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We’ve provided information on T-Mobile’s plan to acquire Mint Mobile prepaid provider, and we’ll soon provide more information on mobile provider plan changes in 2023.
Cheapest Unlimited Cell Phone Plan
If you haven’t checked how your bill compares to the amount for a new plan or service, check it now. Despite the recent transition from four national carriers to three, and from 3G networks to 4G and now 5G, prices have fallen as data sharing has increased, especially for dozens of smaller carriers that resell their services of the big three. But as always, most deals have a catch.
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There may not be one insurance company or package that we can recommend for everyone, but we have suggestions for the most common needs and advice for those with more unusual conditions.
I’ve been in the wireless industry since the late 1990s – my first guide to cell phone service in 1998 was full of ink comparing analog and digital cell phones. I test smartphones and cell phone plans from all the major carriers—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, as well as the historic foursome Nextel—by the Washington Post, CNN Money, Discovery News, PCMag, VentureBeat, and others. , and now I cover tech and telecom issues for Fast Company, USA Today, and other websites, including trade publications like Light Reading and FierceTelecom. And in July 2021, I tested over a thousand miles from Baltimore to Atlanta in PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Network project.
We’ve narrowed this guide down to the most widely used national options—starting with the top three national carriers and their prepaid services and affiliates, and adding services that have been ranked highly in surveys by sites like PCMag, the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Force.
We have also chosen to exclude riders that are only available in certain parts of the US. This means rejecting the regional insurance company, the US. Cellular, as well as reseller services from cable companies such as Comcast and Spectrum, which require a subscription to residential broadband in order to get the published price or register at all. Finally, we cut back on prepaid services that required separate purchases of data, text, or voice minutes to meet our monthly usage quota.
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In each case, we calculate the price of three typical smartphone service packages: moderate use with 3 GB of data traffic; the scenario for most people, which requires unlimited data for the phone, but with a maximum of 3 GB of mobile hotspot usage; and a heavy case with unlimited phone data and 10GB of mobile hotspot usage. These amounts are higher than in previous editions of the guide because typical data usage has increased significantly: In March 2022, NPD Group analyst Brad Akyuz said the company’s research found that the median mobile data usage for smartphones in the United States was in fourth place. half of 2021 surpasses that. 12 GB per month, with average usage (extremely distorted case) 17.2 GB.
We no longer take into account included messages or voice minutes, as all eligible services offer unlimited messages and calls.
The quality of a wireless network cannot be evaluated with a letter grade: coverage and performance usually vary greatly from place to place. They also change over time, as anyone who used T-Mobile in 2011 and remains with the carrier today can attest. To get the best possible balance of the three major carriers (and their network reseller services), we conducted independent wireless performance and protection surveys by Opensignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics. We couldn’t care less about exceptionally fast download speeds if the protection found that speed was spotty; Consistently good performance in the places where most people live, work and visit has been given a higher priority.
Our cost estimates assumed that anyone who wanted to use their mobile phone’s hotspot feature to share LTE or 5G bandwidth for extended periods would want to do so at full speed, rather than throttling down to 2G speeds like, as some “unlimited” plans do. limit” requires. . We also assumed that most people will not use more than 3GB per month with this feature, because it can seriously kill your phone’s battery, but we have an intensive scenario that assumes 10GB per month. smartphone in use.
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We’ve crunched the same numbers for two-row and four-row sharing plans because so many of you said you want to compare your family’s price options.
If a plan offered a lower rate to allow automatic payments or pay for a year in advance, or included loyalty discounts that could lower your bill over time (a new feature for Verizon Prepaid starting summer 2020), we considered those options . However, we did not count transactions that required telephone trading or number porting.
Since almost every phone available in the US market works on any of the three major carriers, we didn’t pay attention to the phones that each carrier or service sells on their own websites and in their own stores. We also did not take into account the wireless service promotion thrown with each new iPhone.
We also didn’t take into account the value of bundled media deals like T-Mobile’s free Netflix subscription with two or more lines on one account, AT&T’s $15 HBO Max service in its $85 Unlimited Elite plan, and Verizon’s including Apple Music or Disney +, Hulu and ESPN + in some of its unlimited plans.
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Finally, we didn’t take into account taxes and regulatory fees because they vary by jurisdiction (in my case, for example, with a legacy T-Mobile plan, these fees added up to 7.4% of the October 2021 bill). But regardless of where you live, taxes and fees should hit you the same on all your options — except for T-Mobile’s Magenta plan and the Boost and Visible deals, which all include tax in their published prices.
If more data is more important to you than coverage in non-metropolitan areas, the Magenta plan offers a great price for unlimited data on a strong network. In addition, T-Mobile has the best 5G service and international plans.
If data is more important—in the sense that you have a fast network connection and can use it for bulk downloads and uploads—consider the T-Mobile Magenta plan. T-Mobile’s flagship unlimited data offer is more generous than its two rivals, and the introduction of 5G has greatly improved an already good network in an ever-expanding part of the country.
The price alone should attract attention: Magenta costs $ 70 per month for unlimited phone data, of which 100 GB is preferred. (T-Mobile may then slow down the connection to make room for the connection of other customers, but whether you experience this depends on external factors such as how many customers are in an area and how busy the network is.) This is twice as much. of the allowance. similar plans from AT&T and Verizon cost $5 and $10 more, respectively, before taxes and fees. T-Mobile includes these fees in the published exchange rate. (Two Magenta lines are $60 each, and four are $35.) Mobile hotspot sharing doesn’t give us as much data as we can use, but the 5GB listed here is still plenty. Above that limit, T-Mobile advertises “3G speeds,” a seemingly generous option that we’ve praised — but a broadband spec sheet reveals you’re only getting 600kbps, which is functionally no better than 2G speeds. level. that AT&T and Verizon allow their own hotspot limits.
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All the data sharing in the world won’t help you if your connection is too slow to use it, but T-Mobile’s network has jumped ahead, thanks in part to 5G frequencies. The mid-band spectrum that T-Mobile picked up when it bought Sprint allowed it to deploy 5G impressively fast and with better coverage than you can find from AT&T and Verizon, and even the faster but more fragile millimeter wave 5G. – 5G bandwidth is currently offered by two rivals. And this mid-band 5G, which T-Mobile is marketing as Ultra Capacity 5G, offers faster service than the low-band 5G that fills its network and is the most available form of 5G among competitors.
The difference became increasingly apparent in third-party tests, as well as in our own evaluations of Wi-Fi hotspots from the three major carriers.
According to Opensignal’s January 2022 test results for T-Mobile, this carrier leads the Big Three in both upload and download speeds. And Opensignal’s 5G-specific tests, also published in January, show an even bigger advantage for T-Mobile: the average 5G download speed is 150 Mbps, which far exceeds the average downloads of Verizon and AT&T of 56.2 Mbps and 49.1 Mbps. And you’re more likely to enjoy those speeds on T-Mobile, with 5G available 35.4% of the time — more than double AT&T’s second-best 16.5%.
PCMag, on the other hand, gave it the fastest
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