We have reviewed a selection of carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, Straight Talk, U.S. Cellular, TracFone, Tello, and more. Some phones are only available with certain carriers because the carriers produce some phone models themselves. But most carriers will serve a variety of manufacturers so in most cases you’ll have a wealth of choices with any given model.
I’ve covered the wireless industry since the late 1990s. (My first guide to cell phone service, written in 1998, devoted much ink to comparing analog and digital cellular.) I’ve tested smartphones and cell phone plans from all four major carriers for Boing Boing, CNN Money, Discovery News, PCMag, VentureBeat, The Washington Post, and others, and I now cover telecom-policy issues for Yahoo Finance (a subsidiary of Verizon’s media division Oath) and answer telecom questions in a USA Today Q&A column.
Apple iPhone: iPhones are largely used in this era. They have the ability to roam, 3G and 4G access, and are SIM card-enabled, although for locked phone use roaming service. Also, you can use the internet Wi-Fi for alternative communication. Battery charge is usually 12V, which fits any travel adapter. Access to email, cloud service, music, camera, etc. are all possible with this device.
With every carrier, unlimited data isn’t truly unlimited — but AT&T sets the limit unusually low, with every unlimited plan throttling speed after 22 GB of data usage. That’s half of T-Mobile’s data limit. If you spend a lot of time streaming or browsing social media in places without Wi-Fi, there’s a chance you could go over your limit. And if you want “unlimited” data but no DIRECTV Live, no dice: The pair are inseparable. There are some standard phone plans that have smaller data limits for a lower price, but the comparable value is poor. While you can set your cap at 1 GB for just $25, the 10 GB cap is $75 — more expensive than the standard $70 unlimited plan.
With Verizon’s TravelPass you can use your plan in Mexico and Canada for $5 per day. The charge jumps to $10 per day for use in other countries. Usage in Canada and Mexico are included in Verizon’s Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited plans at no additional charge. Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan includes five TravelPasses each month, good in more than 130 countries. The carrier also offers monthly and pay-as-you-go international roaming prices.
Rent or purchase a cell phone or mobile hotspot for your trip and do everything you typically do with a cell phone such as make calls, check your emails, browse the web and use apps such as Google Maps, WhatsApp and others - but without the high international roaming rates most carriers charge. You can also use your own devices with our service by either using one of our SIM cards or renting an international MiFi hotspot.
If you’re in search of a budget option but don’t want to give up the reliability of Big Four service, Sprint has a range of plans that hit their target. It has the cheapest unlimited data plan, starting at $60 per month. Sprint also tends to run numerous half-off promotions that can provide an extra nudge. Its current promotion offers the fourth and fifth line free if you switch from another provider.
AT&T, the second-largest carrier, offers a strong GSM network—allowing simultaneous voice and data use even outside LTE territory—and good in-building coverage via its widespread low-band spectrum. But its unlimited-data subscription rates aren’t as attractive, especially for multiple lines—its capped Mobile Share Flex plans will better suit most people’s needs. Buying your phone on AT&T’s installment plan brings an extra risk: Until you’ve paid it off, the device will be locked and stuck with unfavorable international-roaming charges. And though AT&T’s $10 International Day Pass matches Verizon’s pricing, it isn’t available in as many countries (PDF) as Verizon’s option or AT&T’s much more expensive Passport roaming.
I thought this would be a relatively simple matter until I started analyzing the technical issues involved. The solution was further complicated because most of the customer agents I spoke with for the different carriers really did not understand their own service offerings and many said that prepay phones could not be used for roaming in foreign countries.

Verizon: Verizon Wireless is offering BOGO and rebate deals on a ton of Apple and Android phones right now. With a qualifying trade-in, you can take $300 off a Pixel 2XL, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy Note 9, LG G7 ThinQ, LG V40 ThinQ, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max when you purchase one of these devices and add a new line. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 are also on sale for $100 off with no trade-in necessary.
AT&T’s prepaid service and Cricket Wireless offer comparable savings, as do T-Mobile’s in-house prepaid service and its Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary, but those networks aren’t as good as Verizon’s and their prepaid plans aren’t as good for world travelers. Sprint’s Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA in-house brands are even worse for limiting the ability to bring your own phone.

Some carriers throttle prepaid service to a lower speed by default, as AT&T does with Cricket. Others prioritize their own customers over third-party prepaid traffic, as happens with the Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary. A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed that policy, saying that although postpaid and prepaid T-Mobile service have the same priority, Metro by T-Mobile and other resellers “may notice slower speeds in times of network congestion.” However, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon told us that they didn’t impose any such prioritization, and one reseller of Sprint and T-Mobile told us that even T-Mobile’s policy had yet to show any effects. “We have done our own testing,” Ting marketing vice president Michael Goldstein wrote in an email. “We have never detected any difference.”


You can Rent or Buy an international mobile hotspot, rent an international cell phone or purchase a global SIM card or an International data SIM card for your trip overseas and stop paying costly international roaming fees from the moment you step off the plane. Contact us today for expert recommendations or, Enter the Name of your Destination Country Below to view all your available options.

If you’re interested in faster data speeds, Sprint lets you buy a High-Speed Data Roaming Pass, either for 24 hours or a full week. Rates vary based on where you travel. In Canada and Mexico, you can buy a day pass for $2 and a weekly pass for $10. In China, day passes cost $10, and it's $50 for a week of high-speed data roaming. Most other destinations charge $5 a day and $25 a week.
To determine the best plans, we looked at the monthly plan price before taxes and fees, the price per gigabyte, and features such as unlimited video streaming or rollover data. We only considered national carriers, which ruled out regional providers like U.S. Cellular. For average users and prepaid users, we looked at plans with 2GB to 5GB. For families, we looked at plans with at least 6GB and calculated pricing for a family of four. Recommendations for heavy data users only factored in plans with at least 10GB of data.
You can Rent or Buy an international mobile hotspot, rent an international cell phone or purchase a global SIM card or an International data SIM card for your trip overseas and stop paying costly international roaming fees from the moment you step off the plane. Contact us today for expert recommendations or, Enter the Name of your Destination Country Below to view all your available options.
Sprint's revised unlimited plans include benefits when you travel to Mexico and Canada. The Unlimited Basic plan offers 5GB of LTE data on top of unlimited talk and text in those two countries, while the Unlimited Plus plan doubles data to 10GB. Both the $60 Basic and $70 Plus plans give subscribers access to Sprint Global Roaming in 185 places around the world.

Our estimates included only sales and discounts without expiration dates (though we included plans with “for a limited time” vagueness) and that are open to any customer (those that require trading in a phone or porting over a number didn’t qualify). If a plan offers a lower rate for automatic payments, we factored that discount in. We also allowed for regular purchases of an extra data pack or per-megabyte overage fees of $15 a gigabyte or less, but only up to $30 a month.
Very pleased with this phone. Android version 4.1.2 and has not been upgraded from the manufacture, but it does run everything I want so it is acceptable. I need a dual SIM phone to separate my home/personal use from work, and this fits the bill. Internal storage is small, but I understand the cost of the phone, so I can tolerate that. I am not a gamer and only use it for calls, tasks, IM and email and some social networking. Only 3G so it is not as fast as some phones. I live in the mid-west of the United States on the T-Mobile system and reception is as good as other phones I have had. I do like this phone, small and easy to use. I would recommend this phone to others who just need a simple smart phone. I am sure ... full review
The average smartphone subscriber uses about 6.9 GB of data per month, according to a June 2017 report from information and communications technology group Ericsson (up from 3.7 GB in 2016). This number serves as a good guidepost when you choose a plan: It’s roughly the amount of data you’ll need if you check directions and browse the web daily. But if you’re looking to cover multiple family members, or if you spend many hours per day on your phone, you’ll need a higher-tier unlimited plan. (And if you don’t use your phone even for directions or web browsing? You’re a prime candidate for a much cheaper plan through an MVNO.)
The phone is perfect except for two weird things. One is that its country setting is rigged for Canada and there's no way of changing it. The other, more serious, is that putting a finger on the side above SD card somehow affects touchscreen functionality, though the problem will likely go away when I buy a protective case. All in all, a great bargain.
But like the Unlimited Choice plan that preceded it, the Unlimited &More plan comes with a few big catches. Video streaming is limited to standard-definition quality, with the speed capped at 1.5 megabits per second. The plan doesn’t provide mobile hot spot capabilities, so no tethering your computer to your phone. (Verizon has similar restrictions.) And people who subscribe to the cheaper unlimited plan no longer get free HBO.
As for talk and text amounts, all of the postpaid plans from the major carriers provide unlimited calling and messaging, so in theory you don’t even have to compute those numbers. But many prepaid and resold services allow you to save money if you’re willing to stay within certain limits. The best way to figure out how many texts or calls you send or make is to consult your billing statement.

The best way to see how much data you’re using is to check with your carrier, either through its website or through its app. Both Android and iOS provide estimates of your current data use, and those numbers can be useful if you’re trying to see which of your apps use the most data, but your carrier’s website will give you a more accurate, reliable number (and that’s the number that it’ll use when calculating your bill, anyway).
Today's teens (and, admittedly, many of us) treat their smartphones like permanent appendages, texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, streaming and playing games like the outside world doesn't exist. If you're the parent of a data-hungry teen, unlimited plans can be the way to go, since they eliminate concerns about overages. Alternatively, you might consider a bare-bones "lifeline" cell phone plans that provides your teen with a means to make a calls, and not much else. 
For years, cell phone carriers in the United States relied on technologies that were incompatible with those used in Europe, Asia and much of the rest of the world. Recently, two major U.S. cellular carriers -- AT&T and T-Mobile -- built nationwide networks based on Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) technology, the international standard for cell phone networks.
5G wireless—which should offer much faster and more responsive connections—is coming, but not soon. For example, Verizon and AT&T began pre-commercial 5G trials last year, but those were limited to “fixed wireless” systems that provide whole-home bandwidth. Don’t expect widespread commercial deployment of mobile 5G during the real-world lifespan of any phone you buy today. We will, however, continue watching for early signs of each carrier’s 5G rollout.
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.
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.
Given that a traveler is always on the go, battery life matters the most. Apart from that, a good camera and global compatibility with different cellular networks is a big factor. Looking at these criteria, the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge fits the bill. It’s priced well, supports various global networks including VoLTE, and has a 12MP camera and good battery life with 3600mAh capacity.
For longer trips, AT&T has retooled its AT&T Passport, which provides 30 days of service when you travel. Users thought the previous iteration of AT&T Passport offered too little data (since data was limited to 200MB, you can see their point), so AT&T increased the amount of data in its travel plan. The $60 Passport gives you 1GB of data and unlimited texting; you'll be charged 35 cents per minute for calls to any country. A $120 AT&T Passport boosts your data to 3GB. Don't go over that allotment, as AT&T charges $50 for each GB you go over.
Verizon’s network is still better than T-Mobile’s, but that advantage is less pronounced for data. Automated drive testing by the research firm RootMetrics that rate T-Mobile poorly include lagging grades for voice and text use, while they show T-Mobile as a respectable third place for speed and data. PCMag currently ranks T-Mobile as a very close second to Verizon, while OpenSignal’s test results say that T-Mobile is now actually ahead of Verizon in speed and data. And though T-Mobile’s GSM-based network—which lets you talk and use data simultaneously, unlike Verizon’s—has historically leaned on higher-frequency bands that don’t reach as far inside buildings, that’s getting better. That GSM foundation also means that T-Mobile is compatible with more phones than Verizon is, including virtually every unlocked phone you can buy.

AT&T’s $80 Unlimited & More Premium plan gets you 15 GB hotspot use and HD video for $5 less than Verizon’s Beyond Unlimited rate, but its network trails T-Mobile’s in OpenSignal’s and PCMag’s studies. And we don’t think anyone should get its $70-per-month, no-hotspot-allowed Unlimited & More option. Like Verizon, it requires automatic payments for you to get its advertised prices but won’t let you make those on a credit card, and it disqualifies all of its discounts except its military/veterans deal from that plan.


If you travel internationally, Verizon’s TravelPass can seem tempting. That option costs a reasonable $5 a day in Canada and Mexico to use voice, text, and data drawn from your domestic allowance, $10 a day in much of the rest of the world (with a few exceptions, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar). But Verizon phones are all sold unlocked, so you can (and should) save money by using a local prepaid SIM when traveling internationally.
The difficulties I encountered are instructive as to what a prepay customer should understand bout service limitations when travel outside of the United States is contemplated. My experience also pointed to a glaring security problem for tracing criminals, terrorists, stalkers or others that seek to use their phone to facilitate illegal activities.
Because if you don’t pick the phone wisely and you keep on using unlimited data, you’ll have to pay lots of extra charges for that.The first thing you need to consider when buying a mobile phone is whether it features GSM Band, and if it does, you need to consider at what frequencies does it work. Then with the help of these frequencies, you can check in which countries your phone’ll work.
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