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Which Carrier Has the Best Family Smartphone Plan?

posted by on September 29, 2016 in Guides & Reviews, Phones and Mobile, Family and Parenting, Money Savers :: 2 comments

Which Carrier Has the Best Family Smartphone Plan?

If you have a family, you likely don’t need me to tell you how expensive mobile phone bills can get. It’s not unusual for a family of four to pay $200 or more for service and still find themselves squeezed for data at the end of the month. Streaming video, streaming music, uploading and viewing pictures on Facebook and Instagram – all that data use adds up quickly.

The good news, though, is that your family can get service with a major U.S. carrier at a rate far lower than that if you’re willing to shop around, bring your own device or purchase a new phone without a subsidy. Both Verizon and AT&T currently have great deals with reduced line access fees for families. Sprint, meanwhile, has a plan where up to 10 extra lines won’t cost you anything.

So can you land a better deal than you’re getting now? It all depends on your family’s unique circumstances. Read on, consult our charts and find out for yourself (or check here for our picks for the best individual smartphone plans)!

But first, before you shop …

Before you start shopping based on price, it’s important to remember that there are other highly important aspects to cell coverage. Not all networks are created equal. This year, T-Mobile surpassed the other major carriers for download speeds and Verizon was found to have the best LTE coverage, according to OpenSignal. We recommend you compare carriers’ coverage and speeds in your specific location by visiting opensignal.com. After all, a cheaper plan won't do you any good if you can't get a signal.

You’ll also want to consider exactly how much data you and your family will use in a month. If you currently have smartphone service, you can sign in to your account online and check your last few months’ of data usage. Otherwise, note that the average American uses 2-3GB of mobile data per month. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid plans that offer significantly less than this per person unless you’re especially price sensitive. High amounts of video calling (720 MB/hour), 4G LTE video streaming (350 MB/hour) and audio streaming (60 MB/hour) could necessitate even larger plans. Thankfully, almost all carriers will let you go back and adjust your data allotment at any time if changes need to be made.

What carrier has the best deal?

Right now, the best family plan wireless deal is being offered by T-Mobile. The T-Mobile Simple Choice 6GB plan offers a family of four a 6GB per line for just $120 per month. If you're not a big data user, you'll want to consider Republic Wireless. There's no family plan per se, but you can get 4 lines with 1GB of data per line for just $80 per month. And if you want unlimited data, you'll also want to go with T-Mobile's T-Mobile One plan, which is just $140 for four lines.

Want to see how all the plans from the top carriers stack up, side-by-side? Check out the comparison charts below.

Least Expensive Family Plans with Some High-Speed Data Plus Unlimited Talk & Text (based on 4 phones)

Carrier Plan Name Price Amount of 4G Data Included Hotspot Included Bring Your Own Device
AT&T AT&T Mobile Share Advantage $110 1GB Yes Yes
Verizon Verizon XXL (24GB) $150 2GB Yes Yes
Sprint Better Choice XS $100 1GB Yes Yes
T-Mobile Simple choice $100 2GB per line Yes Yes
Metro PCS 1GB LTE $100* 1GB per line Yes Yes
Boost Unlimited Starter $120** 1GB per line No No
Virgin Mobile Unlimited $120 500MB per line $5 per month for 1GB No
Republic Wireless 1GB Cell Data $80 1GB per line Yes Yes

 – Prices & Data Allowances Valid as of September 29, 2016
*Discount of $5 per line with family plan
**$30 for first line, $30 for each additional line

Least Expensive Family Plans with 10GB+ (or 2.5GB+ per line) of High-Speed Data Plus Unlimited Talk & Text (based on 4 phones)

Carrier Plan Name Price Amount of 4G Data Included Hotspot Included Bring Your Own Device
AT&T AT&T Unlimited Plan $140 10GB Yes Yes
Verizon Verizon L $150 8GB + 2GB per line Yes Yes
Sprint Better Choice L $140 12GB Yes Yes
T-Mobile Simple Choice $120 6GB per line plus Binge On and Data Stash* Yes Yes
Metro PCS 3GB LTE  $140** 3GB per line Yes Yes
Boost Unlimited Unhook'd $140*** Unlimited per line with some restrictions**** No No
Virgin Mobile Unlimited $200 4GB per line $5 per month for 1GB No
Republic Wireless 4GB Cell Data $180 4GB per line Yes Yes

– Prices & Data Allowances Valid as of September 29, 2016
*Stream unlimited video and music on the most popular streaming services without using your high speed data.
**Discount of $5 per line with family plan
***$50 for first line, $30 for each additional line
****Mobile-optimized streaming videos, gaming and music, and unlimited 4G LTE data for most everything else. 5 GB of 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot, VPN and P2P access per month with unlimited data at up to 2G speeds thereafter. Streaming is mobile-optimized with video streams at up to 480p+ resolution, music at up to 500kbps, streaming cloud gaming at up to 2mbps. Premium resolution video streams at up to 1080p+, music at up to 1.5mbps, gaming streams at up to 8mbps. Data deprioritization applies during times of congestion.

 

Unlimited Talk, Text and Data Family Plans (based on 4 phones)

Carrier Plan Name Price The Fine Print
AT&T AT&T Unlimited Plan $180* Only available for DirecTV Customers.

After 22GB of usage, AT&T may slow data speeds. Tethering and mobile hotspot use prohibited (except for Connected Car)
Verizon Verizon  (40GB) $215 Data Overage is $15/month per GB
Sprint Unlimited Freedom $160* Mobile-optimized streaming videos, gaming and music, and unlimited 4G LTE data for most everything else.  5 GB of 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot, VPN and P2P access per month with unlimited data at up to 2G speeds thereafter.

Streaming is mobile-optimized with video streams at up to 480p+ resolution, music at up to 500kbps, streaming cloud gaming at up to 2mbps. Premium resolution video streams at up to 1080p+, music at up to 1.5mbps, gaming streams at up to 8mbps. Data deprioritization applies during times of congestion.
T-Mobile T-Mobile One $140* Customers who use more data than 97% of our customers (currently over 26 GB per month) will have their usage prioritized below other traffic and may notice slower speeds and their majority of data usage must be on smartphone or tablet. See T-Mobile.com/OpenInternet for details on data prioritization.
Metro PCS Unlimited LTE Data $220** Customers who use more than 25GB of data in a payment cycle will have their data usage de-prioritized compared to other customers for that payment cycle at locations and time when competing network demands occur, resulting in relatively slower speeds. See metropcs.com/openinternet for details.

MetroPCS customers' data is prioritized below data of T-Mobile-branded customers at times and locations where competing network demands occur, resulting in relatively slower speeds. See metropcs.com/openinternet for details.
Boost Unlimited Unhook'd $140*** Unlimited Unhook’d customers who use more than 23GB of data during a billing cycle will be de-prioritized during times and places where the Sprint network is constrained. See sprint.com/networkmanagement for details.

Mobile optimized: video streams at up to 480p+ resolution, music streams at up to 500kbps, streaming cloud gaming at up to 2mbps. Includes 8GB of Mobile Hotspot, VPN and P2P access per month

– Prices & Data Allowances Valid as of September 29, 2016
*Fourth line free after bill credit
**$5 discount for each line
***$50 for first line, $30 for each additional line

[Image credit: family using smartphones via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

Taxes & Fees

From Keith Riggle on September 29, 2016 :: 6:02 pm

Something else to consider is taxes & fees. For example, MetroPCS includes them in the price of their plans, so the $100 plan costs exactly that. For T-Mobile, taxes and fees are extra, so my $50 individual plan with them totals to about $60 per month. I guess their $100 plan would actually total up to about $120, and so forth.

All in all, a great run-down, and it’s caused me to reconsider my current plan.

Reply

avatar

Great point Keith! Taxes and

From Suzanne Kantra on September 29, 2016 :: 6:38 pm

Great point Keith! Taxes and fees can really add up.

Reply

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