AT&T: AT&T has a bundle of nice BOGO and rebate deals on name-brand Android and Apple flagships for DirecTV customers: Buy two iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, XS Max, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy Note 9, or LG V35 ThinQ smartphones on AT&T Next and enjoy between $700 and $900 back in bill credits toward the value of the second phone (the rebate amount varies by model). If you don’t want to buy two and/or you’re not a DirecTV customer, then you can still get up to $600 back on a Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, or Note 9 with an eligible trade-in.
Even better, an unlocked GSM phone allows you to switch out the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. -- the internal chip that stores your phone number and account settings -- for a local phone number. Outside of the United States, most GSM phones come unlocked, but inside the country, you need ask your carrier for a special code. So if you know you're going to be spending the next four months in Botswana, you can spend $20 for a local SIM card instead of paying hundreds of dollars in international roaming fees.
Opting for Google’s Project Fi seems like a really great idea for a variety of reasons. First, the nuts and bolts: You can get calls and texts for $20 per month, and data for $10 per GB of use (and you can add extra people for $15 each). But what exactly makes the plan unlimited? You're only charged $10 for the GBs you use up until 6 GBs, then beyond that, it’s unlimited.
Sprint: Sprint currently has some big discounts on Android and Apple devices, letting you get $450 back when you buy an iPhone X, iPhone 8, or iPhone 8 Plus if you add two new lines or one new line with a one-line upgrade — no trade-ins required. Sprint is also offering the best iPhone XS deal of all the carriers right now, letting you score an iPhone XS totally free or an XS Max for just $75 ($4.17 per month) with the trade-in of an eligible last-gen flagship. Android deals let you score the Samsung Galaxy S9 for $270, the Galaxy S9 Plus for $324, or the Galaxy Note 9 for $360 when you purchase one on an 18-month rent-to-own Sprint Flex lease.
If you need quality voice and text coverage but use little or no data, and you’re willing to stick to a small, if growing, subset of Android phones, Republic Wireless is the best bet. At just $15 a month, it’s the cheapest way to get unlimited voice and texts, and adding 1 GB of data (with hotspot support) on the Sprint and T-Mobile networks tacks on another $5.
Reviews.com has an advertising relationship with some of the offers included on this page. However, the rankings and listings of our reviews, tools and all other content are based on objective analysis. For more information, please check out our full Advertiser Disclosure. Reviews.com strives to keep its information accurate and up to date. The information in our reviews could be different from what you find when visiting a financial institution, service provider or a specific product’s website. All products are presented without warranty.
Right out of the gate there are some restrictions including limited streaming for gaming at 8Mbps and music streaming is limited to 1.5Mbps, but if you can handle those limitations, the Sprint plan is hard to beat on a nationwide network. The good news is that while you might have some data restrictions, you’ll also find unlimited calling, text, and data in Mexico and Canada as well as the United States.
You can also look at phones that are ranked as best in class. This includes rankings for phones with the best battery life, thinnest form factor, highest quality display, and other high-end features. However, battery life is frequently dependent on your habits and how you use your phone. For example, if you check your email or text a lot, or you have lots of long conversations, you will burn battery life more quickly than someone else.
You can also purchase an international SIM card that can be used in many different countries. This is a good bet for multi-country trips or for travelers who travel regularly to many different regions around the world. However, the option of replacing the SIM card is only available on unlocked phones. Ask your phone company if your phone’s SIM card can be unlocked.
International travel has always been a challenge for mobile users. From anticipating roaming charges or setting up an international calling plan to purchasing an adapter for your phone charger, traveling internationally requires some pre-planning. One way to avoid potential hiccups is to purchase a phone that’s suitable for international travel. To find out what cell phones work best for traveling abroad, we reached out to a panel of mobile enthusiasts and tech bloggers to gain some insight. We asked them:
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of unlocking your phone and installing a local SIM, you can simply buy or rent a cell phone that will work abroad. Cellular Abroad sells and rents unlocked GSM phones and SIM cards that will work in dozens of countries around the world. The company also rents the National Geographic Talk Abroad Travel Phone, whichworks in more than 200 different countries. It’s the ideal solution for travelers visiting more than one country during the same trip. Most U.S.–based mobile carriers like AT&T and Verizon also have rental programs. Give them a call to find out what options are available to you.
Sprint Global Roaming is an option you can add to your Sprint plan at any time, and you can keep it on your account, free of charge, for as long as you’d like. Once you’ve enabled the feature, you can travel to most countries around the world, including all of North America and South America, China and Europe, and get free text and free data on 2G speeds. If you want to talk, you’ll pay 20 cents a minute.
All four major carriers now offer different tiers of unlimited data plans. We think T-Mobile's $70 option provides the best mix of value and performance. Sprint's basic unlimited plan is cheaper than T-Mobile One, but its network isn't as fast. The entry-level plans from Verizon And AT&T both carry too many restrictions, relative to T-Mobile's $70 plan. (And if you don't mind restrictions, T-Mobile Essentials is cheaper still at $60 a month.) T-Mobile One features a good price on a strong network, and if you want to upgrade from 480p video streaming to HD, it's now just $15 more per month (the same price as Verizon's unlimited plan with HD streaming.)
When you're purchasing a cell phone, make sure the device you select has sufficient memory, speed, camera precision and general functionality to meet your needs. You can choose between locked phones, which require you to pick a carrier, such as T-Mobile, AT&T, Boost or Verizon, or you can go with an unlocked model that works on a variety of networks. Best Buy, Amazon and B&H Photo Video are just a few stores that sell unlocked phones, including Apple iPhones and Android devices. Consider a prepaid phone with limited functions if you're purchasing an inexpensive device to take with you to festivals, nightclubs and other places people frequently lose expensive cell phones.