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Everything you need to know about T-Mobile's big iPhone news
America's fourth-largest carrier scraps two-year contracts, and more
Yep, T-Mobile customers, it's coming.
Yep, T-Mobile customers, it's coming. John Moore/Getty Images

1. T-Mobile is getting the iPhone
Starting April 12, well over half a decade since the first iPhone launched, T-Mobile is finally joining AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint, and will begin selling the iPhone 5 (which will be compatible with the service's new LTE network). A few "select markets" — we're not sure where — will also get the cheaper iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4, too. How much will a new iPhone 5 cost you, exactly? Well…

2. T-Mobile is scrapping two-year contracts
Big news: T-Mobile is eliminating two-year contracts and is rebranding itself is the "Uncarrier." Instead, users can either (1) Pay the expensive, unsubsidized price of a new phone upfront and pay a lower monthly rate, or (2) Pay extra monthly equipment fees as part of a 24-month installment plan in addition to the lower monthly rate (more on that in a bit). Both plans come with unlimited talk and text.

Smartphones are expensive little computers. American carriers like AT&T and Verizon will help you front the cost by offering subsidized versions, which you pay back every month with added costs to your bill. 

But T-Mobile's new plan is different. An unsubsidized 16GB Samsung Galaxy S3 through T-Mobile, for example, will cost you $550 upfront. The catch is that you'll pay less for your monthly data plan, which you can leave anytime with no penalties: $50/month for 500MB of 3G/4G data (if you hit your cap speeds crawl to 2G), 2GB of high-speed data is $60/month, or you can pay $70/month for glorious, unlimited 4G data.

On AT&T or Verizon, you can expect to pay an average of $20/month extra for similar plans, and neither offer unlimited data. At the end of two years on T-Mobile, you would theoretically end up saving yourself a few hundred extra dollars, not to mention you can switch to another phone — HTC One? Galaxy S4? BlackBerry Z10? T-Mobile has or will have 'em — basically whenever you want.

3. You don't have to pay the full unsubsidized cost upfront
Say you can't afford the expensive upfront cost of a new phone. That's understandable. Rather than lose potential customers, T-Mobile is giving folks the option to pay off a device with a two-year installment plan. For example, if you select the 500MB $50/month data plan for the iPhone 5, you'll pay a $99 down payment for the phone itself PLUS an extra $20/month as part of an equipment installment plan. In other words, your monthly bill will be: ($50 for data)+($20 equipment fee)=$70/month.

At face value this looks a lot like a traditional two-year contract, but remember: At the end of two years, the phone is yours and you'll only have the monthly rate to contend with.

Chris Gayomali is the science and technology editor for TheWeek.com. Sometimes he writes about other stuff. His work has also appeared in TIME, Men's JournalEsquire, and The Atlantic.

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