

    I thinking about getting the Nokia 5800 Xpress music and use it as a prepaid phone.

    • fs2k2isfun says:

      @Colonel Jack O’Neill: You admit to only needing 100 minutes per month yet are considering a very high end device like the Droid. Am I missing something?

      I think for something like that, pay as you go would be a much more cost effective way to go.

      • P=mv says:

        @fs2k2isfun: You admit to only needing 100 minutes per month yet are considering a very high end device like the Droid. Am I missing something?

        I think for something like that, pay as you go would be a much more cost effective way to go.

        I talk on the phone an average of 30-40 minutes a month. However, I send a huge number of text messages and would love to have the other cool features. I don’t see how owning a Droid could be pointless if you don’t actually talk on the phone much. Owning a normal, cheapo phone would be far more pointless.

    • EarlNowak says:

      @Colonel Jack O’Neill: Honestly? The carriers do offer that kind of plan- you have to go prepaid. $0.10 a minute is basically standard. Look at Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, T-mobile to Go, Tracfone, Page Plus or any of the other prepaid brands.

    • rtwigg says:
    • The Cynical Librarian says:

      @Colonel Jack O’Neill: I’m with you (I posted on the other page, sorry for a repeat, but…) My wife and I have to have 700 minutes a month. Combined we use maybe 100 or 150. Sprint’s idea for us to lower our number of minutes… 2 plans at 400 minutes… Genius I tell ya!

  11. LINIS says:

    Seriously, screw the Pre and put up Sprint’s Hero with Android. And I agree that the average use should be the $69.99 450 minute, unlimited any-mobile calling / data / text plan. Sprint also seems to have a lot of corporate discounts. My company uses Verizon, but we also get the 15% discount on Sprint.

  12. legwork says:

    This is annoying. Base plans head down to reality while smart plans stay crazy. I just switched to PagePlus’ $29.95 1200min/1200text/50MB plan. A little web & GPS use does not justify tripling that cost.

  13. gtsports says:

    $110-$150/month for a cell phone? That’s what all these iPhone people are paying? You’ve got to be kidding me!

    My wife and I pay Verizon a combined $65/month for both of our lines – have more than enough minutes to talk (especially because mobile-to-mobile is free), and just pay by the text since we don’t text very often.

    What kind of recession is this where I’m seemingly the only person I know not paying $100+/month for a cell phone?

    • henrygates says:

      @gtsports: We pay $75 for our two cell lines. I agree $100+ for a single phone is insane, but if you are self employed or do business on the go on a regular basis, a $100 internet connected phone may be a justified business expense.

    • b-real says:

      @gtsports:

      It’s not a recession for everyone.

    • flidget says:

      @gtsports: This iPhone person’s paying $40/month. When I moved out, I stayed on my family’s AT&T plan – why pay AT&T $75/month when I can pay a $40 share of a family plan instead?

    • FigNinja says:

      @gtsports: Actually I think $70-$80 is closer to average. I pay $100 but that’s a family plan with two smartphones.

    • BklynHotniss says:

      @gtsports: You’re not the only sane one. I pay $65 free incoming, free at 6pm, mobile to mobile $5, 300 txt for ONE DOLLAR!-After tax $76.00. And I am still trying to lower my plan. I refuse to pay sooo much for internet use. I am quite patient and an oppt’y/promotion deal will come my way. Preferably in the form of $10 for internet-I will not pay a penny more!

  14. readams says:

    iPhone does not support turn by turn navigation unless you pay a monthly fee and buy a $100 app.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      @readams:

      …and since the Droid will do that for free without the Verizon Navigator service, which requires a Premium rate plan before you can even get it, we could cut my wife’s cell phone bill in half just by switching to the Droid from her LG phone which she uses constantly for GPS directions.

  15. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    It seems all the carriers have higher priced data plans for smartphones. If you’re looking to save money in the long run, just buy an unlocked and unbranded GSM smartphone. Then sign up for the cheaper dumbphone data plan. I believe T-Mobile charges $10 a month, and ATT charges $15.

  16. valleyval says:

    @gtsports: For me it’s worth every single penny. My iPhone has gotten me out of more jams than I can name.

  17. youbastid says:

    With minor google searching, you can find out how to get a sprint plan that includes unlimited calls to any mobile number and 500 minutes to landlines, + unlimited everything else for $59.99 a month. The sprint hero is $180, so total 24 months + phone is $1620. FAR below their quote for sprint, and well below what anyone else offers. And it’s an awesome phone.

  18. Skater009 says:

    Lame Chart – Start over

  19. ellemnop says:

    @flidget: Yep, I have 5000 minutes shared among myself and 3 family members, unlimited texts and unlimited data for $67 a month with my iPhone + family plan. I just write a check to my dad instead of ATT.

  20. SkuldChan says:

    My Nokia N97 actually has better stats than all these phones, is unlocked and costs about the same with no contract or no carrier lockin.

  21. sonneillon says:

    Palm catalog though is kind of misleading in Apps because the old palm apps function (there might have to be an emulator I don’t know) and there are many more of those than the iPhone ones.

  22. SJPadbury says:

    and what the heck, no love for the Blackberry on there? The storm is feature-competitive with all of those…

  23. consumerd says:

    no way in hell would I give 2 grand over the life of the contract. I can live without the internet and texting in my hand.

    For the 2 tmobile prepaid phones I have (me and the wife) with minutes we come in well under $700 for the year.

    You people are nuts!

    Although I think I may wait and look around for a Nokia N97 at some more reasonable prices and get text and phone that way.

  24. cinlouwho says:

    I am actually thinking about getting rid of cell phone use all together! Too expensive.

  25. Mariushm says:

    I feel sorry for you guys…

    The highest plan for one of the biggest cellphone providers in my country costs 80 euro (or about 117$ a month) and includes unlimited calls and sms messages in that network (about 35% of all cellphones) and 800 included minutes for calls to other networks (19 euro cents or 27 us cents for each minute) and free 3g internet at 3.6mbps for the first 1GB (capped at 128kbps after that).
    You can get any cellphone on the market and use it with that. Much cheaper and proof competition does good…

    Here’s the plans page:
    [translate.google.com]

    iPhone is available with three plans: 19, 39 and 59 euros a month.

    For the 19 euro a month plan, the 16GB 3GS is 349 euro with 24months plan so you pay in the end 805 euro or 1200$… for the 59 euro a month plan it’s 199euro for two years or 319 for one year.
    I admit it’s not unlimited calls but still, the 59 euro plan includes 500 minutes and 500 sms messages and 1.5GB of traffic which is quite a lot.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      @Mariushm:

      So, for the iPhone, E199 upfront (with a 2 year contract) and E59/month gets you 500 minutes and 500 SMS/month, along with 1.5GB/month of data. That’s 199+24*59=E1615 for two years, or ~$2375 for two years.

      With AT&T, iPhone with 450 anytime minutes, free nights and weekends (to any phone, regardless of network), unlimited data (effectively 5GB/month), and 1500 SMS to any network is 39.99+30+15=$84.99/month, plus $199 for the phone upfront, or $2240 for two years.

      Guess the US isn’t that third-worldy after all.

  26. Aquasol says:

    The best bit of info I personally got from this is that there are newer phones that still support MIDI– and I lurrrrv MIDI. ;~;

    It’s easily the best ringtone format(well, if you’re into videogames, at least).

  27. frijoles99 says:

    All of this is ridiculous. Get SERO from sprint. Currently I get 500 minutes unlimited texting, unlimited internet and I am paying $30 bucks a month, With the 20% off UCLA discount I am paying 26 bucks a month. My phone right now is an htc touch pro that I am really happy with. If I wanted to I could upgrade with my free 2 year upgrade to a touch pro 2 or even a hero. So for me about 800 bucks every two years total including phone

    This chart does not take into account the sero plan either.Which is at about 60 bucks a month limited but large number of minutes unlimited text and web. Hell, even if you and 3 buddies were on the sero plan with a 20% off discount each of you pays 33 bucks a month, and you get the latest badass phones. I’m half jewish so I get to say this, but “Who pays retail anymore?”

  28. The Cynical Librarian says:

    I just want to know why I still can’t have less than 700 minutes to share with my wife (on Sprint). We use maybe 100 a month. I’d rather do the 450 minutes to share and use the savings to get some data raging on my phone. Oh well, it’s not like we’re going anywhere, we get a 22% discount because of her employer with Sprint.

  29. mizike says:

    8GB iPod Touch = $199.00
    8GB iPhone 3GS = $599.00

    The fact that this is a $400.00 difference is completely absurd.

  30. rachaeljean says:

    I ditched my iPhone & bloated monthly bill 2 weeks ago, and I’m pleasantly surprised to say I haven’t missed it at all.

    I still have the device to use as an iTouch with wifi, but replaced my primary phone with a basic candybar gophone I got off of eBay for ten bucks. I text a lot less now, due to the fact that it’s really slow and awkward, so I’m hoping I can drop my texting plan now too. :)

  31. meehawl says:

    As the years go by, my old Sprint SERO plan looks better and better. Smartphone is usually $100-$200, and $30/month for unlimited internet/tethering/texts/TV works out at TCO for 2 years of $800-$900. Makes the other TCOs look sick. No wonder Apple/Verizon/T-Mobile can afford to clog up the airwaves with their annoying broadcast spam.

  32. Ishbar says:

    My girlfriend and I have a Family Plan w/ 700 Mins, Unl Text + Data.

    Between the both of us we pay $80 a month.
    With roll over we can basically NEVER use up the minutes.

    I wish they had 300 Minute plans w/ Roll over. I would definitely enjoy a $10 price cut.

  33. tvmitch says:

    Joining up with family plans is key…a chart with family plan costs here would be helpful. My 4 iPhone lines (me, my wife, and my brother and his fiancee) on a 700 minute plan plus unlimited messaging and my 22% work discount is $58.50/line/month. And I have 200 bonus minutes from AT&T on my line, so it’s really a 900 minute plan.

  34. Daveed says:

    I’m sure it’s been said already, but at least if you go for Verizon over AT&T for the same price…you get a better network for the same price.

    From what I’ve heard, AT&T’s 3G is still new and spotty, and Verizon has had theirs longer and has a notoriously good network.

  35. nakkypoo says:

    @fs2k2isfun: Right, because the 15% of Californians who are unemployed is a small percentage of people.

  36. Coelacanth says:

    @nakkypoo: If the charts change so fast, all it requires somebody to do is recheck the values every couple of days (or week) and post an upgraded graphic.

    Better yet, create a permanent link to the most updated version – that way, no matter when the information’s pulled, it’s up-to-date without having to hunt all over for it.

  37. meltingcube says:

    @lmarconi:
    To me the extra cost to have 24×7 access to my email and the web is worth it to me. The company I work for is 24×7 so its nice to be able to look at emails and resolve issues no matter where I am.

  38. Con Seannery says:

    @cc82: What’s with all of these new units on Consumerist lately? Dollar-miles? Dollar-minutes?

  39. Radi0logy says:

    @Trai_Dep: Yes… sex provided by virtue of… your cellphone. The very best kind.

  40. jamar0303 says:

    @Charlotte Rae’s Web: Of course they lie to you about it. They make piles of money off of roaming (it costs more than twice as much US card in HK as HK card in US; think about that for a minute). It’s ALWAYS better to get a phone card in HK if you’re going there.

  41. SnoopyFish says:

    @NeverLetMeDown: I guess I got some kind of discount?? cool!

  42. stranger than fiction says:

    @jamar0303: I am currently using an unlocked phone on the Death Star’s network, and they have blocked certain functions. I can’t even send pics to another phone.