If you don't want to drop money on a new release, shop for a prior model. Do some research into when your preferred model line is due for a new release, and then a month before the new phone drops, be on the lookout for sales on previous generations. It's during this time that manufacturers mark down previous models to make room for the newest ones, allowing you to score a great cell phone deal. Save even more by opting for an even older model; just make sure the phone's specs meet your needs. Alternately, you can try out a used or refurbished device. You can find both older and preowned devices at eBay and Amazon.
TracFone, Net10, and Straight Talk, all properties of the Mexican carrier América Móvil, consistently rank among the most widely used prepaid services. They offer the advantage of reselling service from all four carriers, at the cost of having to trust the company’s judgment about which network works bests for you, as Prepaid Phone News editor Dennis Bournique explains in a helpful post.
Clean Slate (formerly contract buyout) offer: Clean Slate: Amount based on ETF (early termination fee) charged or remaining phone balance. Req. port from other carrier to Sprint, remain active & in good standing for 30 days before card issuance & buyback of working phone in good condition (the device is unlocked, powers on and there are no broken, missing or cracked pieces) tied to offer. Phone must be deactivated & all personal data deleted. Device will not be returned. Reg, & submit final bill with ETF or phone balance w/in 60 days of switching at sprint.com/joinsprint. Allow 15 days after registration approval for Reward Card arrival. Excl. discounted phones, 100+ Corporate-liable, prepaid & ports made between Sprint or related entities. Prepaid Mastercard: Card is issued by MetaBank®, Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. No cash access or recurring payments. Unused funds will forfeit after the valid thru date. Card terms and conditions apply.
But all three services ban hotspot use, a tight-fisted restriction that looks increasingly archaic even for prepaid. TracFone also suffers from its own math: Because the data allotments in its data/voice/message bundled plans are so stingy, we could meet our usage scenarios only by stacking these plans on top of each other, and in some cases then buying additional data packs.
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.
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.)
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.)
RootMetrics uses cars set up with “leading Android-based smartphones for each network” to gather figures on data, talk, and text performance throughout the country. Its coverage map encompasses basically every major US city street, boulevard, and highway, as well as all of the towns and thoroughfares that connect them. You can also get reports tailored to specific metropolitan areas. This amount of detail makes RootMetrics a great source for gauging overall performance by region.
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.
T-Mobile has changed the name of its MetroPCS to Metro by T-Mobile, to eliminate the idea that you're making a trade-off when you opt for a prepaid cellphone plan. One of the ways it's fighting that preconception is by doubling the amount of data you get with its $40 a month plan to 10GB. That edges out AT&T's 8GB plan, which costs the same amount after you deduct $10 by enrolling in autopay. Metro's plan also includes taxes and fees in that $40 rate.
Even better, an unlocked GSM phone allows you to switch out the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. -- the internal chip that stores your phone number and account settings -- for a local phone number. Outside of the United States, most GSM phones come unlocked, but inside the country, you need ask your carrier for a special code. So if you know you're going to be spending the next four months in Botswana, you can spend $20 for a local SIM card instead of paying hundreds of dollars in international roaming fees.
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.
If you make frequent trips overseas, T-Mobile’s plan is a no-brainer, especially now that more countries are covered. The carrier includes unlimited data and texting as part of its standard T-Mobile One unlimited plan (albeit at slower speeds than you’re used to in the states). If your calls include a lot of overseas numbers, it may even be worth upgrading to T-Mobile One Plus International for an extra $25 a month, since it lets you make calls to landlines and mobile numbers in many countries at no additional charge. Sprint offers something similar with its new unlimited plans and their access to the Global Roaming feature. But T-Mobile will cover you in more countries after July 22.
Sprint's revised unlimited plans include benefits when you travel to Mexico and Canada. The Unlimited Basic plan offers 5GB of LTE data on top of unlimited talk and text in those two countries, while the Unlimited Plus plan doubles data to 10GB. Both the $60 Basic and $70 Plus plans give subscribers access to Sprint Global Roaming in 185 places around the world.
Why we love it: If you're looking for an extra line for a data-hungry teen, Sprint's Unlimited Plus plan makes a lot of sense. One line is $60, 2 lines are $100, 3 lines are $120, and lines 4 and 5 are free. This makes it easy to tack your son or daughter onto your plan without much financial outlay. And since each line is entitled to unlimited data, you don't have to worry about your Netflix and Spotify-streaming teen using up all of your plan's shared data.
Looking for a new cell phone, smartwatch, bluetooth headset, or any kind of accessory? Our deals page has just what you need. Here you’ll find the hottest deals on smartphones, smartwatches, bluetooth headsets, phone cases, and much more. Browse by different phone brand: iPhone, Samsung, LG, HTC, BLU, BlackBerry, Motorola, Nokia, ASUS, ZTE and more, or browse by OS: iOS, Android, or Windows phone. Check out deals on all kinds of wireless accessories including earbuds, selfie sticks, replacement parts, cables, car chargers, mounts, stands, and much more. And of course, you’ll find protection for cell phones in all kinds of forms: wallet cases, waterproof cases, battery cases, sleeves, holsters, flip cases, and screen protectors. Shop deals by category—Cell Phones, Cases, Accessories, Smartwatches; Bluetooth—or just browse around.
Why we love it: In addition to HD streaming, a 20GB mobile hotspot allowance, 500GB of Verizon Cloud, and a massive 75GB data de-prioritization threshold, Verizon's Above Unlimited includes unlimited talk/text/data in Mexico and Canada and 5 TravelPasses/month for use in more than 130 countries (each TravelPass entitles you to 24 hours of your regular unlimited benefits while abroad). All backed, of course, by Verizon's awesome network. It may be expensive, Above Unlimited delivers the goods.
Verizon’s 5 GB pricing barely beats that of T-Mobile and Sprint’s unlimited plans, but those two carriers’ options (and even Verizon’s own $75 Go Unlimited plan) limit what you can do with that data in ways that Verizon’s plan does not—most notably, by limiting streaming video to DVD resolution and limiting either the speed or the volume of hotspot use. This 5 GB plan includes full-speed mobile hotspot use and allows HD streaming video, albeit capped at 720p resolution on phones and 1080p on tablets. (That streaming video limit remains undocumented as of August 2018 outside of a brief mention in the second-to-last paragraph of a press release.) So as long as you—like a large chunk of the wireless population—don’t use more than 5 GB in a month, Verizon’s continued network advantage still makes this plan a good deal.
AT&T also comes with varied international pricing depending on where you want to go. If you’re heading to Mexico or Canada, for instance, AT&T already covers all of your voice, data and text with its Unlimited & More and Unlimited & More Premium plans; you won’t incur additional charges. If you’re still on a tiered data plan with AT&T, you’ll pay $10 per day for unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada. Data will be governed by your plan’s monthly allowance.
Verizon’s $85 Beyond Unlimited plan allows higher-definition video—720p resolution on phones, 1080p on tablets—and 15 GB of LTE tethering. But it imposes the same auto-pay requirements to avoid sending your pre-tax-and-fees bill to $100. The company’s $95 Above Unlimited plan caters to frequent travelers with a 20 GB LTE tethering allotment and five free one-day international roaming Travel Passes each month. It also raises the deprioritization threshold to 75 GB and throws in 500 GB of Verizon cloud storage, but still limits video streaming to 720p.
Prepay accounts in the United States offer anonymity to criminals wishing to obtain telecommunications services. The phones cannot be easily traced to a specific individual. Without call patterns that can be correlated to placed or received calls, there are very few effective ways for law enforcement to monitor or intercept communications between unregistered phones. This becomes even more difficult if encrypted services are also utilized.
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.
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.
Hulu: Req. registration from Sprint phone at hulu.com/sprint. Incl. access to one Hulu Limited Commercials plan per each eligible Sprint acct. (excl. other Hulu plans & add-ons) while eligible Sprint plan is active in good standing. Valid for new or returning Hulu subscribers or certain existing Limited Commercials subscribers. Select Hulu content streams in HD on supported devices subj. to connectivity. Tablets may stream Hulu content via incl. Sprint Hot Spot or may subscribe to separate unlimited data plan for tablets. Not redeemable or refundable for cash or gift subscriptions. Hulu may place acct. on inactivity hold based on Hulu usage. Cancel Hulu anytime. See full offer terms at sprint.com/hulu.