For each service, we computed the cost of a few typical bundles of smartphone service, setting minimal use at 1 gigabyte (GB) of data, moderate use at 3 GB, and heavy use at 5 GB. (Research firms’ estimates have shown steady increases in average use since the first version of this guide, but usage estimates per carrier have also diverged as some carriers have switched to selling only unlimited-data subscriptions: In the second quarter of 2018, Strategy Analytics found that Android users who had opted into its survey used on average 5.9 GB on T-Mobile, 5 GB on Sprint, 4.5 GB on Verizon, and 3.9 GB on AT&T. However, usage outside of the big four can be lower, to judge from the much lower monthly average reported by the wireless trade group CTIA for 2017: only 1.3 GB.

2GB Plan: No discounts apply (except AutoPay discounts). Includes unlimited domestic Long Distance calling and texting. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Includes selected allotment of on-network data usage for phone and mobile hotspot use and 100MB off-network data usage. Add’l on-network high-speed data allowance may be purchased at $15/GB. Mobile Hotspot Usage pulls from your data and off-network allowances. High-speed data is access to 3G/4G. Add’l $25 line/mo. applies with subsidized phone until the customer enters into a new device transaction that does not have an annual term service agreement.
Speed and capacity – When you really get down to it, the specs on the OnePLus 3T are mightily impressive. It comes with a Snapdragon 821 processor and 6GB of RAM as standard meaning functionality, and speed is fantastic. The basic (cheapest) model also comes with 64GB of storage, allowing you to take as many travel pics as you want without receiving storage notifications every 2 minutes.
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.
Verizon offers the best coverage in the most places in the US, so you’re more likely than with other carriers to have a signal wherever you are—the most important thing for a smartphone to do. And though Verizon isn’t the least expensive carrier for unlimited-data plans, the company’s under-promoted single-line 5 GB plan (just $55 after an auto-pay discount) includes more data than most people need while saving you money compared with an unlimited plan. But if you truly need unlimited data, or frequently travel internationally, you should consider T-Mobile’s One Plus.
You may find that prepaid phones are a good option for your needs if you don’t like the idea of a long-term contract or prefer to stick to a predictable monthly budget. Plus, you can get prepaid phone cards to add minutes or data for times when a little extra is needed. Another option would be an unlocked phone, which gives you the freedom to choose the carrier and plan you want with no long-term contract. This is where you’ll really appreciate browsing the best cell phone deals, since unlocked phones require you to pay for the phone upfront instead of having it subsidized by the carriers.
If you need better connectivity to, say, hail a Lyft from the Acropolis, simply add a global package to your current service. It's shockingly easy. For example, AT&T offers a service called Passport, which gets you 200 MB of data and unlimited texting in more than 200 countries for just $40 tacked onto your current monthly plan. (Calls abroad still cost a buck a minute, so talk quickly.) Verizon offers a similar service, Travel Pass, that costs $5 a day to extend your plan to Mexico and Canada and $10 per day for service in more than 100 other countries. How much data you need depends upon how active you plan to be online. Posting 30 photos to social media costs about 10 MB; each web page you visit costs about one. Downloading apps like Whatsapp lets you send texts and make calls without racking up minutes, and disabling "automatic refresh" on email and other apps helps avoid blowing through your data allowance.
If you'd prefer to use a different Android phone or an iPhone, T-Mobile remains a strong alternative, letting T-Mobile One subscribers use data in more than 210 countries, though at 2G speeds. You can talk and text for free in Canada and Mexico, though T-Mobile limits you to 5GB of LTE data in those countries. (Be aware that the carrier's new T-Mobile Essentials unlimited plan doesn't include these international perks.)
Finally, we didn’t factor in taxes and regulatory fees, because they vary by jurisdiction (on my own T-Mobile plan, for example, these fees added up to just under 10 percent of my July 2018 bill). But wherever you live, taxes and fees should hit you equally across all of your options—except for T-Mobile’s T-Mobile One offering, which sweeps them into the advertised cost.
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Speed and capacity – When you really get down to it, the specs on the OnePLus 3T are mightily impressive. It comes with a Snapdragon 821 processor and 6GB of RAM as standard meaning functionality, and speed is fantastic. The basic (cheapest) model also comes with 64GB of storage, allowing you to take as many travel pics as you want without receiving storage notifications every 2 minutes.

2GB Plan: No discounts apply (except AutoPay discounts). Includes unlimited domestic Long Distance calling and texting. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Includes selected allotment of on-network data usage for phone and mobile hotspot use and 100MB off-network data usage. Add’l on-network high-speed data allowance may be purchased at $15/GB. Mobile Hotspot Usage pulls from your data and off-network allowances. High-speed data is access to 3G/4G. Add’l $25 line/mo. applies with subsidized phone until the customer enters into a new device transaction that does not have an annual term service agreement.
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New smartphone releases are generally on the pricey side. If you aren't dying to have the latest device as soon as it comes out, waiting a few months for the price to drop can really pay off. Apple products typically take around a year to decrease in price. Most new Sony, LG and Samsung products become substantially more affordable within three to six months after release. Amazon and eBay usually have good selections of these products, and both frequently offer cell phone promo codes and coupons. If you're a dedicated early adopter, look for presales, which might offer an opportunity to save some cash.
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