Among the basic-economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data, Sprint deserves some credit for requiring the fewest compromises beyond the streaming-video 480p resolution enforced by all four: Sprint’s Unlimited Basic, $60 for one line, still includes 500 MB of LTE hotspot use (more than I use in most months) and overseas roaming (though at slower speeds). T-Mobile Essentials, at $60, offers only free texting overseas—international voice and data are extra—and limits hotspot use to 3G speeds (although OpenSignal rated its 3G downloads highest among all four). Verizon’s $75 Go Unlimited caps hotspot use at a punitive 600 Kbps, while AT&T’s $75 Unlimited & More bans hotspot use outright.
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.
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.
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.
All four major carriers now offer different tiers of unlimited data plans. We think T-Mobile's $70 option provides the best mix of value and performance. Sprint's basic unlimited plan is cheaper than T-Mobile One, but its network isn't as fast. The entry-level plans from Verizon And AT&T both carry too many restrictions, relative to T-Mobile's $70 plan. (And if you don't mind restrictions, T-Mobile Essentials is cheaper still at $60 a month.) T-Mobile One features a good price on a strong network, and if you want to upgrade from 480p video streaming to HD, it's now just $15 more per month (the same price as Verizon's unlimited plan with HD streaming.)
Although OnePlus is still relatively new in the market and even unknown to some, their devices are typically high-spec and come at a low cost which makes them ideal for traveling. Unlike previous OnePlus handsets, the 3T is actually pretty easy to hold. You can now purchase it directly from the company without having to jump through hoops as you did with the older handsets.

If you want unlimited calls and texts, more attentive customer service, and phone financing through your carrier, you should stick with a traditional postpaid plan, where you get a bill for service after you use it. Postpaid costs a bit more and requires decent credit to qualify, but it offers you every phone the carrier sells, usually with no-interest financing, and the service you get should match what you see in the carrier’s ads.
If saving money without compromising too much on data is the most important thing to you, Republic Wireless offers a decent amount of data for less than $30 a month, especially after tweaking what it charges for LTE data. Otherwise, Verizon offers the most compelling individual cellphone plan, costing $55 a month for 5GB; you can also roll over unused data to the next month. Metro by T-Mobile — the new name for the old MetroPCS service — still offers the best prepaid plans for both individuals and families thanks to a strong network and appealing perks.
I write about all things "cyber" and your right to privacy. Before joining Consumer Reports, I spent 16 years reporting for The Associated Press. What I enjoy: cooking and learning to code with my kids. I've lived in the Bronx for more than a decade, but as a proud Michigan native, I will always be a die-hard Detroit Tigers fan no matter how much my family and I get harassed at Yankee Stadium. Follow me on Twitter (@BreeJFowler). 

We’re not fond of Verizon’s unlimited plans, none of which (as I’ve observed elsewhere) are truly limitless. For example, in addition to banning HD-video streaming and knee-capping mobile-hotspot speeds, the $75 Go Unlimited plan may throttle your speeds “in times of congestion,” even at the start of a billing cycle before you’ve burned up any data yourself—the others spot you 22 or 75 GB of usage before subjecting you to that risk. And as with the 5 GB plan, the $75 price requires enabling automatic payments from a checking account or debit card; otherwise it’s $5 more. Unlike Verizon’s capped plans, which give you full-speed data when roaming, the unlimited plan offers only 2G domestic data roaming, which one reader complained about while noting his experience roaming in Alaska and Puerto Rico. And the unlimited plans exclude all of Verizon’s discounts except for those for active military and veterans.

Vienne Brown, Founder of VienneMilano, is an entrepreneur and independent professional. Throughout her career, her passion has been to see products come to life, from concept to market. She’s served a variety of clients, from international corporations, to startups, to nonprofit organizations, focusing on marketing and product management. Her personal interests include fashion and automobiles. Originally from Hong Kong, she lives in Boston.

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.)
Sarah Schlichter is IndependentTraveler’s Senior Editor. She hails from Maryland and now resides in Pennsylvania, where she sings in a local community choir and enjoys experimenting with different international recipes (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires — no humans or animals were harmed). The smell of Sarah’s delicious Moroccan couscous ignites a wave of envy in the office when she brings in leftovers for lunch. Sarah, IndependentTraveler’s resident travel expert, has visited more than 25 U.S. states plus dozens of countries including Belize, Guatemala, Morocco, Canada, Dominica, the U.K., Norway, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand … just to name a few.
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Looking for a new cell phone, smartwatch, bluetooth headset, or any kind of accessory? Our deals page has just what you need. Here you’ll find the hottest deals on smartphones, smartwatches, bluetooth headsets, phone cases, and much more. Browse by different phone brand: iPhone, Samsung, LG, HTC, BLU, BlackBerry, Motorola, Nokia, ASUS, ZTE and more, or browse by OS: iOS, Android, or Windows phone. Check out deals on all kinds of wireless accessories including earbuds, selfie sticks, replacement parts, cables, car chargers, mounts, stands, and much more. And of course, you’ll find protection for cell phones in all kinds of forms: wallet cases, waterproof cases, battery cases, sleeves, holsters, flip cases, and screen protectors. Shop deals by category—Cell Phones, Cases, Accessories, Smartwatches; Bluetooth—or just browse around.
Verizon is the nation’s largest carrier for good reason: It offers the best coverage in the most places in the US according to third-party tests and surveys (including those of PCMag and RootMetrics), so you’re more likely to have a signal no matter where you are, and its pricing is competitive with that of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for the amount of data that most people actually use. It isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, but it is the first carrier everyone else should look at.
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.
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.
Sprint is particularly confusing because of its frequent shifts in price plans—like Sam-I-Am in Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham, it’s always got a new marketing angle. We don’t mind that Sprint has adopted a similar approach to T-Mobile One, leaning heavily on unlimited data and free global roaming. But we’re not so keen on Sprint pushing phone-leasing deals that tout the same low up-front costs as the subsidized handset prices that tied customers to two-year contracts. Even if you upgrade every year, those deals offer little or no advantage over reselling a used phone and plowing the proceeds into buying a new model. And unlike Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, leasing keeps the phone locked to Sprint. Finally, Sprint doesn’t offer installment-plan pricing. To buy a phone from Sprint instead of signing a lease contract, you have to pay the full up-front price yourself.
Verizon’s $85 Beyond Unlimited plan allows higher-definition video—720p resolution on phones, 1080p on tablets—and 15 GB of LTE tethering. But it imposes the same auto-pay requirements to avoid sending your pre-tax-and-fees bill to $100. The company’s $95 Above Unlimited plan caters to frequent travelers with a 20 GB LTE tethering allotment and five free one-day international roaming Travel Passes each month. It also raises the deprioritization threshold to 75 GB and throws in 500 GB of Verizon cloud storage, but still limits video streaming to 720p.

If your usage only slightly exceeds the cap on a service’s limited-data plans—say, you use 3.25 GB in a month and your carrier offers a 3 GB plan—you should see if that plan lets you roll over unused data from months when you don’t hit your maximum. Also, see if that service offers unmetered slow 2G service once you exhaust your high-speed data, so your phone will still always get basic (read: slower) Internet access. These features may let you choose a less expensive plan.
With the understanding that there are many cell phone plans that could potentially suit a senior, we've chosen to focus in on the ones specifically geared towards this market, and selected the best of the bunch. Whether you're a senior shopping for yourself or a loved one looking for a gift for a relative, it's worth taking a look at the following plans. 
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.
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).
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.
A local SIM usually replaces your domestic phone number with a local one, so apps like Whatsapp or WeChat remain the simplest way to talk with friends back home without the whole "new number, who dis?" routine. You will, however, be able to call the local pizza place for a delivery or add your new international friends on Facebook without spending the extra coin on calls, texts, and data usage.

TracFone, Net10, and Straight Talk, all properties of the Mexican carrier América Móvil, consistently rank among the most widely used prepaid services. They offer the advantage of reselling service from all four carriers, at the cost of having to trust the company’s judgment about which network works bests for you, as Prepaid Phone News editor Dennis Bournique explains in a helpful post.
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.
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