Sarah Schlichter is IndependentTraveler’s Senior Editor. She hails from Maryland and now resides in Pennsylvania, where she sings in a local community choir and enjoys experimenting with different international recipes (which has twice resulted in accidental kitchen fires — no humans or animals were harmed). The smell of Sarah’s delicious Moroccan couscous ignites a wave of envy in the office when she brings in leftovers for lunch. Sarah, IndependentTraveler’s resident travel expert, has visited more than 25 U.S. states plus dozens of countries including Belize, Guatemala, Morocco, Canada, Dominica, the U.K., Norway, France, the Netherlands and New Zealand … just to name a few.
After the distraction of two self-inflicted wounds (a doomed purchase of its smaller competitor Nextel, followed by the wrong choice of 4G technology before a belated pivot to LTE), Sprint is finally making substantial progress with its network. If its coverage works for you, its pricing is almost as cheap as that of many prepaid and MVNO services but provides higher data allotments—and Sprint’s incentives to customers who bring numbers from other carriers allow even greater savings. However, as with Verizon, its CDMA technology permits simultaneous voice and data only if you’re on LTE.
Rates for rental phones are typically twofold; renters pay a daily, weekly or monthly fee for the cell phone rental and an additional fee for calling minutes. This means that even if you’re not using your phone, you can still be charged the minimum fee for the rental unit. Some rental phone plans have higher rates for calls outside the country, and some don’t — compare plans to see which is best for you. Incoming calls and texts on rental phones are your cheapest option, as they are often less expensive than outgoing calls (or even free). If you are using your rental phone to call home, have your friends and family call you at a designated time and you will save some cash.
AT&T’s prepaid service and Cricket Wireless offer comparable savings, as do T-Mobile’s in-house prepaid service and its Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary, but those networks aren’t as good as Verizon’s and their prepaid plans aren’t as good for world travelers. Sprint’s Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA in-house brands are even worse for limiting the ability to bring your own phone.
You can call over 200 countries and text to over 100 countries. View country list and codes or visit your local U.S. Cellular retail store or call 1-888-944-9400 (611 from your wireless phone). Country availability is subject to change. Messaging is available to certain wireless carriers' customers within a country. Please verify both country and carrier for messaging.
Selecting a network is the trickiest part of picking a plan. Coverage can vary from block to block or even building to building, so carrier coverage maps can be a good starting point only if you can zoom in to the street level—and even then they say nothing about how the network fares in areas with many devices using it. OpenSignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics all publish independently sourced network-performance metrics, but those studies take different approaches and are thus good for different purposes. (When using these metrics, and a carrier’s own coverage maps, don’t forget to check a network’s coverage in frequent business or vacation destinations.)
We quizzed experts, crunched numbers, and pored over fine print and pricing to help you figure out how much data you need, which network offers the best coverage where you need it, and whether a postpaid or prepaid plan is the best for you. We think that Verizon Wireless’s single-line 5 GB plan is the best cell phone plan for most people, but we have a variety of picks for different needs.
Once you know what you’ll need, and from which providers, it’s time to compare the costs and find the best phone deals for you. You’ll want to factor in any taxes and fees, as well as additional features that increase the overall value of your package. If you have several lines to add, look for promotions that take down the price for family plans. And don’t skip out on auto-pay; it saves you $5 with every carrier.
RootMetrics strives to be as comprehensive as possible in its methodology, which includes testing reliability and speed during file uploads and downloads, while downloading email, and while downloading files similar to typical web pages. Testers also measure how reliably each network places and maintains calls and how reliably and quickly subscribers can send and receive text messages.
Our estimates included only sales and discounts without expiration dates (though we included plans with “for a limited time” vagueness) and that are open to any customer (those that require trading in a phone or porting over a number didn’t qualify). If a plan offers a lower rate for automatic payments, we factored that discount in. We also allowed for regular purchases of an extra data pack or per-megabyte overage fees of $15 a gigabyte or less, but only up to $30 a month.
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.
Sprint: Unlimited Basic includes talk, text and high-speed data in Canada and Mexico. You can add Sprint’s Global Roaming service to any Sprint plan at no additional charge. With Global Roaming, you get free texting and 2G data. Calls made abroad start at 20-cents-per-minute. You can purchase high-speed data passes to get LTE data download speeds abroad
Each call is priced at a per minute rate for international toll, plus airtime and applicable charges and taxes. Rates vary, based on country called. Per minute rates only available from a customer's local U.S. Cellular home calling area. U.S. Cellular per-minute rates are subject to change. Taxes, long distance, toll, and other charges may apply. Other restrictions and limitations may apply.
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
Just make sure to turn off your cellular and data roaming so you don’t accidentally get stuck with charges. To do that on an iPhone, go to “Settings > Cellular” and click the switch next to “Cellular Data.” Also go to Cellular Data options and make sure “Roaming” is turned off. On most Android phones, go to “Settings > Mobile Networks > Data roaming access” and then click on “Deny data roaming access.”
I love this phone. I was looking at the Galaxy 5 but I will not pay that much for a phone and I really hate contracts. I have kept my T-Mobile to go account and this phone is about as perfect as one can be. It's easy to use, fits easily into my pocket, doesn't drop calls, they keys are a good size, I love the features on it. I have the Android apps on it that I love and am no where's near running out of memory even with all the photos and things I have stored in it. The battery gets me through the day with energy to spare and if I get worried it charges pretty quickly.
iPhone Forever: Does not guarantee mo. payment amount, phone selection, or svc. plan rates. Upgrade after 12 payments as long as lease & early upgrade offered. Req. active line thru time of upgrade with min. 12 consecutive mo. svc. plan payments, new phone Lease Agreement, acct. in good standing, & give back of current eligible device in good & functional condition. After upgrade, remaining unbilled lease payments are waived. Upgrade does not incl. same generation model iPhone; must be next generation iPhone.
I shopped on line for a phone for my daughter to use while she was in Europe. After reading several endorsements from different sources, I decided to give the 'too good to be true' Mobal phone a try. I am a cynical shopper, especially with phones, but must report that the connection quality was the best I have ever experienced - not a single dropped call, no cutting in and out, I spoke to my daughter in Italy like it was around the corner! I was very pleased.
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.