If you stare at carrier websites for long enough, you’re liable to go insane.
Maybe that’s what happened to me. Maybe not. The jury is still out on this one. But I am pretty sure that Freedom has the best deal on the iPhone 13 in Canada right now if you want to get one for $0 upfront.
The thing with carriers is they do some really messed up stuff with math. I’m not sure whether to applaud them or fear them, but the way they make numbers dance is impressive. I recently wrote about how much more you’d pay a Canadian carrier for an iPhone 13 compared to buying it directly from Apple. While the Big Three generally cost more than getting an iPhone from Apple, several regional carriers offered significant discounts.
SaskTel, Freedom and Videotron offered discounts ranging from $50 to over $500 when customers get an iPhone on a two-year plan. SaskTel generally offered the largest discount and thus lowest price on an iPhone.
However, as with anything involving a carrier, there’s more than meets the eye. First, to take advantage of these deals, you need to also get a plan with the carrier, and that’s where things get dicey. While SaskTel had the lowest cost for an iPhone, it also has the most expensive plans of the three carriers. Videotron had the cheapest plan, but the most expensive iPhone cost. That left Freedom in the middle, and when you tally everything up, it offers one of the absolute lowest costs for getting an iPhone on a carrier plan.
There may be other, lesser-known carriers I missed, but of these major regional carriers, Freedom definitely is the cheapest (except in Alberta and B.C., which I’ll explain below). Also, if you want a plan other than the cheapest possible option offered by each of these carriers, the lowest overall cost may change. I recommend doing the math to see which makes the most sense in the long run.
And, if I missed a carrier with a hidden good deal, or messed up some math somewhere, please let me know in the comments!
All right, let’s do some math
I will break down the math I did with each carrier to show the total costs you’d pay for an iPhone. Since it’s the most expensive option, I’ll start with the iPhone 13 Pro Max and include pricing for the other models below based on the same math (note calculations use 128GB pricing).
Starting with SaskTel, the carrier offers a roughly $500 discount on iPhone 13 models if you use its ‘Plus Pricing.’ Customers can choose an upfront cost (I went with $0 for this and all other calculations), a monthly device fee and a monthly rate plan. SaskTel’s cheapest rate plan option with the iPhone 13 Pro Max was $80, which means the calculation looks like this:
$0 upfront + ($42.75 device cost + $80 plan) * 24 months = $2,946 ($1,026 for the phone and $1,920 for the plan)
It’s worth noting that SaskTel also lets you choose to ‘Save on your plan’ and get a $20/mo discount. However, doing so removes the device discount, which means the device cost becomes $66.25/mo, and the plan drops to $60. The total works out to $3,030 with the same calculation as above, so it’s slightly more.
Videotron is interesting because it currently offers 50 percent off its lowest plan, which is $65/20GB. That makes it $32.50 for six months. Over two years however, the plan would cost you $1,365 ($32.50 * 6 months = $195, and $65 * 18 months = $1,170).
This is by far the cheapest plan, but when you factor in the cost of an iPhone 13 Pro Max with Videotron, the total cost over two years doesn’t work out in customers’ favour:
$0 upfront + ($61.25 * 24 months) = $1,470 for the phone, + the $1,365 plan = $2,835 total over two years
Note the calculation is formatted slightly differently to account for the changing plan price.
Also, for fun, I calculated the Videotron cost if the 50 percent deal remained for the duration of the contract. In total, customers would pay $2,250 over two years. Unfortunately, that deal doesn’t exist.
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: $2,835 total
- iPhone 13 Pro: $2,697 total
- iPhone 13: $2,411 total
- iPhone 13 mini: $2,267 total
Finally, Freedom offers a perfect balance of iPhone and plan price to ultimately become the cheapest option over two years. First, Freedom charges a $53/mo Tab fee for the iPhone 13 Pro Max and mandates a minimum $60/mo plan. That works out to:
$0 upfront + ($53 for the phone + $60 for the plan) * 24 months = $2,712 ($1,272 for the phone and $1,440 for the plan)
Also, it’s pertinent to note that Shaw, which owns Freedom, actually offers better pricing in Alberta and B.C. where it operates thanks to its incredibly cheap $45 plan. Shaw offers the same device cost as Freedom, which means that you’d pay $2,352 over two years for the iPhone 13 Pro Max at Shaw Mobile. However, I chose to focus on Freedom here because of its wider availability.
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: $2,712 total
- iPhone 13 Pro: $2,568 total
- iPhone 13: $2,280 total
- iPhone 13 mini: $1,836 total
What about Apple and other carriers?
For the sake of comparison, I also included the cost if you were to buy a phone directly from Apple using the company’s 24-month 0 percent APR financing. In short, for the iPhone 13 Pro Max, you’d need a plan that costs $48.45/mo or cheaper to match or beat Freedom’s total $2,712 price over two years. I’ve listed my calculation and Apple’s financing costs below, along with the plan price needed to match or beat Freedom’s total price.
$2,712 Freedom cost - $1,549 Apple cost = $1,163 plan cost / 24 months = roughly $48.45
- iPhone 13 Pro Max – $64.54/mo financing ($1,548.96 total) | $1,549 outright | $48.45 or cheaper plan
- iPhone 13 Pro – $58.29/mo financing ($1,398.96 total) | $1,399 outright | $48.70 or cheaper plan
- iPhone 13 – $45.79/mo financing ($1,098.96 total) | $1,099 outright | $49.20 or cheaper plan
- iPhone 13 mini – $39.54/mo financing ($948.96 total) | $949 outright | $36.95 or cheaper plan
It typically doesn’t make sense to get an iPhone from the other carriers unless you’re willing to make some concessions. My previous calculations found that you’d pay more financing an iPhone 13 through one of the Big Three or their flanker brands than you’d pay to buy the same phone direct from Apple. That calculation didn’t include the cost of plans, but since most of the Big Three plans start at $80+ per month, they’re definitely out of the running.
Things are a little different with the flanker brands, where you can get a plan as low as $45 per month. Plus, if you don’t mind paying some money upfront and you can get by with a $45/4GB plan, you can actually save just a little with Fido, Koodo or Virgin Plus compared to Freedom (excluding with the 13 mini). Anything more than the $45 plan will cost more in the long run. Here’s the math for the iPhone 13 Pro Max on Koodo:
$801 upfront + $792 over 24 months ($33/mo) + $45/mo plan ($1,080 over 24 months) = $2,673 over two years
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: $2,673 total ($801 upfront)
- iPhone 13 Pro: $2,519 total ($647 upfront)
- iPhone 13: $2,211 total ($339 upfront)
- iPhone 13 mini: $2,056 total ($184 upfront)
It’s worth noting that Fido and Virgin both offer slightly lower upfront costs and slightly higher monthly costs, but the end result is within a couple dollars of Koodo’s (e.g. the 13 Pro Max costs $795 upfront and $2,675 total with Fido and Virgin).
If you managed to stick with me through all this confusing nonsense, you should now have a fairly clear idea of which way to get an iPhone 13 for cheap with a carrier in Canada. I’d argue it shouldn’t be this confusing to figure out pricing like this, but unfortunately, it’s not up to me.