Most Companies currently offer a wide range of choices for consumers, from well-known brand names to less known but surprisingly well-established companies. With so much competition from cell phone companies in the last few years, prices of phone plans have definitely fallen, along with plans being offered without contracts. There are many options of plans available, suitable for the most casual to serious users.
Choosing the best service provider can be both confusing and time-consuming, and most times, we pick one just to get the whole process over and done with. Often, what matters is in fine print so consumers are often getting themselves into agreements that they are not fully aware of until they have passed the buyer’s remorse period and can be charged with an early termination fee upon cancellation.
After researching through dozens of companies, plans that are not only the least expensive but also reliable with clear connections and fast data speeds.
Verizon is the largest cell phone carrier in the U.S., but does that make them the best? Verizon has a great reputation and has coverage even in many remote areas where “No Service” is the prominent message from most carriers. Their performance is outstanding and they have tons of phones to choose from. Their customer support team is also impressive.
However, Verizon does tend to be on the more expensive side. What you’re truly paying for is Verizon’s reliability. They know they’re the best so they charge an arm and a leg and do not offer to pay your early termination fees.
The Verizon network shows off various types of plans on its official site, both monthly and pay as you go. Verizon’s cell phone plans feature unlimited talk and text, but the data, which is labeled by size – range between 2GB and unlimited amounts of data.
Verizon has recently come out with a new unlimited cell phone plan, dubbed Verizon Unlimited. While continuing the trend of expensive plans, the Verizon Unlimited plan comes packed with perks and solid coverage the carrier is known for. You can learn more about unlimited cell phone plans here.
Sometimes, Verizon may offer plans with additional benefits. For instance, you may be able to save money on Verizon FiOS service – yes, Verizon FiOS – with the adoption of Verizon Unlimited. However, you may have to have the FiOS high-speed internet, TV, and home phone package, so unless you already have the service, you may not be able to save, as you could only have high-speed internet or TV (or both).
A bit more about the Verizon Unlimited plan – you’ll be able to take advantage of unlimited talk and text, mobile hotspot usage of up to 10GB of data, HD video streaming (yes, you’ll have premium features such as high-definition video streaming that you’ll have to pay extra for elsewhere), Mexico and Canada service, and more.
This iPhone carrier (as well as Samsung Galaxy) doesn’t come equipped with a lot of fancy features, but it has recently adopted “Safety Mode” and “Carryover Data.” Safety Mode ensures that you will not pay any surprising fees once you exceed your data limit. However, you will experience slower data speeds. This applies to all plans. Carryover Mode, on the other hand, allows you to keep your unused data until the end of the following month.
Regarding prepaid services or no-contract plans, there are a few plans that you can select from. You do begin with a few GB of data with these contract plans, but there are cheaper options in the postpaid plans.
Finally, Verizon also has what is known as business plans, which is perfect for both large and small businesses.
Despite the high price point for Verizon’s plans, it continues to offer great plans, great phones, and great coverage. Now if only it could make its plans more affordable because the T-Mobile network is sporting more enticing offers and plans. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint all feature plans at cheaper prices.
In fact, as of early 2017, the Verizon vs T-Mobile rivalry has only become stronger. T-Mobile plans have steadily become more affordable, whereas Verizon has been struggling to maintain its customer base. In fact, the unlimited T-Mobile plan is more affordable compared to Verizon Unlimited.
Family is important, and Verizon understands that even though it doesn’t serve traditional family cell phone plans – you can read a more in-depth analysis of Verizon’s family plans here.
With that being said, if you have any additional lines that you would like to add to the New Verizon plan, then you can add them to any of Verizon’s plans. All you need to do is select the data amount of your plan and then add up to 10 lines to that plan. That simple.
Which carrier has the greatest coverage around? Verizon! The network boasts a coverage that blankets 99 percent of the United States. The coverage also includes rural areas. Overall, the network covers 2.4 million square miles.
AT&T is one of the 2 largest cell phone companies in the United States. the coverage network features are second fast mobile broadband in the USA. It provides single-line, business, single-line plans to fit every cell phone need. And also its phone collection is great: You can purchase mobile hotspots and tablets and almost any new or last-generation mobile phone you might want. AT&T is not our best carrier –the coverage isn’t strong, the speeds quite fast, or the customer support as constantly dependable as we would like.
The best cell phone plans at the several companies we reviewed all very extensively in price. AT&T carrier has the difference of being the most high-priced of the large four companies, – AT&T, Verizon, Mobile, and Sprint. Blocking seasonal promotions and specials, AT&T’s costs are prodigiously expensive, beginning at $65 per month for a plan with 1GB of web data. It is possible to kick this down to $50 a month if you are wanting to use the AT&T early upgrade offer, but as we found when we shattered the numbers down, those usually cost a lot more over time.
AT&T offers what is known to be called the Mobile Share Advantage packages. With Mobile Share Advantage, there are no overage fees whatsoever, meaning that you will only experience reduced speeds once your high-speed data amounts have been exceeded.
AT&T cell phone plans typically range from 1GB of data to a total of 100GB, which can be shared among family members.
This Samsung Galaxy and iPhone carrier also offer the GoPhone service, which is for prepaid, or no-contract plan users. The GoPhone prepaid phone plans range from no data package to unlimited amounts of high-speed data. What’s also unique is that you can select a certain amount of data or minutes for a small fee per day or even per minute.
Finally, AT&T offers two types of unlimited data plans, one of which allows you to save on DIRECTV services. However, you will not be able to save on AT&T U-Verse TV residential service. Both unlimited plans include unlimited talk, data, and text, but there are differences between the two.
AT&T Unlimited Plus includes HBO programming, 10GB of mobile hotspot per line, high-definition video streaming at the fastest speed, unlimited text from the U.S. to over 120 countries, and roaming in, as well as unlimited talk and text to, Mexico and Canada. It should be noted that that roaming feature may be removed if voice, text, or data usage in Mexico and/or Canada is over 50 percent of the total voice, data, or text usage for two consecutive months.
With AT&T Unlimited Choice, you receive max speed at 3Mbps, standard-definition video streaming – no HD video streaming, sorry – unlimited text from the U.S. to over 120 countries, and roaming in, as well as unlimited talk and text, to Mexico and Canada.
Note that after 22GB of usage, AT&T might slow down data speeds.
Stream Saver is included in the Unlimited Plan. Stream Saver will identify the streaming video content and adjust the resolution and data speed accordingly.
Similar to Verizon, AT&T’s allows customers to add multiple lines (devices) to the plans; these plans thus become family plans, which you can read more about here. Furthermore, you can share the savings with the Multi-Line Discount on prepaid plans. For instance, you will save just a few dollars for the second line, a few more dollars for the third line, and so on and so forth.
Initially, the Verizon plans are more expensive compared to AT&T plans, but then the prices even out and end up the same. When it comes to family plans, it is a tie between the two competitors.
While Verizon is reliable, featuring a heavy amount of coverage, AT&T is speedy. AT&T’s LTE coverage areas are extensive but not as grand as Verizon’s coverage.
After an unsuccessful merger with AT&T in 2012, T-Mobile stays the lowest of the large four U.S. cell phone companies. It now runs an LTE coverage network and after 1st announcing an HSPA+ network that provides LTE-comparable rates of speed. T-Mobile was the last major company to offer the iPhone also it was an old market for Android. Compared to the other biggest carriers, the home signal network is less common in country areas.
T-Mobile plans fall into the following categories: T-Mobile ONE and Prepaid Plans.
The most tempting plan would have to be T-Mobile ONE, which is the T-Mobile unlimited plan, which grants the entire family with unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data.
However, while the unlimited T-Mobile plan sounds enticing, there are a couple of important points to note. For one, on all plans, the top 3 percent of data users (those who use more than 30GB per month), will face reduced speeds until the next billing cycle during congestion. Furthermore, videos will typically stream at DVD quality on the smartphone, meaning 480p resolution.
And when it comes to tethering and mobile hotspot? We’re talking Max 3G download speeds. However, if you are interested in the ONE plan, you can always opt for AutoPay and save a few extra dollars per line per month.
And if you want HD video and better quality streaming (overall) with your T-Mobile unlimited plan, you have that option by purchasing T-Mobile ONE Plus, which includes unlimited HD Day Passes, meaning you can stream unlimited high-definition video. And if you want to add international perks to your plan, you can always upgrade to the T-Mobile ONE Plus International package.
Of course, if T-Mobile ONE is too pricey for you (in a lot of cases, it isn’t), you could always adopt one of T-Mobile’s cheaper prepaid cell phone plans With the prepaid plans, you’ll have access to free unlimited streaming, gain the ability to hang onto used data, and receive no overage charges.
So which is the clear winner of this section, Sprint or T-Mobile? While there is something for everyone, the data amounts in T-Mobile’s plans are rather mediocre in comparison to Sprint’s data plans and is slightly more expensive. That being said, T-Mobile LTE data is faster. Due to affordability, Sprint wins, but when it comes to plan selection, T-Mobile is the victor.
The T-mobile family plan is an extension of T-Mobile ONE. T-Mobile can integrate additional lines to its T-Mobile ONE plan. You can add more than nine lines to the plan.
If you happen to live in an area of T-Mobile covers, then consider yourself lucky. After all, you’ll be able to enjoy the fastest 4G LTE speed in the nation and a rock-solid network.
That being said, if you live in or happen to venture into a remote area, then be prepared to face some abysmal coverage. T-Mobile is notorious for poor rural coverage.
Sprint (also known as Sprint Corporation) is the fourth largest network in the United States, serving some 60.2 million customers as of October 2016. Sprint happens to provide wireless service not only through itself but through various wireless sub-branches, such as Boost Mobile. The Sprint network is known to carry the latest and greatest phones from both the iPhone and Android lines.
Compared to T-Mobile, the Sprint network coverage is a tad more extensive, covering more remote areas, whereas T-Mobile doesn’t cover many rural locations well (or at all). With that being said, T-Mobile’s network is strong in metro areas. In fact, the T-Mobile LTE network is the fastest out of the four major carriers – at least on the east coast, as Verizon Wireless has T-Mobile beaten on the west coast. Pretty impressive, really.
Sprint is also not exactly known for exceptional customer service. According to the Benchmarks By Company chart from the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Sprint’s ACSI score falls 4 points below T-Mobile’s score of 74. As of 2016, the American Customer Satisfaction Index score was 70, a 1.4 percent increase from the previous year.
Like most carriers, Sprint’s cell phone plans include unlimited talk and text, so it’s best to turn your attention to the data amount. Plans are downsized to one unlimited postpaid plan and a few prepaid plans, which are suitable for most people.
If you’re unhappy at the thought of a prepaid option, you can always adopt the postpaid Sprint Unlimited plan, which is perfect if you consume data like it’s water. The Sprint Unlimited plan features unlimited talk, text, and data, all for an affordable price. Additionally, you’ll have up to 10GB just for mobile hotspot access.
Occasionally, Sprint offers a limited-time promotion with this plan in an attempt to lure in customers to the “unlimited realm.” For example, you can pay an affordable fee for two lines of Sprint Unlimited, and you’ll receive the third, fourth, and fifth lines for free.
As of February 2017, Sprint Unlimited has ditched the basic unlimited plan, which only let you stream standard-definition videos at 480p rather than high-definition videos, gaming at 2Mbps, and music at 500kbps in favor of “premium” at the same basic pricing. Premium streaming provides you with HD video streaming at up to 1080p+, high-quality music streaming at up to 1.5Mbps, and gaming at up to 8Mbps.
However, if you’re the “limited” type and prefer the non-unlimited prepaid data packages – though you can always opt for the Sprint Unlimited prepaid plan – you can have peace of mind with Sprint’s safety measure of unlimited 2G data once the high-speed data has been exceeded, so you don’t have to worry about overage charges.
Sprint carries a family plan, otherwise known as the Sprint Unlimited freedom family plan. This plan grants everyone unlimited talk, text, and data, beginning at a small fee per month per line.
Unlimited data plans come at a discount when entering into a Sprint family plan. Even if you don’t think you need unlimited data, you may very well want it if you have data hungry teenagers.
As far as prepaid family plans go, you can purchase a Sprint Prepaid Family plan, which starts in three lines. Unlimited talk and text are included with these plans, and you can personalize your plans to fits everyone’s data needs. For instance, one person can choose 3GB, another family member (or friend) can choose 5GB, and another can select Unlimited, but you’ll save a certain amount per line when you clump these plans together.
Sprint originally had shoddy coverage and a slow network connection, but over the past couple of years, it has been steadily improving its service. Sprint has also “improved its network speeds and reliability thanks to the further deploy of ‘Sprint Spark,’ its name for the use of three different bands of radio airwaves for better coverage.” All this means is that – thanks to Sprint Spark – network reliability as well as upload and download speeds are better. And that’s a good thing, right? No one wants slow speeds!
Furthermore, Sprint has since gone beyond metro areas and has been heading into smaller, more remote areas.
How to Choose a Cell Phone Provider
There are dozens of cell phone providers to choose from, and with fierce competition, you’re spoiled for choice. We narrowed down our recommendations to widely available services that offer unlimited data plans, but there are a lot of great options that don’t fit these parameters, including Project Fi and Republic Wireless. A few others do fit within our parameters but didn’t make the cut, including CREDO Mobile, Page Plus Cellular, Wing Mobile, Ultra Mobile and Lycamobile.
Big Four Vs. MVNO
Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Cellular are the only providers that operate their own networks. These (excluding U.S. Cellular, which is a regional provider) are known as the Big Four. All other cell phone providers in the U.S. are Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). MVNOs use the network infrastructure of one of the Big Four carriers and piggyback on its service.
Big Four companies are more expensive but usually include more features and extras in their plans. For example, Verizon Wireless’s $90 unlimited plan includes 15GB of mobile hotspot tethering, while Page Plus Cellular, which uses Verizon’s network, doesn’t offer any mobile hotspot usage with its highest-tier plan. MVNOs tend to be prepaid services that cater to budget shoppers, offering cheaper plans and device options than the Big Four. Big Four direct customers get priority when networks are congested, whereas MVNO customers may see slower speeds.