Tech Made Simple

Hot Topics: How to Fix Bluetooth Problems | The Best Holiday Gifts | Best Fitness Trackers Under $50 | Complete Guide to Facebook Privacy

Choose It

author photo

Which Carrier Has the Best Smartphone Plan?

posted by on September 28, 2016 in Guides & Reviews, Phones and Mobile, Money Savers :: 18 comments

Are You on the Right Smartphone Plan?

Whether you’re thinking about activating a brand new phone line or just shopping around for a better deal on an existing one, it’s a great time to shop around for mobile phone service. To help you get the best deal possible, we shopped all of the major U.S. cell carriers for their best deal for individual smartphone plans (or check out our picks for the best family plans). We only considered deals with unlimited text and voice, which represent the vast majority of available plans anyway.

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.

Plans

There are a few compelling reasons to consider purchasing cellular service under a no-contract prepaid plan as opposed to a post-paid one. For starters, prepaid plans tend to be slightly less expensive because you've agreed to pay for everything up front. They also protect you from expensive overage charges – once you use up your monthly allotment of 4G LTE data, your data speeds will be significantly reduced (to 2G levels). Many carriers often describe this feature (a bit too generously) as "unlimited data." And you can get a prepaid phone without first passing a credit check. It’s not all sunshine and happiness with prepaid plans, though. You’ll likely need to purchase your prepaid phone outright. Some plans restrict your choice of devices, too, and many won't accept used phones from other carriers.

So, which carrier has the least expensive plans? That honor goes to Republic Wireless, which offers unlimited talk, text and 1GB of 4G LTE data for just $20 per month (Be sure to check their coverage map, as it's smaller than other carriers). If you want to bring your own device, you'll want  MetroPCS's 1GB LTE Data plan, which offers unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of 4G LTE data for just $30 per month. But just because a plan is the cheapest doesn't mean it's right for you and your needs — 1 GB of data likely isn't enough to cover someone who streams music or video, or even surfs the web regularly. The average U.S. smartphone owner uses 2-3GB per month. You'll want to look at  Republic Wireless's 2GB plan for $30 or MetroPCS's 3GB LTE Data plan for $40. 

If you’d rather stick with a top-tier carrier, your best option is the T-Mobile Simply Prepaid plan at $40 per month for 3GB of data or $50 for 5GB (AT&T also offers 3GB for $40, but you can't use your phone as a hotspot). Or, if you don't talk much on the phone, you can get T-Mobile's unlimited web and text with 100 minutes of talk for $30.

Need unlimited data? The least expensive unlimited plan, at $50 per month, is Boost's Unlimited Unhook'd, but you'll have to buy a phone from Boost. If you want to bring your own device (or be less apt to be downgraded during peak data traffic times), we recommend Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan for $60 per month. 

Least Expensive Individual Plans with Some High-Speed Data Plus Unlimited Talk & Text

  AT&T Verizon Sprint T-Mobile MetroPCS US Cellular Virgin Mobile Boost Republic Wireless
Plan name AT&T GoPhone Verizon Small Plan Sprint Better Choice Extra Small T-Mobile Simply Prepaid  1GB LTE Data Simple Connect Prepaid Plan Unlimited Unlimited Starter 1GB Cell Data
Amount of 4G data included 3GB plus rollover data 1GB plus carryover data 1GB 3GB 1GB 500MB 500MB 1GB 1GB
Hotspot included No Yes Yes Yes Yes No No, $5 per month for 1GB Yes Yes
Bring Your Own Device Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes
Monthly Price $45 ($40 with AutoPay) $55 $40 $40 $30 $35 $30 $30 $20

 – Prices & Data Allowances Valid as of September 27, 2016

 

Least Expensive Individual Plans with 3GB+ of High-Speed Data Plus Unlimited Talk & Text

  AT&T Verizon Sprint T-Mobile MetroPCS US Cellular Virgin Mobile Boost Republic Wireless
Plan name AT&T Mobile Share Advantage Plan Verizon Medium Plan  Sprint Better Choice Small

T-Mobile Simple Choice

3GB LTE Data 7GB Individual Line Plan Unlimited Unlimited Unhook'd 4GB Cell Data
Amount of 4G data included

3GB plus rollover

4GB plus carryover data 3GB 6GB plus Binge On and Data Stash* 3GB 7GB** 4GB Unlimited mobile-optimized video, gaming & music. Unlimited 4G for most everything else*** 4GB
Hotspot included Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No, $5 per month for 1GB Yes Yes
Monthly Price $60 $70 $50 $65 $40 $49 $40 $50 $45

– Prices & Data Allowances Valid as of September 27, 2016
*Stream unlimited video and music on the most popular streaming services without using your high speed data. 
**Only 400MB may be used while roaming
***Mobile optimized: video streams at up to 480p+ resolution, music streams at up to 500kbps, streaming cloud gaming at up to 2mbps. 

Unlimited Talk, Text and Data Individual Plans

Carrier Plan Name Price The Fine Print
AT&T AT&T Unlimited Plan $100 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 XXL (24GB) $110 Data Overage is $15/month per GB
Sprint Unlimited Freedom $60* 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 $70* 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 $60 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 $50 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 27, 2016
 – US Cellular, Virgin Mobile and Republic Wireless do not have unlimited or 20GB+ plans
*Price based on AutoPay 

[Colored smartphones via Shutterstock]



Discussion loading

gravatar

OWNER

From Amy Bielawski on February 26, 2015 :: 2:52 pm

What about Republic Wireless?  I’ve been with them for a couple of years now….

Reply

avatar

The reason we didn't include

From Suzanne Kantra on February 27, 2015 :: 6:22 pm

The reason we didn’t include Republic Wireless is that it has very little data coverage, which is important to most smartphone customers. If you’re in a area with good coverage, great. But if you go outside of the Republic Wireless coverage area, you only have 25MB of data roaming per month and then your roaming data is cut off completely.

Reply

gravatar

Not sure that is true

From Amy Bielawski on February 28, 2015 :: 2:53 am

I don’t even have wi-fi and use alot of data… nothing been cut off.  I pay $27 a month.  So not sure what you are saying is actually true.

Reply

gravatar

Not sure that is true 2

From Amy Bielawski on February 28, 2015 :: 2:58 am

And all is covered by Sprint when you aren’t on Wifi…  I’ve been covered in GA/FL/AL/LA/TX/CA/OR/TN/NC/SC thus far…

So still confused by your comment.

avatar

Check out the coverage map:

From Suzanne Kantra on February 28, 2015 :: 11:38 am

Check out the coverage map: https://republicwireless.com/tools/coverage-check

As I said, if you’re in a covered area, great, but there are big chunks of the country that the map shows are being covered by a roaming partner. The terms clearly state:

“Every Republic Wireless member has reduced speeds while roaming and an allotment of 25MB of roaming cell data per service line per bill cycle.”

Here’s the page that I quoted:
https://community.republicwireless.com/docs/DOC-1782#jive_content_id_Roaming_Towers

Family Plan?

From Nell Carol Williams Kozub on February 26, 2015 :: 3:20 pm

Where is the data on family plans that you said you had?  We need three lines.

Reply

avatar

You can find our story

From Suzanne Kantra on February 27, 2015 :: 6:23 pm

You can find our story on the best family snartphone plans here: http://www.techlicious.com/guide/best-family-smartphone-plan-2015

Reply

gravatar

My usage

From Amy Bielawski on February 28, 2015 :: 1:38 pm

Well I average about 47 mb per day of data usage and 1.3 gb per month.  I usually use the phone while driving so…  I have had it for 2 1/2 years and never have been cut off.  So apparently I’m pretty lucky with non-roaming data in several states across the country.

Reply

gravatar

Kudos to Sprint

From Elizabeth on February 26, 2015 :: 3:31 pm

My family switched from Verizon to Sprint 8 years ago, and I haven’t looked back. the first few years we had some service issues, but I haven’t had any issues with coverage (except the boonies)for years. And Sprint customer service has really impressed me. Their in-store people have fixed mechanical issues with my phone (faulty charger) without charging me a dime and the few times I’ve had to call customer service, they’ve been very good to work with. I do not work for Sprint, nor do I have any stake in their business (outside of my cell plan), but I’d be concerned that cheaper means compromised service. We’ve been happy with Sprint & hope they continue to provide great value for a long time!

Reply

gravatar

Taxes

From James Wood on February 26, 2015 :: 4:05 pm

You don’t show the taxes and other add-ons for Verizon.  There are two cells with Verizon plans in the house, and the bill is at least $160 per month for the two.  I have used Metro PCS for years, and pay $30 per month including taxes.

Reply

gravatar

Not enough Ting

From neminem@gmail.com on February 27, 2015 :: 11:47 am

For light to moderate phone users, Ting is *amazing*. They’re the opposite of unlimited - they’re a la carte done *right*. They just charge you at the end of the month based on what you used that month, so if you’re in their smallest bucket on everything, you pay almost nothing (my average monthly phone bill is ~16 bucks). If you’re traveling and end up using more data that month, that’s fine, you just get charged more that month automatically. And their customer service is phenomenal.

Reply

Very Much So

From Kay Njuguna on October 01, 2016 :: 2:14 am

The article is missing out on a lot of Good Plans Available.

Reply

gravatar

What about Creedo. I just

From Barb on February 28, 2015 :: 7:37 pm

What about Creedo. I just received an email about them and was wondering how reliable they are.

Reply

gravatar

RE: Credo mobile

From Patrick on October 03, 2015 :: 10:59 am

I know this is a very old post, but Credo is absurdly expensive. They ride on Sprint’s network, but charge you more than AT&T does.  The last time I got an email from them they were charging $75/month for 1 or 2 GB of data. Sprint is $60 for “unlimited” and AT&T is $65 for 3 GB, so I don’t know why anybody would choose Credo.

Reply

gravatar

And don't forget Straight Talk,

From Matt S. on September 30, 2016 :: 9:55 pm

And don’t forget Straight Talk, which piggy backs on Verizon’s towers, all at a much better price than Verizon. The research here seems spotty, at best.

Reply

gravatar

Straight talk is awesome!

From Amy Pla on September 30, 2016 :: 11:17 pm

I brought my iPhone 6 to Straight talk. I pay 45. Plus about $4. in taxes prepaid. That includes unlimited talk and text and 5g (Yes, that is 5g) of data per month. I am often accessing WiFi, so data is never a problem. I’ve been a Straight Talk customer for years. This is a no contract agreement. You can cancel any time. Straight Talk either piggy backs on AT&T or Verizon and this is 4G or LTE service!

Reply

avatar

I've familiar with Straight Talk

From Suzanne Kantra on October 03, 2016 :: 1:22 pm

I’ve familiar with Straight Talk and have reservations about the restrictions they place on their service.

You can’t use your 5GB of data for mobile hotspot unless you purchase your device from Straight Talk.  And currently, Straight Talk is selling their Apple devices for $100 more Apple is.

It’s unclear what the 4G coverage actually is, since the only coverage maps they share are for 3G data.

And, for the unlimited plan, you can’t use mobile hotspot or, according to their Terms of Service, stream video (see https://www.straighttalk.com/wps/portal/home/h/legal/terms-and-conditions/!ut/p/a1/04_Sj9CPykssy0xPLMnMz0vMAfGjzOKd_J0MAg0DPD0t_MOcDRz9nczdA41cDd3NjIEKIoEKXAy8fI0DHT2MgswMLQw8A3zc3VwMfYwNLMwJ6Q_Xj8KvxBCqAJ8VaAo8zE2BCjycg93N_Qz83YygCgxwAEcD_YLcCINMz3RFALhZ5aY!/dl5/d5/L2dBISEvZ0FBIS9nQSEh/ section 6).

Reply

Forgot to include

From Kay Njuguna on October 01, 2016 :: 2:13 am

Forgot to include Simple Mobile,it has country wide Coverage and Cheap Plans.

Reply

© 2015 Techlicious LLC. Home | About | Meet the Team | Sponsorship Opportunities | Newsletter Archive | Contact Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy

site design: Juxtaprose