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.
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.
The carrier's new Above Unlimited offers that Canada/Mexico benefit, too, and augments it with another goodie aimed at travelers: you get five daily TravelPasses each month to use in more than 130 countries. That lets you use up to 512MB of LTE data per day. Just be aware that you'll have to do a lot of traveling to justify the higher rate for Above Unlimited, as it costs $95 a month for a single line versus $75 and $85 for Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited, respectively.
Sprint Unlimited Plus Plan: $70/mo. for line 1, $50/mo. for line 2 & $30/mo. for lines 3-5 with autopay. Non-Financed Promo: Up to 5 new lines on Unlimited Plus. Pay additional $10/mo/line after Financed device upgrade. Credits applied within 2 bills. Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting, 15GB LTE MHS, VPN & P2P & data. MHS reduced to 3G speeds after 15GB/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.
The number one reason is because the 6S is compatible with CDMA and GSM networks–therefore usable worldwide. While all Apple products are a target for thieves, standard features including iMessage and a powerful camera makes iPhone superior to other phones when traveling internationally and traveling light. The iPhone 6S is smaller in size than many iPhones, so it’s less likely to be a target. It’s also older–a secondhand 6S won’t leave as big of a dent in your pocket if it’s stolen. What’s more, the automatic backup and syncing features will help you hold on to all your photos and information.Compared to previous iPhones, the 6S is made out of sturdier material (for more heavy usage) and has a better front-facing camera (for Skype and Facetime calls back home to family and friends). And, as with all iPhones, you’ll appreciate the long-term investment. Apple’s hardware always have a long-term compatibility with software updates.
After prodding Verizon to end overage fees with a nifty bit of skywriting in 2015, the “Uncarrier” T-Mobile played its trump card by switching all subscribers over to a single unlimited plan known as T-Mobile One. As of September 2018, all new subscribers receive unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE data. And though “unlimited” is never truly unlimited, T-Mobile doesn’t start throttling speeds until you’ve hit 50 GB of data usage. It’s a generous limit at a great value — especially because video and music streaming won’t count toward that data cap. T-Mobile One costs $70 for one line, and each additional line is about $10 cheaper. T-Mobile prices include taxes and fees, while Verizon’s comparable 75 GB plan costs $95 before taxes and fees.

Sprint Unlimited Basic Plan: Includes unlimited domestic calling, texting, 500MB LTE MHS, VPN & P2P & data. MHS reduced to 3G speeds after 500MB/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.


Today's teens (and, admittedly, many of us) treat their smartphones like permanent appendages, texting, Facebooking, Instagramming, streaming and playing games like the outside world doesn't exist. If you're the parent of a data-hungry teen, unlimited plans can be the way to go, since they eliminate concerns about overages. Alternatively, you might consider a bare-bones "lifeline" cell phone plans that provides your teen with a means to make a calls, and not much else. 

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.
With Verizon’s TravelPass you can use your plan in Mexico and Canada for $5 per day. The charge jumps to $10 per day for use in other countries. Usage in Canada and Mexico are included in Verizon’s Go Unlimited, Beyond Unlimited and Above Unlimited plans at no additional charge. Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan includes five TravelPasses each month, good in more than 130 countries. The carrier also offers monthly and pay-as-you-go international roaming prices.
Wirefly offers great deals on a large selection of smartphones, cell phones, tablets, mobile hotspots, and other wireless devices for the nation's most popular carriers. Use Wirefly’s innovative cell phone and plan comparison tools to ensure you are getting the best deal on the market. Shop with confidence knowing that Wirefly wants to help you find the best prices on cell phones, cell phone plans, TV, and Internet service.

For traveling abroad in nearly 180 countries around the world, Sprint adds unlimited and 2G data speed with calls costing 20 cents per minute. Beyond international travel, each customer inside the US also receives 10GB of LTE mobile hotspot data and plans like iPhone Forever or Galaxy Forever that offer a new iPhone or Samsung device after 12 equipment installment payments.
Verizon has shuffled up its unlimited plans, and that has an impact on people who like to use their data plan while traveling. Go Unlimited and Beyond Unlimited subscribers both enjoy unlimited talk, text and data for no additional charge in Mexico and Canada. However, while calls and messages are truly unlimited, data will be throttled from LTE to 2G speeds after 512MB.
Aland Islands (Finland), Austria, Azores, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Cyprus (South), Czech Republic, Denmark, Eire (Republic of Ireland), England, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guernsey, Hungary, Ireland (Eire), Ireland (Northern), Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Sicily, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Vatican City, Wales

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.


Most cellular customers in the United States subscribe to plans that are set up as post-pay, which means they are billed monthly and obtain service if they have good credit. A growing number of subscribers are also choosing prepay services (Pay-as-you-go) which provide both advantages and disadvantages in comparison to prepay, but for some it is the only way they can have a phone.

To get started, you can use our smartphone finder to search for devices by price, model, manufacturer, features, color, and more. You can then use our plan comparison engine to compare wireless plans by data, minutes, text messages, carrier, and network type. If you'd like to compare prices on other services, navigate to the main menu and choose the service you'd like to start saving money on.

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.
Some carriers throttle prepaid service to a lower speed by default, as AT&T does with Cricket. Others prioritize their own customers over third-party prepaid traffic, as happens with the Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary. A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed that policy, saying that although postpaid and prepaid T-Mobile service have the same priority, Metro by T-Mobile and other resellers “may notice slower speeds in times of network congestion.” However, AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon told us that they didn’t impose any such prioritization, and one reseller of Sprint and T-Mobile told us that even T-Mobile’s policy had yet to show any effects. “We have done our own testing,” Ting marketing vice president Michael Goldstein wrote in an email. “We have never detected any difference.”

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).
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.
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). 
“The first point to consider is which carrier has the best service where you live and work or spend much of your time,” say Jamie Huff and Tammy Parker, wireless analysts at Current Analysis. The quality of a provider’s network can vary drastically within the same city or metro area. To illustrate this difference, here’s what Verizon looks like next to T-Mobile in terms of nationwide speeds (the blue means faster data speeds detected; the orange indicates slower):

International travel has always been a challenge for mobile users. From anticipating roaming charges or setting up an international calling plan to purchasing an adapter for your phone charger, traveling internationally requires some pre-planning. One way to avoid potential hiccups is to purchase a phone that’s suitable for international travel. To find out what cell phones work best for traveling abroad, we reached out to a panel of mobile enthusiasts and tech bloggers to gain some insight. We asked them:
Your phone company may also offer international phone plans that offer discounts on calls, international roaming fees, and data charges. For example, AT&T Passport can be purchased for 30 days for $30 and provides coverage in more than 190 countries. You get unlimited texting, calls for $1 per minute, and 120MB of cellular data for email, web browsing, and social media posts.
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.
For traveling abroad in nearly 180 countries around the world, Sprint adds unlimited and 2G data speed with calls costing 20 cents per minute. Beyond international travel, each customer inside the US also receives 10GB of LTE mobile hotspot data and plans like iPhone Forever or Galaxy Forever that offer a new iPhone or Samsung device after 12 equipment installment payments.
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.
Lease (Sprint Flex): Mo. amount excl. tax. Terms for all other customers will vary including amount due at signing & taxes/fees. Req. qualifying device & svc. plan. No equipment security deposit req. Upon completion of 18-mo. term, customer can continue to pay mo. lease amount, purch. or return device. Customer is responsible for insurance & repairs. Early termination of lease/svc.: Remaining lease pymt. will be due immed. & req. device return or pymt. of purch. option device price in lease.
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