To make the decision easier, we’ve gone through each carriers’ plans to figure out which one is the best for your particular needs. Even after introducing a lower-cost, stripped-down plan, T-Mobile's T-Mobile One unlimited data offering is the best family plan; it offers better value than AT&T and Verizon (though bargain hunters may be tempted by Sprint's discounted family plan and AT&T includes a new streaming TV service with its unlimited plans). T-Mobile's $70 plan is also the best unlimited data plan for individuals, though you can now get a bare-bones unlimited data plan from the carrier for $10 less.
Tablet Offer: Credits end at end of term, early termination, early payoff or upgrade, whichever occurs first. Taxes and svc charges excluded. No cash back. May not be combinable with other tablet offers. Requires activation at point of sale. Available to new and existing customers who have an active Sprint wireless phone line. Req. qualifying data plan and new activation. Only 1 Tablet Offer per account during this offer. CL accounts req. active smartphone line and is not limited to 1 free tablet.
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.)
Usually, unlocked cell phones have the carrier's branding on the device. To test whether your phone is locked, insert a Telestial SIM Card or a SIM Card provided by a different carrier (than that of your device). If your device connects to a network and you are able to use the service, your phone is not locked. If your device does not connect to a network or you are unable to use the service, your phone may be locked.

We used the iKits charger (white with gray) for a two week long trip in the UK. This charged even our sensitive devices (one phone and three Kindles) well and became our sole electronics charger for tablets and phones after the first day. The adapters snap in snugly and create a single unit that is secure, easy to use, and compact for travel. It is well made and fit securely everywhere we stayed. We never had surge or power issues.

Our rates to make and receive phone calls and for mobile data are small fractions of what the major carriers charge and typically with better coverage and faster data speeds and with transparent pricing. With Cellular Abroad, the service is pay as you go so you never need to worry about how much you are spending. International cellular service is what we do and what we know best.

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.
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.)

Why we love it: T-Mobile's ONE family plan gives you 4 lines of unlimited data, Netflix subscriptions and unlimited hotspot usage (at 3G speeds)—all for $140 a month. Plus, it comes backed by T-Mobile's solid network. If you have a family full of data streamers and browsers, this plan is the way to go. Did I mention that all taxes and fees are included in this price? 
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Buy a budget smartphone — While there’s a lot of junk at the bottom of the smartphone range, there are a few decent phones for travelers under $200. My current favorite is the Motorola Moto G — you’ll want to buy a microSD card for some extra storage, but other than that it’s a reasonably speedy smartphone, with a battery that lasts all day and a 5” screen you actually want to use. Tip: grab the “Global” version for maximum compatibility overseas. You’ll still need to buy local SIM cards to put in it.
Most cellular customers in the United States subscribe to plans that are set up as post-pay, which means they are billed monthly and obtain service if they have good credit. A growing number of subscribers are also choosing prepay services (Pay-as-you-go) which provide both advantages and disadvantages in comparison to prepay, but for some it is the only way they can have a phone.
But speeds in other countries may range from 2G all the way to 4G—that could be the difference between downloading a web page in a few seconds (4G) to downloading a web page in three minutes (2G). depending on how much data you use or how much congestion there is. You can find out what data speeds to expect in AT&T’s comprehensive international coverage chart.
We quizzed experts, crunched numbers, and pored over fine print and pricing to help you figure out how much data you need, which network offers the best coverage where you need it, and whether a postpaid or prepaid plan is the best for you. We think that Verizon Wireless’s single-line 5 GB plan is the best cell phone plan for most people, but we have a variety of picks for different needs.
Our cost estimates assume 400 voice minutes and 500 texts used per month. Those numbers fall roughly in the middle of usage data we saw from the Federal Communications Commission (PDF) and a 2013 PwC study (PDF), among other resources, but are above the much lower averages that CTIA reported for 2017 (187 voice minutes and 143 texts). Unlike postpaid services, many prepaid and resold services still limit your text messages and phone calls, so the actual cost of a particular carrier may be slightly more or less if you use more or fewer minutes and texts, respectively.
Disclaimer: The information featured in this article is based on our best estimates of pricing, package details, contract stipulations, and service available at the time of writing. All information is subject to change. Pricing will vary based on various factors, including, but not limited to, the customer’s location, package chosen, added features and equipment, the purchaser’s credit score, etc. For the most accurate information, please ask your customer service representative. Clarify all fees and contract details before signing a contract or finalizing your purchase.
Why we love it: In addition to HD streaming, a 20GB mobile hotspot allowance, 500GB of Verizon Cloud, and a massive 75GB data de-prioritization threshold, Verizon's Above Unlimited includes unlimited talk/text/data in Mexico and Canada and 5 TravelPasses/month for use in more than 130 countries (each TravelPass entitles you to 24 hours of your regular unlimited benefits while abroad). All backed, of course, by Verizon's awesome network. It may be expensive, Above Unlimited delivers the goods. 
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.
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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.)
To be sure your cell phone is always ready to go when you are, you may want to select one of the different types of phone chargers. For instance, charger cases have proven popular because they provide some device protection while also keeping your phone charged. Other security options that will help maintain a like-new appearance include a screen protector that fights off scratches and fingerprints, and phone cases, which not only allow you to add your personal style, but can also protect your investment against water, weather and impact.

If you have eyes only for your budget, we’d suggest avoiding the Big Four entirely and instead choosing a cheaper MVNO provider like Cricket or Republic Wireless. MVNOs do not operate their own networks and instead offer access to one or several of the major carriers’ networks at a reduced cost. Choosing the right MVNO requires knowing which network it uses and whether that network works well where you live.
Other International Cell Phones DO NOT give the same crystal-clear call quality that the World Talk & Text Phone gives you! That's because the World Talk & Text Phone automatically uses whichever foreign network in the area has the strongest signal. You therefore get the best call quality available to humankind, wherever you travel, GUARANTEED. Amazingly, you get better coverage than most of the locals get! (How unfair!)
But speeds in other countries may range from 2G all the way to 4G—that could be the difference between downloading a web page in a few seconds (4G) to downloading a web page in three minutes (2G). depending on how much data you use or how much congestion there is. You can find out what data speeds to expect in AT&T’s comprehensive international coverage chart.
First things first: The only phones you’ll be able to use when you travel internationally are those considered “world phones,” meaning those that can be used as easily abroad as they are domestically. That means the phone must be capable of running on a GSM network, as that’s the predominant networking standard around the world. But if you’re on a CDMA network (Sprint or Verizon) here in the states, don’t despair: Many top smartphones these days can support both bands, thus simplifying travel.
Another option besides making a traditional cell phone call is using a Voice Over IP (VoIP) service such as Skype, which connects calls via an Internet connection. Skype can be used on a laptop, tablet or smartphone. Skype users can talk to each other for free, and can make calls to landlines and cell phones at affordable rates. However, remember that even if you’re not making international calls over your phone’s cellular network, you’ll still need to have an international plan in place to avoid exorbitant data charges (or find a free Wi-Fi connection so you don’t have to use your data).

Since any information I accrue during my travels is backed up the second I hook up my phone to my computer using iTunes, saving me both time and effort. Although international plans are now readily available through most carriers, there are SIM cards available abroad that I can pop into my phone for the duration of my trip, and even if those sim cards aren’t available immediately, there’re hotspots around that will allow me to have immediate use of Wi-Fi.
Also a phone with a large battery pack and fast charging is AN ESSENTIAL during international travel. Nobody wants to be lost in a strange street with their phone dead. A phone with a large battery power and fast charging means you can pop up the Google Map and find your way wherever you are. Here the S7 Edge is again a great option as it comes with 3600 mAh battery power and fast charging capability.
OpenSignal’s network tests rely on crowdsourcing: Anyone can download the OpenSignal app and run tests. But that also means anyone can opt not to do so—and the majority of people don’t. As such, OpenSignal’s data skews heavily toward densely populated, urban areas. The upside is that in those regions, it has block-by-block information. If you live in a city, you can use OpenSignal’s data to check all the spots you frequent.
Verizon’s 5GB plan includes carryover data, which is good for 30 days. And you can nix overage charges by turning on Safety Mode, which drops you to 2G speeds when you hit your monthly high-speed limit. You can save $5 per month if you opt for paperless billing and automatic payments, but you can only use a checking account or debit card. This is a single-line plan, so you can’t add additional lines to make it a family plan.

The carrier's new Above Unlimited offers that Canada/Mexico benefit, too, and augments it with another goodie aimed at travelers: you get five daily TravelPasses each month to use in more than 130 countries. That lets you use up to 512MB of LTE data per day. Just be aware that you'll have to do a lot of traveling to justify the higher rate for Above Unlimited, as it costs $95 a month for a single line versus $75 and $85 for Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited, respectively.
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.
Due to constantly shifting promotions and terms, family-plan pricing is difficult to sort through. Our Verizon single-line pick isn’t competitive here because all of the lines on a Verizon subscription share the same data bucket. Verizon’s largest capped-data option is 8 GB, so if that won’t cover your family’s usage, you have to upgrade to more expensive unlimited data plans: $130 for two lines of not-so-versatile Go Unlimited and its limits on mobile-hotspot and streaming-video use ($160 for Beyond Unlimited), or $160 for four lines of Go Unlimited ($200 for four lines of Beyond Unlimited).
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.
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.
Finding the right phone plan to fit your needs is tricky. Beyond just dollars and cents, you need to consider which phones are supported by which wireless carriers and what coverage and data speeds are like in the area where you’ll use your phone the most. Throw in carriers’ near-continual plan changes — including multiple tiers of unlimited plans — and it’s a recipe for confusion.
These companies usually configure their SIMs with two phone numbers: one for use in North America and one that will work everywhere else. Dual-number SIMS can be a problem if you want to receive text messages while outside North America via your U.S. number. These systems only allow subscribers to log in with their alternate phone number (usually assigned in the UK) when overseas. This means that unless text messages are directed to that number, they cannot be received.
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