Which Carrier Sees the Best Deals on New Cell Phones?

By , dealnews Media Editor

If your current 2-year cell phone contract is coming to an end, you might be wondering what your next device will be. Will you stick with your current carrier and get whatever discounted phone it has to offer, or will you jump ship and switch to the company that offers the best smartphone deals? To help you make the most economical and tech-savvy decision, we've combed our archives to find out which phone carrier offers the best deals on the latest cell phones.

The Host with the Most (Deals)

Considering the fact that Sprint is always in third place behind AT&T and Verizon, you might have assumed that it would offer consistently better deals in an attempt to lure customers away from the other guys. However, our data suggests otherwise. Last year, we found a total of 61 deals on phones from Verizon and 60 deals from AT&T. There were 50 from Sprint — 18% fewer deals as compared to Verizon and AT&T. (Remember, a "deal" indicates a noteworthy discount, not just a price cut of any sort.)

But since 10 is not that big of a difference in number, we're going to call it a 3-way tie. No one carrier offers more deals on its phones over any of the others, at least not in excess, thus making your chances of finding a deal on the carrier you want about even. However, the quality of deals is a different matter.

The Carrier with the Best Deals

There is, however, a carrier that does see more Editors' Choice deals than the others. With 35 of its deals marked as Editors' Choice, the best carrier with top-level deals on hardware is Verizon, followed by Sprint with 32 of its deals marked as such. Interestingly, the majority of Verizon's Editors' Choice deals last year appeared in the month of December; the tally dropped off significantly after that. Meanwhile, Editors' Choice caliber deals from Sprint started to pick up in October, and the carrier has maintained a high level of quality deals to date. Since Sprint has fewer deals overall, there's an increased likelihood that one of its deals is an Editors' Choice-level bargain.

The Winner!

Verizon edges out AT&T and Sprint as the carrier with both the greatest number of deals and the most Editors' Choice sales. Verizon is therefore the way to go if you're looking for a new on-contract phone (if the carrier doesn't matter to you); chances are that you're going to find a great deal — on a phone you really want — on the Verizon network. Does this mean you should only look at Verizon's offerings? Of course not. But probability predicts that you're slightly more likely to find a great smartphone deal through Verizon.

Wait, What About the iPhone?

According to our data, if you're considering buying an iPhone, at this point, it doesn't much matter which provider you turn to. Over the past year, when we've found notable promotions on the iPhone, it has generally extended to all three carriers. This is largely due to third party sellers like Walmart and Fry's, both of which offered the iPhone 5 at a discount recently (for $127 and $126, respectively).

While there are periods in which you're more likely to find a deal on new iPhone models (for example, 2 months after a new model debuts, we've seen deals that take about $30 off), we didn't find a point in the year in which iPhone deals across the board spiked. That said, we saw a large number of iPhone 5 deals in both December and January, three to four months after the phone's debut.

Wherefore Art Thou, T-Mobile?

Noticeably absent from our list of carriers is T-Mobile, which recently announced that it will be ending cell phone subsidies. This effectively eliminates common subsidized deals on new handsets from the carrier. If you're looking to buy a new phone from T-Mobile, you're going to pay full price, barring any surprise sales or promotions.

Have a particular phone in mind that you want? Set up an email alert now, and, regardless of the carrier, we'll send you a message as soon as we post a deal to the site.

Front page photo credit: Mark Tarses
Photo credits top to bottom: iDownload Blog,
Android Guys, Nexus 404, and Into Mobile

Jeff Somogyi is the dealnews Media Editor. He believes that the best cell phone is a cheap cell phone. (As long as it's also the newest one, too.) Read more of his thoughts on Google+, Twitter, or on his blog.

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DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@vincentjones This isn't about getting a cheaper phone BILL. It's an article about the carriers that provide the most frequent and steepest discounts on phones.
I start to question whether deals on this site can save me money after reading this article claiming Verizon is the best place to get a cheaper phone bill.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
@MisterD This was written before T-Mobile actually put it's plan into place. It claimed that it would drop subsidies, but it's effectively the same thing as they'll let you pay a portion up front and pay off the rest in installments. Which is strikingly similar to the subsidy plan they claimed they would do away with at the time that this was written. That said, it's worth pointing out that they aren't locking you into a contract in the process, so there's not as much incentive to offer really significant price cuts on the phones.
Faulty analysis. T-Mobile offers low and no-price up front costs for new phones, often with lower costs for the life of two-year contract on other carriers.
Page Plus Cellular...
Verizon ?? Seriously, if only you do not mind the sky high phone bill.
We have 5 phones for the family, but none of them are smartphones. We have no use for them. Which carrier has the best deals for non-smartphones?
T-Mobile did say they'd be ending subsidies, but they haven't actually done it yet. However, one thing they have done is made it so that if you get a "Value" plan, you can either finance a phone or buy one upfront and you save a ton of money over a subsidized phone.
Probably the best deal right now, if you can afford it, is to pay Google (not T-Mobile, who marks it up) for the Nexus 4 and use it with a T-Mobile value plan. It will save you hundreds of dollars.
I too would like to know your opinion re: Virgin Mobile and any / all other prepaid carriers.

Thanks, Jon
Any opinions about Virgin Mobile?