Though you can still get a $200 phone with a contract through AT&T(T) and Sprint(S) they don't advertise the plans, and it's difficult to sign-up on their websites. Verizon(VZ) still has the subsidized plan as a standard offering.
Expect more changes when the iPhone 6 is released. Apple's new smartphone is rumored to be making its debut this August, and it's sure to spark a marketing frenzy.
Should you foot the bill for the entire cost of a new IPhone or get a deal with no money down?
Either way, you'll pay more than you're used to.
When you pay the full price for an unsubsidized phone, carriers will typically knock about $10 off the monthly wireless service plan. But the total cost of an iPhone ($650 for a 16 GB version) more than offsets the savings.
The average monthly cost of a no-subsidy plan with zero down is $28 more than if you pay $200 up front.
Over the course of a year, that unsubsidized plan will set you back about $75 more than the old-fashioned two-year contract plan, according to estimates from Macquarie Securities analyst Kevin Smithen.
That's why it's no surprise that cell phone companies are pushing their new no-contract plans. In addition to taking more of your money, it also means an end to the hefty upfront subsidies they were paying to companies like Apple(AAPL) and Samsung(SSNLF).
By the end of the year, roughly 41% of all smartphone activations will be unsubsidized, according to Smithen. That includes three-quarters of T-Mobile's subscribers and roughly a third of the customers of Verizon, AT&T and Sprint.
That percentage will likely be much higher for the heavily promoted iPhone 6.
So you might want to ask your carrier for an old-fashioned $200 plan with a two-year contract if you want to buy an iPhone 6. If your cell phone company is pushing a different kind of plan with the promise of big savings, remember that there's more in it for them than you.