How to get the highest-end iPhone 6 Plus for just $120

Why T-Mobile could profit the most from Apple's new gear

iPhone 6
(Image credit: (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images))

Shares of Apple's stock bounced up three percent when Tim Cook unveiled the latest evolution of the iPhone on Tuesday, and then felt gravity when, later in the presentation, he introduced the Apple Watch to the world. The verdict of the market? Hard to say. I was watching the stock price of one of the iPhones' carriers. T-Mobile's shares dropped about 1.66 percent today, to 30.28.

I'd had a sense that T-Mobile is the company best positioned to take quick advantage of consumer stuff-lust to get the latest iPhone (and with it, in January, the Apple Watch.)

Here's why:

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Like many of you, I recently checked with my current carrier to see if I was eligible for an upgrade anytime soon. I wasn't. If I want a new phone, I'll have to pay the full retail price, or pay an early termination fee (ETF) to start over with a new, two-year contract. If, like many Americans, I want the biggest and the best, I'd have to pay $700 for a new phone sans upgrade. That's on top of the data plan, of course.

I don't want to pay $700 for a new phone. I do want a new phone. So where does that leave me?

There really is only one choice. And the more I looked into it, the more compelling a choice it became.

T-Mobile has been preparing for a moment like this for about a year — a moment when consumers want to get out of their contracts but cannot, when they want to get the best trade-in value for the product they've already purchased, and when they want flexibility from an industry that historically has been greedy and deceptive.

First, T-Mobile decided to pay the ETFs for customers switching from other carriers (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon) — up to four separate lines — potentially saving them more than $500. And then, just recently, the company announced that it would match or beat the trade-in value that resell sites like offer for phones in good condition.

This alone could sell many people on T-Mobile. But the T-Mobile network is not as large as its competitors. You don't want to change carriers only to learn there's no LTE service in your area. Though T-Mobile is growing and expanding and investing, there's a chance that Verizon or AT&T's LTE infrastructure will serve you where T-Mobile won't.

Fortunately, the first thing you see on T-Mobile's website is a map. Type in your address and T-Mobile will tell you if you're covered. I typed in the six zip codes I frequent, including two in California, one in Washington, D.C,. and two in Manhattan. All are covered.

Then I looked at the data plans. I don't want to say which carrier I currently use because that carrier has a habit of trying to give journalists who write about their impending cancellations special deals, and that wouldn't be cool. But — suffice it to say, based on the average amount of data I use per month, T-Mobile's plan at that level will save me $600 per year. Seriously. And I use quite a bit of data!

Now for some iCalculations. If I trade in my phone for $200 (a conservative estimate), T-Mobile pays my ETF (say, $350), and I subscribe to a plan that will save me $600 a year, I have about $1000 to play with — conservatively.

Now let's add stuff to the cart. My contract with T-Mobile will cost me about $60 a month. That's about $720 a year. The highest high-end new iPhone Six Plus with 128 gigabytes of storage would cost me $400 with the new T-Mobile contract. That brings the sum up to $1120.

That means, in essence, I can get the best new iPhone for about $120 bucks. If I stick with T-Mobile for more than a year, the phone would pay for itself in two more months.

Yes, there are taxes and fees and a bunch of other niceties, and I'm sure that the other carriers will find reasons to object to the logic of T-Mobile's plan.

It makes sense to me. I wager that, if I switched, T-Mobile would earn a profit from me about six months into my new contract. They're profiting less than Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T will, which means they won't be able to reinvest as much into their infrastructure, which might matter down the road or perhaps mean that I'll drop a few more calls in the present. But I'm willing to accept that trade-off to get out of two-year contracts with ETFs.

If T-Mobile figures out how to prove to people that can get that latest device and save money by doing it, it's hard to see how that doesn't catch on.

Just in case disclosure: I don't own stock in T-Mobile; I don't know anyone who works there; I didn't consult with anyone from the company before writing this post.

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