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There's one more thing to consider when choosing your next phone - the cost of it.

It is perhaps no surprise to discover that Apple's iPhone presents as a much more expensive choice than most Android phones.

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The iPhone's Pricing Disadvantage Compared to Android Phones

Part 7 :  A potential $1000 extra cost for an iPhone compared to an Android phone over a two year contract

The short lived but lovely Nexus One, made by HTC and sold by Google itself.

For a while, this phone marked the ultimate 'state of the art' in Android phones.

Rumors occasionally arise about Google returning to the hardware market with a Nexus Two.  But, until that time, there are over 100 other makes/models of excellent Android phones for you to choose from.

This article is part of a series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone and helping you choose which would be the best option for you.

Please read through other parts in the series - see links on the right.



One could possibly debate for an extended time the respective merits of iPhones and Android phones.

But one can't debate the additional costs of ownership that you'll incur if you do choose an iPhone over an Android phone.

Are you willing to pay $1000 more over the two year life of a contract for an iPhone compared to an Android phone?  Especially if the Android phone might be better than the iPhone to start with?

Lastly, in case you haven't already reached one yourself, we offer you a conclusion and summary of findings in our seven part series.

The Apple Pricing Disadvantage

When evaluating the cost of different phones, you need to consider the cost in a number of different categories.  Some of these categories relate to the phone purchase, some to your choice of wireless carrier and the contracts they offer, and some relate to other incidental costs that you'll incur, either upfront or an on ongoing basis.

Here's one possible set of seven categories to consider :

  • Upfront purchase cost of the hardware

  • Upfront costs for accessories

  • Costs for software

  • Minimum contract period

  • Ongoing monthly cost for voice

  • Ongoing monthly cost for data

  • Ongoing monthly cost for texting

In just about every category, you can find a lower cost better solution using some type of Android device than an Apple iPhone.  Let's quickly consider some of the main considerations.

Hardware cost

If you want an iPhone, you'll currently pay either $199 or $299 for an iPhone 4 with 16GB or 32 GB of memory, and you'll have to commit to a two year service plan with AT&T costing something in excess of $55 a month (plus taxes) depending on the service options you choose.

The cheapest Android based phone (at the time of writing) is currently offered by T-Mobile.  This is the Comet, which is being sold for $10 and something in excess of $40 a month (plus taxes).  Even cheaper phones can be purchased through third parties such as Amazon (see add above on the left hand side), whereas there's no way you'll find a discounted iPhone anywhere.

The lowest priced Android based phones are admittedly inferior to the iPhone, but they are also $200 less expensive to purchase, and at least $15/month less expensive to own and use.

Monthly Wireless Carrier costs

These are a bit harder to quantify, because the various deals and plans offered by the wireless companies change from time to time.

But, in general, there is one thing that we can point out.  Normally, T-Mobile is the least expensive of the 'Big Four' US wireless companies.  T-Mobile offers a broad range of Android based phones, but does not (and probably will never) sell the iPhone.

An entry level voice and data plan from AT&T for the iPhone will cost $55 a month (plus all the taxes and fees on top of that).  A superior entry level plan from T-Mobile (ie it probably includes some texting too) will cost you only $40 a month; a saving of $15 which actually will probably end up more like $16 or more once the tax differential is allowed for too, and if you have to pay for some texting with AT&T that you get included for free with T-Mobile, the saving increases still further.

Considered over a typical two year contract, this could represent a saving of $400 if you choose an Android phone on T-Mobile compared to an iPhone on AT&T.

Software costs

It is hard to get full advantage and benefit from an iPhone without adding the (admittedly flawed) MobileMe product to the phone, so you're immediately up for another $99 a year payable to Apple for this service.

If you want to add full GPS navigation, you may choose to use the free Google product that is only available on Android phones.  To get a comparable product on an iPhone, you'll have to buy a mapping program for anywhere/everywhere in the world you may travel, and depending on your choices, this is likely to cost you something in excess of $50, or potentially $5 - $10 a month if you choose a service that offers a monthly service plan rather than charging a single upfront cost.

Just considering these two items, again on a two year contract, there is somewhere between a $250 and a $400 saving offered by an Android phone compared to an iPhone.

In total

So, add it all up.  An Android phone handset can be $200 - $300 less than an iPhone.  A wireless contract for an Android phone can save you $400 over its two year life compared to an iPhone.  And some basic software which is free on an Android phone can add another $250 or more to the extra cost of an iPhone.  In total, over two years, you're looking at almost $1000 in extra costs for an iPhone compared to an Android phone - maybe even a bit more, maybe somewhat less.

This is again history repeating itself (see the comparison between the Apple/Android battle now and that formerly between Mac and PC computers in part 5 of the series).  Apple is closing itself out of the lower part of the market (and possibly/potentially the middle part too).

The pricing disadvantage of iPhones compared to Android based phones provides another reason to project the continued growth of Android phones in preference to Apple's iPhones.

At Last - Our Summary and Conclusion

Apple's iPhone and the iOS operating system which powers it (and which also powers the iPod touch and iPad range of devices too) is an excellent product and truly was a huge leap forward from everything that preceded it when it was first launched in 2007.

When the first Android-based phone appeared in late 2008, it was not nearly as sophisticated or satisfactory a device as the second generation iPhone it was been competing with. But the learning curve for both the people developing the Android operatin the operating system has become much more sophisticated and the phones much more enhanced. Android version 2.2 seems to be at least the equal of iOS version 4.1, and the best Android phones are at least as good as the top-of-the-line iPhone 4.

Additionally, some of the capricious limitations on capabilities that Apple has chosen to impose on its product range do not similarly afflict phones based on the open Android system.

We are not simply making these claims based on abstract theory. The market as a whole has recognized Android's ascendancy and these days Android phones are convincingly outselling Apple phones, perhaps in part due to an equality/superiority in features and a greater range of phone/carrier choices, and perhaps in part due to the much better value and cost of ownership offered by Android phones.

These trends appear sustainable and we expect Android to continue to take market share from Apple, in a manner very similar to how Windows based PCs ended up transferring the strong competition initially presented by Apple with its Mac alternative.

Looking to the future, the choices you make today are likely to gently bind you into the future, due to your probable investment not just in a phone handset that will probably last you only a couple of years, but a growing investment in software, music, and videos that could follow you to subsequent phones based on the same operating system. It is therefore becoming more important now that your present-day choice of phone handset recognizes not only the present marketplace situation, but also anticipates its ongoing evolution into the future.

Happily, an Android based phone is not only your best choice today, but is likely to remain your best choice into the future too.

This article is part of a series comparing Android based phones with Apple's iPhone and helping you choose which would be the best option for you.  Please read through other parts in the series - see links at the top right of this article.

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Originally published 4 Nov 2010, last update 21 Jul 2020

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

Related Articles
Should you choose an Android based smartphone or iOS based Apple iPhone
Part 1 :  Introduction, Executive Overview, History
Part 2 :  The unnecessary restrictions imposed on you by Apple if choosing an iPhone
Part 3 :  Hardware issues between Android and iPhones
Part 4 :  Performance and Compatibility issues
Part 5 :  Market shares and trends
Part 6 :  Other OS choices for smartphones
Part 7 :  Pricing and Conclusion

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