On the eve of the retail store debut of the Apple iPhone 6S, T-Mobile US and Sprint made waves with the introduction of new rate plans that will enable subscribers to lease the iPhone 6S for as little as $1 per month. The new lease programs raise the competitive ante at a time when most U.S. wireless carriers are abandoning handset subsidies and two-year contracts in favor of no-contract rate plans that require subscribers to purchase or lease smart phones with installment payments. T-Mobile launched the first salvo Wednesday, announcing that it would lease the iPhone 6S for $5 per month (or an iPhone 6S Plus for $9 per month) over an 18-month period with the exchange of an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 5 or a Samsung Galaxy 6S. Trades of an iPhone 5S, Galaxy Note 4 or Galaxy 5S will bump the monthly lease for an iPhone 6S up to $10 per month, and trades of other smart phone models will qualify for a $15 monthly lease payment. At the end of the lease term, subscribers who wish to keep their iPhones will be able to purchase their devices.
Although T-Mobile touted its $5 per month lease offer as “absolutely unbeatable,” Sprint managed to top that offer yesterday with its own plan to lease the 16 GB iPhone 6S for $1 per month (or an iPhone 6S Plus for $5 per month) with the trade of an iPhone 6. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure reported that, upon receiving news of T-Mobile’s lease plan, ten Sprint employees put their heads together during an all-night session to come up with a better offer, boasting: “we got into a room, looked at the financials” and figured out a way to make it work. Sprint is marketing its cut-rate lease offer as part of the company’s “iPhone Forever” program, which allows eligible Sprint customers to obtain new model iPhones as soon as they become available. Monthly lease rates will top out at $10.53 (or $14.53) for higher memory configurations of the iPhone 6S or 6S Plus, and Sprint will offer a monthly lease rate of $10 for an iPhone 6S (or $14 for an iPhone 6S Plus) with the trade of an iPhone 5S.
As T-Mobile CEO John Legere cited “crazy demand” for the iPhone 6S, for which pre-orders have been 30% higher than for the iPhone 6 a year ago, Claure told reporters: “we are certain that more people will continue to switch to Sprint because of the great service and value we offer.”