Why we love it: Sprint's new Unlimited Plus plan improves upon the carrier's now-scrapped Unlimited Freedom plan with a 15GB hotspot, texting to 185 countries, 10GB of data in Mexico and Canada, and a Tidal subscription. This in addition to the perks of the previous plan, which include a Hulu subscription and unlimited HD streaming. When you bring your existing phone or buy one at full retail price from Sprint, you can all of this for an incredible $60—which is pretty great.
One of the key ways Sprint has been able to stay competitive in the U.S. mobile market is by pricing their plans very inexpensively. Take for example Sprint's Unlimited Freedom plan, just $50 for one line, or an incredible $100 for four lines. And this to say nothing of the carrier's $1 for a year of unlimited deal. No U.S. major is cheaper than Sprint.
We focus on the Big Four because they dominate the market. But consumers looking for a good deal or great customer service should also check out smaller companies. Our ratings of 20 providers are based on the experiences of about 100,000 Consumer Reports members. The Big Four are all near the bottom of the chart, though T-Mobile rates somewhat higher than its competitors. (Ratings are available to members.)
Some devices may automatically transmit and receive data without any user action or knowledge. This may result in significant unexpected cellular data charges. Applications such as push email, news and weather updates, location services and many downloadable apps (even free ones) may do this. This list is not at all exhaustive; therefore, to avoid unexpected bills, we recommend that you take great care to disable automatic applications on your device.
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.