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.
AT&T's size, reputation, and brand recognizability also means they don't have to beat other carriers on price to stay competitive. AT&T's plans are among the most expensive on the market, though a recent overhaul of their unlimited offerings have made them a bit more reasonable. The main things you're paying for with AT&T are coverage, features (like hotspot allotments) and international options.
Several prepaid carriers offer monthly plans with unlimited 4G LTE data, but Metro by T-Mobile remains the best, thanks to its superior network performance and perks. Metro gives you unlimited data for $50 a month, with 5GB of LTE hotspot data and access to Google One cloud storage. Upgrade to the $60 plan, and you get 15GB of hotspot data plus an Amazon Prime membership on top of Google One. That tops Boost's similarly priced unlimited plans, though Boost does offer more hotspot data, and you can get HD video streaming with its $60 plan.
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.)
Sprint Unlimited Military Plan: Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting, 500MB LTE MHS, VPN & P2P & data. MHS reduced to 3G speeds after 500MB/mo. Third-party content/downloads are add’l. charge. Plan not avail. for tablets or MBB devices. Select Int’l svcs are included for phone lines. See sprint.com/globalroaming. Subsidized devices incur an add'l. $25/mo. charge.
AT&T is a name we're all familiar with, a telecommunications behemoth whose history stretches back centuries. The company is a formidable player in the cell phone industry, especially when it comes to coverage: the breadth and reliability of the carrier's network is second only to Verizon's. This great coverage in one of the key benefits of going with AT&T for your next cell phone plan.
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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.
Between traditional subscription plans on the big four carriers, prepaid services, and companies reselling those four networks, you have hundreds of options for family plans, but the two-line rates of Metro by T-Mobile and the four-line deals of Verizon’s prepaid service come out on top. These plans each use one of the top two networks, let you bring your own devices (the best way to save money while still getting a quality phone), and offer conveniences like the capability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot and roam overseas without paying painful-to-extortionate extra fees.
Sprint Unlimited 55+ Plan: Reqs. new account activation. Acct holder must be 55 or older. 2 line max. Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting & data with 3G Mobile Hotspot VPN & P2P data. Discounted phones subject to add'l $25/mo./line. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Plan not avail. for tablets/MBB devices. Select Int’l svcs are included see sprint.com/globalroaming.
Sprint Global Roaming is an option you can add to your Sprint plan at any time, and you can keep it on your account, free of charge, for as long as you’d like. Once you’ve enabled the feature, you can travel to most countries around the world, including all of North America and South America, China and Europe, and get free text and free data on 2G speeds. If you want to talk, you’ll pay 20 cents a minute.
Once you know what you’ll need, and from which providers, it’s time to compare the costs and find the best phone deals for you. You’ll want to factor in any taxes and fees, as well as additional features that increase the overall value of your package. If you have several lines to add, look for promotions that take down the price for family plans. And don’t skip out on auto-pay; it saves you $5 with every carrier.
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.
International cell phone options are as varied as travel styles. The always-on-the-go globetrotter who spends her morning in Europe and goes to sleep in North Africa probably carries her own high-tech international calling device. The college student studying in Italy may have a local cell phone that only works in his overseas home. The leisure traveler who wants a cell phone in case of emergency on her yearly vacation may rent a phone and drop it in the mail when she returns home.
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.
Rent or buy a portable hotspot — Portable hotspots are small gadgets that create a wireless network and share a cellular data connection over it — you can typically connect 5 or 10 devices to the network you create. You can rent one for short trips at an inflated daily or weekly rate, or you can buy an unlocked hotspot and stick a local SIM card in it, just as if it were a phone. Your smartphone will treat this like any other Wi-Fi network.
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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
Finally, take advantage of WiFi wherever possible. Most hotels offer it as a complimentary service, and you'll find free wireless internet available in many tourist and business-friendly places. By switching off your phone's cellular connection and relying on WiFi, you can potentially save hundreds, even thousands, of dollars over the course of your trip.
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.
All you need to do is figure out how much data your family needs and what you’re using it for the most. It’s important to note that some carriers are now making you pay extra if you want high-definition-quality video streaming or high-speed mobile hot spot service. Some also make you buy a more expensive plan if you want overseas service included. Check our buying guide for cell phones and service for tips for choosing a plan.
Excluding plans that don’t let you bring your own device, Metro by T-Mobile, formerly MetroPCS, has the best rates for two-line scenarios—$70 for 5 GB each on two phones. That pricing easily beats T-Mobile’s own prepaid plans, and Metro by T-Mobile’s data caps exempt streaming video (at the cost of limiting its resolution to DVD-quality 480p resolution, although you can opt out of this Data Maximizer feature if you want).
Straight Talk’s 10GB plan typically expires after 30 days, unless you opt to automatically refill your account. But you can also purchase in three-month, six-month and yearlong increments at a discounted rate. Straight Talk contracts with each of the big four nationwide carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. The network you use will depend on where you live and the phone you activate.
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.
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.
Sprint Unlimited Premium Plan: Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting, 50GB LTE MHS, VPN & P2P & data. MHS reduced to 3G speeds after 50GB/mo. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Plan not avail. for tablets or MBB devices. Select Int’l svcs are included for phone lines. See sprint.com/globalroaming. Subsidized devices incur an add’l. $25/mo. charge. Must remain on Premium plan for a minimum of 30 days.