The Math on the T-Mobile/Apple iPhone 5 Monthly Plan

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Here's the official lowdown on the $99 down, monthly payment plan for Apple's (AAPL) iPhone 5 from the official T-Mobile press release:

iPhone 5 will be available for qualifying customers with T-Mobile's Simple Choice Plan for $99.99 down and $20 per month for 24 months. Qualifying customers can get iPhone 4S through the Simple Choice Plan for $69.99 down and $20 per month for 24 months. iPhone 4 will be available for qualifying customers through the Simple Choice Plan for $14.99 down and $15 per month for 24 months.

Let's focus on iPhone 5. You pay $100 up front for the phone and $20 per month for two years for a total of $580.

Sign up today on a two-year contract through AT&T ( T), Verizon ( VZ) or Sprint ( S) and you're on the hook for $200 right off the bat and "nothing" more for the phone.

This brings up a point I raised in an article earlier Tuesday -- T-Mobile has you, effectively, on a two-year contract. There's clearly some fine print attached to this, but I would be shocked if you could simply wash your hands of the phone at any point over the course of 24 months.

If you want out, you're paying something to cover the cost of that iPhone 5. So, despite the marketing, you still hook yourself up to the ball and chain of the evil wireless carrier. I could be missing something here; if I am -- like they'll just take your phone back and sell it as "used" or "refurbished" -- then more power to T-Mobile.

With T-Mobile, you'll pay $50 per month for unlimited talk, text and Web with 500MB of 4G data. You can add 2GB for $10 per month or unlimited 4G data for another $20 a month.

I have an iPhone 5 on Verizon via its Share Everything plan. I pay $60 a month for shared data (across two devices, but up to 10) and unlimited talk and text. Each line costs $40.00 a month for "smartphone access." Each month, I pay about $150 for service through Verizon.

My math tells me that, on T-Mobile, I can get 2GB of data across two lines for $80 per month for smartphone access (same as Verizon) plus the extra $60 per month for the 2GB of data. At this point . . . my eyes got tired and my brain weary.

There's really no point in adding up the numbers. We're pinching pennies. And, as it turns out, you'll basically end up paying more with T-Mobile because you have to pay for the full price of the iPhone 5 over time.

Endpoint: It's excellent marketing. It will probably hook quite a few people who love the allure of X down and monthly payments, but the real perk in this deal amounts to not being tied to an official contract. But, there's got to be fine print. You're paying for the phone one way or the other, whether you do it in a lump sum or over the course of 24 months.

T-Mobile is attempting to collect the equivalent of gravy in the wireless game Apple has dictated for years. It's interesting that Apple is allowing this to take place. The consumer gets nothing special other than a two-year contract that's really not a two-year contact.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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