Perhaps most impressive are Verizon’s data speeds. Verizon is on the forefront of new technology; it’s one of the first providers to adopt new 5G technology, which promises speeds in the 200 Mbps to 300 Mbps range. While this figure has yet to be corroborated by long-term experience in the real world, it’s safe to say it will mark a considerable step up from the 4G LTE network’s peak download speeds of 50 Mbps. Verizon claims that this technology works by combining multiple wireless connections together to create what amounts to a bigger, stronger channel piping data straight to your phone.


Even as carriers offer multiple tiers of unlimited data plans, the T-Mobile One plan remains the best choice for families. It gives a family of four unlimited data for $160 a month. We wish T-Mobile still let you stream HD video as part of its T-Mobile One plan, but for most users, 480p video on a smartphone-sized screen will be good enough. (Families can pay an extra $10 per month per line if they really want HD streaming.) T-Mobile's network delivers comparable performance to Verizon, which charges more for its best unlimited family plan, though Verizon also lets you mix and match different unlimited options for each line of your family plan.
T-Mobile’s coverage has improved considerably over the past three years, and over the past two years, Sprint’s has progressed as well; we expect further improvements as the carriers upgrade their networks. Those two carriers should also be deploying more lower-frequency spectrum, either purchased or “refarmed” from older services, which ought to improve their problematic indoor reach.
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More good news, at least for heavy data users, is the rise of unlimited data plans. These plans, which carriers started to pull a few years ago when smartphones such as the iPhone started using substantial amounts of data, can be a respite for a new wave of consumers hooked on streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify. All the major carriers now offer unlimited plans, but they come with catches. More on that below.
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.
Look for more tie-in deals from the carriers that throw in one video service or another, along the lines of T-Mobile’s free Netflix subscription with two-line plans, Sprint’s Hulu deal, AT&T’s WatchTV bundle, and Verizon’s $20 discount on a bundle of unlimited wireless and a triple-play of Fios Internet, phone, and TV service. (These media tie-ins are essentially another way carriers try to keep you around without the handcuffs of two-year contracts. Watch for new-lease or early-upgrade deals, but treat them with a fair amount of skepticism; buying your phone independent of service gives you far more leverage.)
Project Fi, Google’s wireless service, resells the networks of Sprint, T-Mobile, and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular. It’s not bad for frequent international travelers—we liked its rates and LTE roaming better than T-Mobile’s—but it supports only Google’s Pixel series of phones as well as some LG and Motorola models. If your passport has dozens of stamps and your current or desired phone is on its list, though, Fi is worth a look.
Use a tablet with cell capabilities — If you already own a 3G/4G tablet, there’s a chance it was unlocked when you bought it. If so, you can use this when you travel instead of a phone — just buy a data-only SIM locally, and use Skype and WhatsApp for your phone and SMS requirements. You can also use the tablet as a hotspot, to share the connection among your other devices.
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.)
With every carrier, unlimited data isn’t truly unlimited — but AT&T sets the limit unusually low, with every unlimited plan throttling speed after 22 GB of data usage. That’s half of T-Mobile’s data limit. If you spend a lot of time streaming or browsing social media in places without Wi-Fi, there’s a chance you could go over your limit. And if you want “unlimited” data but no DIRECTV Live, no dice: The pair are inseparable. There are some standard phone plans that have smaller data limits for a lower price, but the comparable value is poor. While you can set your cap at 1 GB for just $25, the 10 GB cap is $75 — more expensive than the standard $70 unlimited plan.
Verizon: Verizon Wireless is offering BOGO and rebate deals on a ton of Apple and Android phones right now. With a qualifying trade-in, you can take $300 off a Pixel 2XL, Samsung Galaxy S9, Galaxy S9 Plus, Galaxy Note 9, LG G7 ThinQ, LG V40 ThinQ, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, or iPhone XS Max when you purchase one of these devices and add a new line. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S8 are also on sale for $100 off with no trade-in necessary.

Phone category refers to whether the phone is a smartphone or a basic phone. Smartphones are usually much more expensive than basic phones, but they will have a lot more features, many of which are extremely useful. Free cell phones can be attained usually by signing up for a 2-year plan. There are so many apps and functions for smartphones that it sometimes seems like it’s taken for granted that everyone has a smartphone these days. But basic phones are a lot less expensive and if you really don’t want some of those features than a basic phone might be the right choice. Wirefly has built a comprehensive smartphone comparison engine to help you find the smartphone that fits your needs.
What: Save $200 off a new Samsung Galaxy Note9 PLUS switch to Verizon Wireless from another carrier, trade in an eligible phone and get up to an additional $300 off. If you're already a Verizon customer, you can also get this $300 off deal by adding a new line and trading in a phone. To get this discount, you'll need to trade in an eligible phone within 30 days of buying the phone. Your $300 will be credited to your monthly bill over 24 months.
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