How your iPhone 5 became a month-to-month commitment

In a move likely to hurt big carriers Verizon and AT&T — and possibly offend the fanboys who want to keep Apple products exclusive — Walmart and T-Mobile are selling the iPhone 5 without a contract and for cheaper monthly prices.

This could be the day Steve Jobs thought would never come. It’s the iPhone you can walk away from anytime you want. It doesn’t matter how many apps you’ve downloaded or how many times you dropped it in the toilet — no one’s asking you to commit.

T-Mobile shook up the cell service industry last month when it rolled out contract-free cell phone plans that are supposed to save customers money over the long-term and give them the chance to walk away whenever they want. The plan has had mixed reviews. Now, with the world’s largest retailer on board, the era of contract-less cell phones could start to take off. Walmart’s pre-paid cell provider, Straight Talk, has already been tested on a number of Samsung models, and may be attractive to cell users frustrated with T-Mobile’s spotty coverage.

Walmart shoppers can now toss into their shopping cart, alongside diapers and socks, an iPhone 5 sans the two-year contract. The iPhone 5 is carried on Straight Talk, which costs $49 per month for unlimited talk, text and data (but be warned, some have said there are a number of restrictions even with the “unlimited” plan). Sure, you have to fork over $649 for the phone itself, but the monthly bill is cheaper compared to anything Verizon or the other big players can offer, and since you’re not roped into a contact, you avoid the overage charges and termination fee.

T-Mobile has said the iPhone 5 will be available without a contract starting April 12. Plans are almost twice as expensive as Straight Talk, though — unlimited talk, text and data is $70 per month.

Both T-Mobile and Walmart are offering financing deals to help with the hefty upfront cost of the iPhone. Walmart’s financing plan runs about $25 per month for 26 months for the 16 GB version of the phone. T-Mobile will require $100 up front, with customers paying an additional $20 a month for two years.

But there’s a chance the iPhone 5 may soon be collecting dust on the shelves, regardless of contract-free offers. A report Tuesday from the Wall Street Journal said Apple is set for a possible summer launch of the next iPhone, bringing the sixth-generation to market months earlier than previous models.


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  • I remember 20 years ago when I purchased a Nokia for a fifth of the price, and back then I thought that was expensive!

  • ChazzMatt

    The Straight Talk/Wal-mart iPhone 5 is CDMA + unlocked GSM. Natively it runs on Verizon CDMA network through agreement with Straight Talk, but if you stick in a GSM sim card it can instead run on any AT&T MVNO.

    This is very much like the Verizon iPhone 5, except the LTE functionality is disabled with Straight Talk.

    • ChazzMatt

      By the way, poorly trained Straight Talk reps will tell you the GSM functionality is disabled, but that’s not true. It has fully functioning unlocked GSM sim card port. HUNDREDS of people have confirmed this on the forums. It’s just like the Verizon iPhone 5 in this regard. Google: Verizon iPhone 5 AT&T GSM