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How to Get a Prepaid iPhone + Data Plan for $30 per Month

Updated on December 28, 2012

It's official. More Americans now own smartphones than "dumbphones". In 2015, over 80% of us will have them. And by 2020, we'll all be launching NASA spacecraft with our iPhone 12s.

If you're tired of sustaining judgemental glances from your iPhone-wielding peers, here's a guide to helping you becoming just another statistic for less money than everyone else.

How to Set Up Your iPhone

  1. Go to Amazon or eBay and snag a "factory unlocked" iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4. Now that the iPhone 5 is out, you can easily get an iPhone 4 for $250-275 on eBay.

    IMPORTANT: Unless you're a tech-geek, make sure the phone you get is factory unlocked. It'll cost a bit more, but it's better than bricking your phone fooling around with unlocking it yourself.
  2. Go to AT&T and tell them that you want a GoPhone SIM card. They will give it to you for free if you activate it there in the store with what plan you want (read on to find out more about the plans). If they ask questions, just be honest and tell them that you already have a phone.
  3. Insert your SIM card into the iPhone, then try to call a friend. If you don't have any friends, dial the number 611. If you get an automated voice saying, "Welcome to GoPhone from AT&T!," your SIM card is successfully activated and working in the iPhone.
  4. (If you want data on your iPhone, skip to step #7.) Now you are ready to pick your prepaid plan, add money, and buy texting packages if you want them. Log into your GoPhone account online or you can also add money/features right from your GoPhone (by dialing 611). Once you get them added, make a test phone call/text message to make sure everything went according to plan. And you're all set!
  5. If you want to use data on your phone, you'll have to do one additional step: create a new APN profile to accept the GoPhone data. It sounds complicated, but it's really easy. Get on a wi-fi connection and open Safari on your iPhone. Type in "" in the URL bar. It should say "APN Changer". Hit "Continue" > "Custom APN" > "United States" > "AT&T (wap.cingular)" then "Create Profile". It will open a new window, then hit "Install".

Choosing Your Data Plan

Now that your iPhone is ready to go, it's time to set up the plan. There's lots of different ways to do it, but I'll give you mine. Using the method below,you can save $580/year compared to a regular iPhone package.

AT&T recently changed their policy and now require data users to have a monthly rate plan (either $25 or $50 per month). The $50/month plan is unlimited talk, text, and data. I don't use mine that much, so I have the $25/month plan (250 minutes, unlimited texting, & add your own data package).

The cheapest data package starts at $5 for 50 MB. Unfortunately for me (and some of you), I use a bit more data than that.

Fortunately, AT&T allows you to keep any unused data from one month to the next. As long as your monthly package doesn't lapse, you will be able to keep your unused data from month to month. This offers us cheapskates a way to get all the data we need for the least amount of money. Here's how:

For the 1st month of pre-paid iPhone ownership, buy the 1GB data package for $25. Set your calendar to remind you the day before your 1st month expires. On that day, log back into your GoPhone account and buy the cheapest data package possible ($5 for 50 MB) and set up automatic package renewal. As long as you have at least $5 in your account at the end of each month, your plan will automatically subscribe to the $5/month data package. This keeps your data balance intact.

With the 1st month's $25 charge + 11 months of $5 charges, you will get 1.55 GB of data for $80/year. That's 129 MB of monthly data for $6.67.

Add on the $25/month package and your prepaid iPhone will cost $380 for 250 monthly minutes, unlimited texts, and a year's worth of data. That's $380/12 = $31.67 per month for a data-enabled iPhone. Compare that to the cheapest AT&T iPhone plan with unlimited texting at $80/month. Total savings: 60% or $580/year.


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