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.
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.
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.
Ashley Turner is director of Gadget Valuer – one of America’s biggest gadget trade-in comparison sites. Launching in 2009, the founding team wanted to create a completely independent recycling comparison website after running an actual phone recycling site. Such experience in the recycling market means Turner is constantly in touch with the latest trade-in trends and consumer habits.
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.
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.
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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 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.