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The iPhone 5S: how much it costs, and where to get it

Another year, another iPhone. This time it’s the iPhone 5S, a revised version of Apple’s last flagship that includes substantial changes. There’s a new home button with an integrated fingerprint scanner, an improved 8-megapixel camera with larger pixels for additional light capture, and a 64-bit processor that will help to improve overall performance.

But how much do the networks want for it, and will you even be able to buy one right now? Let’s figure it out.

Unlocked

The only way to get an unlocked unit right now is through Apple, and the company has already run out of its initial launch day stock. The 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models of all three colours – space grey, white, and gold – won’t be available until October. if you still want to go ahead and order, then you’ll have to pay £549, £629, or £709 depending on how much storage you need.

LTE contracts

Think you’ll be able to get the phone for free? Not so fast. You’ll be putting down cash on EE and Vodafone, with only O2 offering the 16GB iPhone 5S for no upfront cost on its Refresh tariff.

The phone will instead be split into 24 payments of £25 each month. If you want to reduce that monthly cost – even by £5 – then you’ll be coughing up a minimum of £120 to take the device home. And once you add on the actual tariff – £22 a month for just 1GB of data – then you’ll end up paying £47 a month for two years. O2’s stock is extremely limited too. There aren’t any phones available in retail stores, and certain configurations are already delayed by several weeks.

Vodafone is ponying up more data for your money, but you’ll have to pay a small amount upfront for the phone. The cheapest tariff is £47 a month, which will net you 6GB of data – at least if you sign up before the end of October, anyway. The 16GB iPhone 5S will require a £79 downpayment, but if you jump up to the £52 a month tariff – giving you a total of 8GB of data – then you’ll only have to pay £19 for the phone.

EE will give you a lot more flexibility with data requirements and upfront costs. If you only need 1GB of data, for instance, then the monthly cost will ring up to £31, but you’ll have to pay £210 for the 16GB model. The upfront cost drops to a more reasonable £50 if you opt for the £46 a month plan, giving you 10GB of data. You’ll be waiting a few weeks for delivery if you order directly from EE online, though.

3G contracts

You won’t have to pay nearly as much per month if you’re happy with 3G data speeds. Three, for example, is offering the 16GB iPhone 5S for £37 a month on its Ultimate Internet 500 plan after a £99 upfront cost, netting you totally unlimited data. And when the company flips the LTE switch in December, you’ll automatically get the new superfast speeds without paying anything extra. The network seems to have plenty of stock available too.

O2’s 3G Refresh plans essentially drop its total monthly costs by £5. You can still get the phone for free by paying £25 a month, with the cheapest tariff costing £17 for 1GB of data, bringing the total monthly payout to £42. Once again, though, stock is extremely limited.

Vodafone isn’t quite as appealing as either of those options. The company wants an upfront payment of £79 and a monthly spend of £42 for a 16GB iPhone 5S, giving you just 1GB of data. Bumping up to £47 a month will increase the data allowance to 2GB, and decrease the upfront cost of the handset to £19.

T-Mobile and Orange seem expensive in comparison. The former network wants £47 a month and an upfront payment of £70 for the phone, netting you “unlimited” data. The latter, meanwhile, requires a payment of £80 for the handset and a monthly payment of £47 for 5GB of data.

So, who should I go with?

If you want a 16GB iPhone 5S and LTE, then EE works out the cheapest in terms of total cost of ownership. You’ll pay £1,154 in total over two years if you go with its 10GB £46 a month plan. In comparison, Vodafone will cost £1,207 with its own £47 a month tariff, and you “only” get 6GB of data. O2 is the most expensive of the three, costing £1,258 in total on a £52 a month plan with 5GB of data. And  if you don’t need all that data, EE still ends up being the best value for money, even on its lower tier plans.

Having said that, Three is ultimately the cheapest option if you’re willing to wait until December for its LTE network to go live. Total cost of ownership works out to £987 after a £99 downpayment and a two year £37 a month commitment. But if you need LTE right this very second, then Three is off the table.

Three should be your first choice when it comes to 3G connectivity: its total cost of ownership is the lowest of all the networks offering the iPhone 5S on 3G contracts. Again, you’ll be paying £987 in total on Three’s Ultimate Internet 500 plan. The next cheapest is O2, with a total cost of £1,008 over two years, but you’ll only have 1GB of data to tide you over each month.

To sum it all up: go with EE if you’re desperate for LTE right now. Otherwise, stick with Three.

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