After prodding Verizon to end overage fees with a nifty bit of skywriting in 2015, the “Uncarrier” T-Mobile played its trump card by switching all subscribers over to a single unlimited plan known as T-Mobile One. As of September 2018, all new subscribers receive unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data. And though “unlimited” is never truly unlimited, T-Mobile doesn’t start throttling speeds until you’ve hit 50 GB of data usage. It’s a generous limit at a great value — especially because video and music streaming won’t count toward that data cap. T-Mobile One costs $70 for one line, and each additional line is about $10 cheaper. T-Mobile prices include taxes and fees, while Verizon’s comparable 75 GB plan costs $95 before taxes and fees.

Voice-call quality has improved as three of the four carriers (Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T) have built out Voice over LTE (VoLTE) service and made it interoperable. (Sprint doesn’t plan to begin its VoLTE rollout until this fall.) And across the board, data caps have risen to reflect customers’ increased demand for data: All four major US carriers now offer unlimited data plans and have refrained from curtailing them since T-Mobile and Verizon’s late-2017 pruning of their unmetered deals.


RootMetrics gives out regional awards to carriers that are top performers in categories like network speed and reliability, call quality, and data performance. Verizon swept the table in 2018, earning 112 of 125 possible awards. Sprint, by comparison, earned three awards. What does this mean? Verizon has the best track record for offering its customers a reliable network and satisfying performance.

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.
Verizon’s CDMA-based network (used when you don’t have LTE service) isn’t capable of simultaneous voice and data use. This means, for instance, that if you’re using your phone to navigate while you’re driving, and you get a voice call in an area without 4G service, you may lose the call. But the company’s far-flung LTE deployment has addressed this limitation in many areas.
If you can live with limited service during your trip, bring along your phone but be sure to turn off data usage and the “fetch new data” option. Those are two important ways to reduce your cell phone bill during an international trip. Also look for complimentary Wi-Fi “hot spots” in places like coffee shops and malls, and use voice and text messaging apps like Viber and LINE, which are free if both parties have accounts with the service. Skype is also an option (be sure your phone is subscribed to a free Wi-Fi hotspot first) as are Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and WeChat. You can also buy a pre-paid phone card, which usually costs less per minute than your mobile carrier’s international roaming rates.
LG V40 ThinQ offer: LG V40 ThinQ MSRP $960.00. Credits end at end of term, early termination, early payoff or upgrade, whichever occurs first. Second Year Promise full terms and conditions apply; see LGPromise.com. The Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) is $330 ($139 gimbal, $119 micro SD card, $72 Second Year Promise. Value for the LG Second Year Promise program is an approximation based on similar service).
I didn't like the deals Verizon offered for service while visiting Europe, so I put this Mobal sim in a cheap unlocked phone and got exactly what I needed - something to use to call ahead to hotels, send quick texts home, simple stuff. Most calls are a dollar a minute, which might be a problem for a heavy user, but for a tourist like me it doesn't add up to much. And it's so easy. They just bill your credit card for a call. Good sound quality, too. All for the price of a movie ticket. I recommend highly.

Hulu: Req. registration from Sprint phone at hulu.com/sprint. Incl. access to one Hulu Limited Commercials plan per each eligible Sprint acct. (excl. other Hulu plans & add-ons) while eligible Sprint plan is active in good standing. Valid for new or returning Hulu subscribers or certain existing Limited Commercials subscribers. Select Hulu content streams in HD on supported devices subj. to connectivity. Tablets may stream Hulu content via incl. Sprint Hot Spot or may subscribe to separate unlimited data plan for tablets. Not redeemable or refundable for cash or gift subscriptions. Hulu may place acct. on inactivity hold based on Hulu usage. Cancel Hulu anytime. See full offer terms at sprint.com/hulu.

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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Just make sure to turn off your cellular and data roaming so you don’t accidentally get stuck with charges. To do that on an iPhone, go to “Settings > Cellular” and click the switch next to “Cellular Data.” Also go to Cellular Data options and make sure “Roaming” is turned off. On most Android phones, go to “Settings > Mobile Networks > Data roaming access” and then click on “Deny data roaming access.”

If you can't wait until your deal is up with your current carrier, the major carriers are all willing to pick up some of the cost to get you to switch. Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer up to $650 for each phone you switch over to pay off your phone purchases and early termination fees; AT&T offers a $100 bill credit for switching over plus $200 for trading in an eligible smartphone. Note that this money will come in the form of prepaid gift cards and that every carrier requires you to trade in your existing phone.
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.

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.


Unlimited Tablet Plan: Incl. unlimited texting on capable tablets & data with mobile optimized video streams at up to 480+ resolution, music at up to 500kbps, streaming gaming at up to 2 Mbps. Add Unlimited premium resolution streaming for add'l. $20/mo./line & get video streams at up to 1080+, music at up to 1.5 Mbps, gaming at up to 8 Mbps. Data deprioritization applies during times of congestion. After the 10GB, MHS, VPN & P2P usage will be limited to 2G speeds. Third-party content/downloads are add'l. charge. Int'l. svc. are not incl.
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