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.
Better Choice Plan: No discounts apply to access charges & early upgrade add-on charge. Incl. unlimited domestic calling & texting. Data allowance as specified. Non-discounted phones req. you to sign up for leasing, pay full MSRP or bring your own capable phone. Third-party content/downloads are add’l. charge. Max. of 10 phone/tablet/MBB lines. Incl. sel. allotment of on-network shared data usage & 100MB off-network data usage. Add’l. on-network high-speed data allowance may be purch. at $15/GB. Add’l. off-network data can be added by opt in only for 25¢/MB for tablets/MBBs. Mobile Hotspot Usage pulls from your shared data & off-network allowances. High speed data is access to 3G/4G.Discounted Phones Access ($45): Inv. will show a term access charge of $45/mo./line charge until the customer enters into a new device transaction that does not have an annual term svc. agmt.
The one place where AT&T holds a competitive advantage is in its bundles. In mid-2015, AT&T merged with satellite TV provider DIRECTV, making bundling discounts available for the first time. In 2018, the DIRECTV live streaming service is paired with its unlimited phone plans, providing more than 30 live TV channels that you can stream on any platform.

Frequent travelers will find other bonuses in T-Mobile’s unlimited plan. It includes international roaming, and although One Plus limits that roaming to 256 Kbps speeds, I’ve found it to be more than adequate for email and basic browsing. You also get free texting, 25¢-per-minute calling, and the ability to use your phone in Canada or Mexico with no roaming charges, even for LTE.


For longer trips, AT&T has retooled its AT&T Passport, which provides 30 days of service when you travel. Users thought the previous iteration of AT&T Passport offered too little data (since data was limited to 200MB, you can see their point), so AT&T increased the amount of data in its travel plan. The $60 Passport gives you 1GB of data and unlimited texting; you'll be charged 35 cents per minute for calls to any country. A $120 AT&T Passport boosts your data to 3GB. Don't go over that allotment, as AT&T charges $50 for each GB you go over.
AT&T, the second-largest carrier, offers a strong GSM network—allowing simultaneous voice and data use even outside LTE territory—and good in-building coverage via its widespread low-band spectrum. But its unlimited-data subscription rates aren’t as attractive, especially for multiple lines—its capped Mobile Share Flex plans will better suit most people’s needs. Buying your phone on AT&T’s installment plan brings an extra risk: Until you’ve paid it off, the device will be locked and stuck with unfavorable international-roaming charges. And though AT&T’s $10 International Day Pass matches Verizon’s pricing, it isn’t available in as many countries (PDF) as Verizon’s option or AT&T’s much more expensive Passport roaming.
Usually, unlocked cell phones have the carrier's branding on the device. To test whether your phone is locked, insert a Telestial SIM Card or a SIM Card provided by a different carrier (than that of your device). If your device connects to a network and you are able to use the service, your phone is not locked. If your device does not connect to a network or you are unable to use the service, your phone may be locked.
Verizon offers the best coverage in the most places in the US, so you’re more likely than with other carriers to have a signal wherever you are—the most important thing for a smartphone to do. And though Verizon isn’t the least expensive carrier for unlimited-data plans, the company’s under-promoted single-line 5 GB plan (just $55 after an auto-pay discount) includes more data than most people need while saving you money compared with an unlimited plan. But if you truly need unlimited data, or frequently travel internationally, you should consider T-Mobile’s One Plus.
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.
For each service, we computed the cost of a few typical bundles of smartphone service, setting minimal use at 1 gigabyte (GB) of data, moderate use at 3 GB, and heavy use at 5 GB. (Research firms’ estimates have shown steady increases in average use since the first version of this guide, but usage estimates per carrier have also diverged as some carriers have switched to selling only unlimited-data subscriptions: In the second quarter of 2018, Strategy Analytics found that Android users who had opted into its survey used on average 5.9 GB on T-Mobile, 5 GB on Sprint, 4.5 GB on Verizon, and 3.9 GB on AT&T. However, usage outside of the big four can be lower, to judge from the much lower monthly average reported by the wireless trade group CTIA for 2017: only 1.3 GB.
24-Mo. Installments: Req. 24-mo. installment agmt, 0% APR & qualifying device & svc. plan. Device pricing for well-qualified customers. Models with higher memory config. may req. a down pymt. Mo. pymt. terms & down pymt. for all others will vary. Down pymt., unfinanced portion & sales tax (on full purch. price) due at purch. Early termination of 24-Mo. Installments/Svc.: If you cancel wireless svc., remaining balance on device becomes due.
Also a phone with a large battery pack and fast charging is AN ESSENTIAL during international travel. Nobody wants to be lost in a strange street with their phone dead. A phone with a large battery power and fast charging means you can pop up the Google Map and find your way wherever you are. Here the S7 Edge is again a great option as it comes with 3600 mAh battery power and fast charging capability.
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.
24-Mo. Installments: Req. 24-mo. installment agmt, 0% APR & qualifying device & svc. plan. Device pricing for well-qualified customers. Models with higher memory config. may req. a down pymt. Mo. pymt. terms & down pymt. for all others will vary. Down pymt., unfinanced portion & sales tax (on full purch. price) due at purch. Early termination of 24-Mo. Installments/Svc.: If you cancel wireless svc., remaining balance on device becomes due.
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.)

Sprint is offering free iPhone Xs with eligible trade-in and Sprint Flex lease. The promotion is available for the iPhone Xs 64GB variant. You get $0/month after $41.67/month credit applied within 2 bills. It requires an 18-month lease with new line or eligible upgrade and approved credit. If wireless service is canceled, the remaining balance on the device becomes due. 
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.
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.
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). 
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. 
2GB Plan: No discounts apply (except AutoPay discounts). Includes unlimited domestic Long Distance calling and texting. Third-party content/downloads are add’l charge. Includes selected allotment of on-network data usage for phone and mobile hotspot use and 100MB off-network data usage. Add’l on-network high-speed data allowance may be purchased at $15/GB. Mobile Hotspot Usage pulls from your data and off-network allowances. High-speed data is access to 3G/4G. Add’l $25 line/mo. applies with subsidized phone until the customer enters into a new device transaction that does not have an annual term service agreement.
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