But all three services ban hotspot use, a tight-fisted restriction that looks increasingly archaic even for prepaid. TracFone also suffers from its own math: Because the data allotments in its data/voice/message bundled plans are so stingy, we could meet our usage scenarios only by stacking these plans on top of each other, and in some cases then buying additional data packs.
T-Mobile has carved a niche for itself in the U.S. with their all-in pricing (i.e. taxes and fees baked into plan costs). The carrier's straightforward lineup of unlimited offerings have proven eminently popular and shepherded in the "unlimited revolution," as other carriers have sought to imitate T-Mobile's success. The carrier's ONE plans are still some of our favorite unlimited plans on the market, packed with tons of features and reasonably priced.
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.
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.
Metro and Boost charge the same $30 to add extra lines to one of their data plans. That means a family of four would pay the same $140 a month for unlimited data on every line. We give the nod to Metro, because the network of its parent company T-Mobile performs better on our test than that of Boost parent Sprint. We also like its included Google One storage, though Boost offers more hotspot data with its plan.
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.
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.
I thought this would be a relatively simple matter until I started analyzing the technical issues involved. The solution was further complicated because most of the customer agents I spoke with for the different carriers really did not understand their own service offerings and many said that prepay phones could not be used for roaming in foreign countries.
This was my first BLU phone and I was very happy with it! All the utility of a $600 samsung or apple product at a fraction of the price. Easy to set up and worked very well with my net10 account. Took decent pictures, apps worked just fine for everything from geocaching to angry birds. Calls were clear, with no more drops than usual for our rural area. I"d still be using it if I hadn't dropped it on cement and made the display go all wonky. The phone still worked just fine, but the screen was too blurry to live with. So I ordered an identical Life XL. Unfortunately that one came loaded with spyware. I filed a complaint with the seller, tojostore, but they refused to respond until I left bad feedback. Then they quickly refunded my money without ... full review
Buy a disposable phone — If you’re in a country for a while and all you need are calls, texts, and maybe some light web browsing, just buy the cheapest prepaid phone you can find at the local mobile store. Sure, it’ll probably be complete rubbish, but you can often pick these phones up with a bit of credit for next to nothing and they’ll do the job for a while. The upside? You really won’t care if you drop it in the hostel toilet. If it does survive the length of your trip, just pass it onto to somebody else when you leave.
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?
Finally, you’ll need to buy and install a local SIM (subscriber identification module) memory chip that will work in the country you’re visiting. This little circuit stores information like your identity, local cell phone number, address book information, and other bits of data. When you put a local SIM chip in your phone, it’s like getting a brand new phone that will work on the local mobile carrier’s network. The chip does need to be activated so you can either go to a mobile store in the country you’re visiting and have everything taken care of on the spot, or try to order one in advance and activate it online.
Consumer Cellular’s prices aren’t quite as low as those of other resellers, but the company offers major savings in lower data-usage situations—the service is $15 to $30 cheaper if you expect to use 3 GB or less a month. Infrequent callers can get further savings by choosing one of Consumer Cellular’s lower voice allotments. And as the website reminds visitors, the company offers a 5 percent AARP discount. It blocks tethering by default but will enable that feature if you ask. And Consumer Cellular offers installment-plan purchase options with roughly the same terms as the majors do.
Inessa Kraft is an international traveler, iPhone SE advanced user, actress, who starred in various inspirational and travel films, videos, advertisement and TV series, including an award winning travel film Snowing Summer, besides traveling often for the shootings, she lives location independently and makes short educational films with her homeschooling kid.
RootMetrics uses cars set up with “leading Android-based smartphones for each network” to gather figures on data, talk, and text performance throughout the country. Its coverage map encompasses basically every major US city street, boulevard, and highway, as well as all of the towns and thoroughfares that connect them. You can also get reports tailored to specific metropolitan areas. This amount of detail makes RootMetrics a great source for gauging overall performance by region.
Other Terms: Offer/coverage not available everywhere or for all phones/networks. Accounts that cancel lines within 30 days of activating on promo pricing may void savings. Included features/content may change or be discontinued at any time. May not be combined with other offers. Restrictions apply. See store or sprint.com for details. © 2018 Sprint. All rights reserved. Sprint & the logo are trademarks of Sprint. Other marks are the property of their respective owners.
AT&T: AT&T has a bundle of nice BOGO and rebate deals on name-brand Android and Apple flagships for DirecTV customers: Buy two iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, XS Max, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy Note 9, or LG V35 ThinQ smartphones on AT&T Next and enjoy between $700 and $900 back in bill credits toward the value of the second phone (the rebate amount varies by model). If you don’t want to buy two and/or you’re not a DirecTV customer, then you can still get up to $600 back on a Galaxy S9, S9 Plus, or Note 9 with an eligible trade-in.
For years, cell phone carriers in the United States relied on technologies that were incompatible with those used in Europe, Asia and much of the rest of the world. Recently, two major U.S. cellular carriers -- AT&T and T-Mobile -- built nationwide networks based on Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) technology, the international standard for cell phone networks.
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.
The difficulties I encountered are instructive as to what a prepay customer should understand bout service limitations when travel outside of the United States is contemplated. My experience also pointed to a glaring security problem for tracing criminals, terrorists, stalkers or others that seek to use their phone to facilitate illegal activities.
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’ve tried to unlock your phone in the past but were told by your carrier that you couldn’t, you should try again. The Consumer Code for Wireless Service was implemented in February 2015, providing more freedom and flexibility to consumers when it comes to their cell phones. You can learn more about unlocking a phone or tablet from the Federal Communications Commission.
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.
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 best plan for most people is also its least obvious offering: the 5 GB for $55 deal. It’s difficult to find this plan on Verizon’s homepage, but you should see this option if you select a phone, add it to your cart, and scroll past Verizon’s flagship “unlimited” offerings when selecting a plan. (Verizon’s website quotes a $60 rate for this plan, but signing up for auto-pay using a checking account or debit card gets you $5 off—though this precludes running up points on a travel-rewards credit card).
Among services that let you bring your own phone, Verizon Prepaid provides the best deals for four lines, thanks to generous multiple-line discounts on its 3 and 7 GB (per line) plans that drop those four-line costs to $100 and $125, respectively. The only exception is the least appealing data amount: four lines with 1 GB each, where AT&T Prepaid is cheapest at $90 a month. Cricket offers more data in our medium-usage scenario—$110 buys you 5 GB per line—but that comes with an 8 Mbps speed limit and no hotspot support.
As pricey as Verizon's Above Unlimited plan may be, it could be worth it if business takes you overseas on a monthly basis, thanks to the addition of some complimentary TravelPasses. For infrequent travelers taking short trips, programs like Verizon’s TravelPass or AT&T’s International Day Pass will likely be good enough. But again, T-Mobile offers the most appealing international coverage, especially once it launches its $5 On Demand Pass in August.
Been using the gold J7 Pro for nearly 2 wks now. Great and fast phone. Bought it because i had the J700 before this. I wasn't going to upgrade but my phone was stolen. front flash with the front cam of 13mp is amazing. Since this is an international phone, the start up will be in a different language. Mine was in Indian, and real easy to change it to English. Also, there are no full cover glass screen protectors for this model or heavy duty hard cases. Best bet to buy them from eBay, but long shipping(3wk to 2 months). The gold color is more like silver with a hint of gold. From a distance it may look like rose gold, but then the gold color again. First time ever using the fingerprint, and it has been fun. 32gb phone + additional sd slot ... full review
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.