Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 currently holds the fort as the king of phablets, thanks to its brilliant and beautiful 5.7-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel display, useful software and generous battery. Just on specs alone, the Note 4 blows away Apple's new phablet the iPhone 6 Plus. If you've decided the Note 4 is the device for you, your next toughest decision is which carrier to pick. To help you decide, we've compared the carriers' plans, done the math, and looked at each network's coverage and speed to see which is the best Galaxy Note 4 deal.
Carriers Compared: Individual Line with ~3GB of total data*
|Device cost (upfront with two-year plan)||$299.99||$349.99||n/a||$299.99|
|Device monthly cost (early-upgrade or installment plan)||$34.42 x 24 (Next 18);$41.30 x 20 (Next 12)||$30 x 24 (Easy Pay)||$31.24 x 24||$34.99 x 20|
|Monthly line fee (2-3GB data)||$65 (2GB)||$60 (unlimited^); $65 (2GB on two-year plan)||$45 (2GB; Simple Starter);$60 (3GB; Simple Choice)||$60 (2GB);$50 (2GB on Edge);$90 (2GB MoreEverything);$80 (MoreEverything on Edge)|
|Total monthly fee (two-year plan)||$80 (2GB)||$65 (2GB)||$76 (Simple Starter);$91 (Simple Choice)||$60; $90 (MoreEverything)|
|Total monthly fee# (early upgrade/installment)||$100 (18 month);$106 (12 month)||$90 (Easy Pay)||$86## (Simple Starter);$101## (Simple Choice)||$85 (on Edge);$115 (MoreEverything)|
|Cost over two years (two-year plan)||$2,220||$1,910||n/a||$1,740$2,460 (More Ev)|
|Cost over two years (early upgrade/installment)||$2,386 (both options)||$2,160$2,280 (early-upgrade enrollment)||$1,830 (Simple Starter); $2,070 with JUMP);$2,190 (Simple Choice); $2,430 with JUMP)||$1,900 (on Edge);$2,620 (MoreEverything on Edge)|
|*Does not include taxes and fees; all plans compared come with unlimited talk/text#Line fee + device monthly payment##Includes $10 monthly enrollment fee for JUMP^Only available for Easy Pay or if you bring in your own phone|
AT&T offers three options through which you can get the Note 4 -- $300 up front with a two-year plan, or on its installment plans Next 18 or Next 12. With Next 18, you can pay for your Note 4 in 24 payments of $34.42 (or 20 payments of $41.30 on Next 12) and be eligible to upgrade to a new device in 18 months (12 months on Next 12). You can already pre-order the Note 4 on AT&T, and the phone is expected to ship Oct. 14.
A 2GB line works out to $80 a month on the carrier's Mobile Share plan, and those who get the Note 4 on Next get $15 off that monthly fee. Over two years, that works out to $2,220 (including handset fee) on contract and $2,386 on Next (both 18 and 12). If you have an iPhone to trade in, you can get between $200 (for iPhone 4, 4S, 5 and 5c) and $300 (iPhone 5s) credit off your bill. Other smartphones can be traded in for varying amounts, for instance you can get $125 for a Galaxy S4 with 16GB.
You'll be covered in most cities in the United States, since AT&T's 4G LTE network is enabled in more than 400 markets nationwide. Although its presence is wide, the carrier came in third in several of our 4G LTE speed tests in major cities across the nation, trailing Verizon and T-Mobile in cities such as New York City and San Francisco.
For some inexplicable reason, Sprint has the highest upfront device cost of all the carriers that subsidize the handset cost with a two-year plan. You'll have to fork over $350 for the Note 4 with a two-year plan on Sprint, while AT&T and Verizon both ask for $300. When I asked Sprint about the extra cost, a rep explained that Sprint still offers a better value than competing carriers.
You do get more data (unlimited) on Sprint for less than the other carriers, for a monthly fee of $60. To qualify for this $60 Unlimited package, you'll have to get the phone on the carrier's installment-payment program Easy Pay or bring your own device. If you don't, you'll have to go with Sprint's Family Share Pack, which gives you 2GB of data for $65 a month.
That comes up to $1,838 over 24 months on a two-year contract, or $2,160 on Easy Pay for the phone and line. If you want to upgrade to a new device before two years, you'll have to pay $5 a month to enroll in the company's early-upgrade program. That brings the two-year cost to $2, 280.
You can shave up to $300 off that price if you trade in an eligible device through Sprint's Buyback program. The Note 4 will be available for pre-order on Sprint starting Sept. 26, and will be available in stores from Oct. 17.
Sprint's rolling out deployment of its enhanced LTE network Spark, which is available in just 24 markets (as of June 2014). While Spark delivers speedy data transmissions in cities such as Chicago, Sprint's performance in other major cities, such as San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles, lagged the other three carriers.
On T-Mobile's Simple Choice plan, which gives 3GB of high-speed data at $60 a month, you get goodies such as free international data roaming and free music streaming. But if you pick the basic Simple Starter package, you get 2GB of data for just $45 a month without all the frills. When you go over your limit on either package, the Uncarrier simply drops your data transmission to the slower 3G band, and doesn't charge you overages like other carriers do.
The Note 4 will cost 24 monthly payments of $31.24 on T-Mobile. If you want to upgrade to a new device whenever you want, enroll in Jump for an extra $10 a month, which covers device insurance.
If you decide not to get on Jump, the Note 4 will set you back $1,830 on Simple Starter and $2,190 on Simple Choice over two years (line and phone). On Jump, the device will cost $2,070 (Starter) and $2,430 (Choice) over two years.
We tested the four major carriers' performance in major cities across the country, and T-Mobile came in tops in Los Angeles, and runner-up in New York City and San Francisco. In Chicago, it turned in the slowest download speeds, but second-fastest uploads.
If you only have one device, Verizon offers a Single Line plan that gives you 2GB of data for $60 a month. That's cheaper than the carrier's More Everything shareable data pack, on which 2GB would set you back $90 a month.
On a two-year contract on either plan, the Note 4 would cost $300 up front. Through Verizon's early-upgrade plan Edge, the device would cost 20 monthly payments of $35. The carrier offers a $10 discount off your monthly line fee if you choose Edge, though, so the Single Line and More Everything plans would cost $50 and $80 a month respectively.
The Single Line option comes up to $1,740 over two years on contract -- the cheapest way you can get the Note 4 on all the carriers. On Edge, the phone will cost $1,900 (Single Line) or $2,620 (More Everything) over 24 months.
You can already pre-order the Note 4 on Verizon, and the device will ship by Oct. 23, according to the company's website as of today (Sept. 24). That date may change as orders start piling up.
Verizon has the widest LTE coverage in the nation, with a network that's been deployed in more than 500 markets. The carrier topped our 4G performance tests in Chicago, San Francisco and NYC, beating the other Big Four carriers with its speedy LTE network.
If you don't mind being tied to a contract (therefore stuck with the same phone for two years), Verizon's Single Line plan is the cheapest option on which to get the Galaxy Note 4. Verizon also has the widest and best-performing (so far) 4G LTE network in the nation, making it a good bet for those who need reliable data speeds.
Frequent travelers or music lovers may prefer T-Mobile's Simple Choice lines, which bundle free international data roaming and music streaming for $2,190 over two years ($2,430 on Jump early-upgrade). You're also free from the shackles of a two-year plan on T-Mobile.