Which cell phone provider is best?
I started shopping for a new cell phone plan this year—and my head quickly filled up with information on things like data caps and line access fees. It became so overwhelming that I had to take a three-month-long breather just to process everything. Maybe that’s the reason why so many of us stick with one carrier for life.1
Or maybe not.
Best cell phone providers:
- Verizon Beyond Unlimited: best overall phone plan
- T-Mobile Simply Prepaid Plan: best prepaid plan
- Verizon Above Unlimited: best unlimited plan
- Sprint Unlimited Plus: best family cell phone plan
- Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Plan: best prepaid family plan
If you’re ready to switch cell phone companies but want to avoid the head-spinning gush of information, this guide is for you. It includes recommendations for cell phone plans based on price, data limits, coverage, and speed—and perks. Don’t forget the perks.
Best cell phone provider plans comparisons
|Provider||Best for||Our plan pick||Learn more|
|Verizon||Overall||Verizon Beyond Unlimited||View plans|
|T-Mobile||Prepaid||Simply Prepaid 10 GB||View plans|
|Verizon||Unlimited||Verizon Above Unlimited||View plans|
|Sprint||Family||Sprint Unlimited Plus||View plans|
|Sprint||Prepaid family||Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Plan||View plans|
Verizon Beyond Unlimited: Best overall
With exceptional coverage and speed ratings plus a host of extras, Verizon’s Beyond Unlimited cell phone plan earns the top spot.
Verizon Beyond Unlimited plan features
What we like
It’s all about speed and coverage with Verizon.
Check out any well-known wireless performance ratings, and you’ll see Verizon at or near the top for coverage, speed, and overall performance.2, 3, 4
Case in point: My friend’s Verizon phone was the only one with a signal out in the Utah desert. Other carriers just don’t get bars in rural areas.
You even get 15 GB of mobile hotspot data with 4G LTE speeds. Translation: you can use your laptop wherever you roam.
In this modern age of technology, you deserve HD streaming. No more SD-quality streaming like you’re watching season one of Survivor. Thankfully, with the Beyond Unlimited Plan, you can stream all the HD content you want.
If you’re fine with lower-quality streaming (480p), you could go with Verizon’s cheaper Go Unlimited plan. (We wouldn’t recommend it, but we love us some bright, crisp 1080p.)
For those of you who love watching “let’s plays” on YouTube or need to catch up on the latest season of Queer Eye on Netflix, we think Beyond Unlimited is worth the extra money each month for HD streaming at 720p.
Good amount of 4G LTE data
Another downside to many cheaper unlimited plans like Verizon’s Go Unlimited (and AT&T’s Unlimited & More℠) is you could experience slower data speeds at any time.
The Beyond Unlimited plan lets you avoid those slower speeds, or throttling, with 22 GB of unthrottled data each month. (Above that cap, though, you’re on your own.) That means you can go (a little) crazy with live Twitch streams or uploading photos to Instagram.
It also comes with 15 GB of unthrottled mobile hotspot data that zooms along at 4G LTE speeds. So if your internet goes down in the middle of a work project, you can just hop onto your hotspot and keep crushing it like nothing happened. Win-win.
Get the whole review
What we don’t like
Pricier than comparable plans
Verizon’s amazing coverage and speed come at a price. If you’re looking for a cheap unlimited cell phone plan, you might have to do a trade-off. Here’s how the price of the Verizon Beyond Unlimited plan compares to other unlimited plans.
Verizon Beyond Unlimited price comparison
Want a higher data cap? Get an upgrade.
If data makes your world go ‘round, you might consider upgrading to Verizon’s new Above Unlimited plan. Instead of 22 GB of 4G LTE data, you’ll get a mind-boggling 75 GB of unthrottled data each month.
Of course, you’ll pay a little extra each month for Above Unlimited compared to Beyond Unlimited. But if waiting for your favorite Hulu shows to buffer makes you want to throw your device across the room, it just might be worth it.
Not sure the Verizon Beyond Unlimited plan is the one for you? Check out some of our other top picks for cell phone plans.
Yes, they’re cheaper, but don’t forget that price isn’t everything with wireless plans. Unless you like not being able to tell what the score is while streaming an NBA game (we’ve been there).
Four more unlimited cell phone plans
T-Mobile Simply Prepaid plan: Best prepaid plan
With a low monthly cost and a good chunk of data, T-Mobile’s 10 GB plan caught our eye.
Simply Prepaid with 10 GB LTE
What we like
If you’re going to go with a prepaid plan, you’ll want a good deal.
Low price for 10 GB of data
Compared to other prepaid plans, the T-Mobile 10 GB plan gets you more data for a cheaper price. That’s more gigs of data you can use to stream The Office for the 519th time. (Our addiction is not to be “truffled” with. We can recite some of the best lines by heart.)
Good performance on T-Mobile’s network
You can expect good coverage and speed on T-Mobile’s network—at least until you hit your 10 GB data cap. All bets are off when you hit that dreaded data cap.
T-Mobile typically ranks high in third-party coverage and speed tests5, 6—though RootMetrics’s rating may be the exception.7
Scope out more prepaid plans
What we don’t like
Customer service could’ve been a whole lot better.
Iffy customer service
We chatted with a couple of T-Mobile service reps to find out more about our prepaid data options.
While both reps were friendly, they each gave us a different answer to the same question and were unable to share the company’s data policy. Both interactions left us feeling less than confident we could get help with other issues in the future—like billing, or something even more serious.
Need some other options for prepaid cell phone plans? Check these out.
Make sure to not only look at the price but also the data limits. (Let’s be real, you can burn through data faster than you think.)
Alternative picks for prepaid cell phone plans
Verizon Above Unlimited: Best unlimited plan
The name is confusing, but the unlimited coverage is amazing.
Verizon Above Unlimited Plan
What we like
Give us all of the data.
High unthrottled data cap
Okay, we know what you’re thinking: “Didn’t you just say that Verizon Beyond Unlimited” is the best overall deal?
Yes, we did say that. And we stand by it. But if you’re willing to pay the price, the Verizon Wireless Above Unlimited plan is essentially as good as it gets.
You get 75 GB of unthrottled data. We’ll say that again: 75 GB of super fast data and excellent coverage every month, You’re paying a premium for it, but you’ll have a better unlimited plan than all your friends. (Don’t brag too much, now.)
Perks, perks, and more perks
Verizon offers some nice perks that sweeten the deal. First of all, you get 20 GB of Mobile Hotspot data. We wish we had 20 GB of mobile hotspot data so we could use that instead of this awful train Wi-Fi on our commute.
On top of the Mobile Hotspot data, you also get a subscription to Apple Music. What would all that data be good for if you couldn’t listen to every song ever? Sigh . . . except for Beyonce’s Lemonade.
Check out T-Mobile
What we don’t like
Sadly, all that wonderful data and coverage certainly comes at a price. Plan on paying upwards of $20 more a month than you would with other unlimited carriers.
The Verizon Above Unlimited plan certainly isn’t for everybody, but if you use your phone for everything and you gotta have that data, it’s worth every penny.
Want to have a look at all your choices? Here are some other unlimited plans that deserve mad props.
Other unlimited cell phone plans
Sprint Unlimited Plus: Best family plan
Families who save together stay together
Sprint Unlimited Plus Plan
What we like
A plan for the entire family.
Affordable pricing for the whole family
Family plans are all about saving money, and that’s exactly what you get with Sprint. When you combine the price point, unlimited data, and good-enough coverage (if you live in a city), you get the most value with Sprint family plans.
You can sweeten the deal by opting for autopay (which, why wouldn’t you?), and you can add a third, fourth, and fifth line for free for one year. Call up Grandma, Uncle Dave, and Aunt Tina and get them on the family plan too. Just make sure they take you out to dinner or something.
There are two different Sprint family plans, and we’re recommending the one that gets you significantly better streaming quality.
Sure, you can save around $20 a month and go for the Sprint Basic Unlimited Plan, but you’ll be squinting to see which character killed who on Game of Thrones. (Trust us, everybody looks the same on a massive medieval battlefield.)
Do your homework
What we don’t like
Reduced speeds at 50 GB of data
Once you hit 50 GB of data in a month, you’ll probably start experiencing slower speeds. Yes, you probably think you’ll never hit 50 GB, but each of those Instagram stories adds up over time. Especially when you have a family member with a YouTube addiction. (Let’s get real—maybe the whole family is a little addicted to YouTube.)
Want to see what’s behind door number two (and three and four)? We’ve got a few other family plans you might like.
Alternative top family plans
Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Plan: Best prepaid family plan
With unlimited data, Sprint is a budget-friendly pick with good coverage.
Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Plan
What we like
Have you ever gotten that ominous text from your carrier saying you’ve nearly reached your data limit? Well, you know what happens next. It becomes the family blame game to find out who used all the data. Not a problem with unlimited data.
There’s probably no statistic to back this up, but it feels like unlimited data plans reduce family stress and build togetherness.
The monthly price point for Sprint family prepaid plans stacks up well with the competition. You’ll likely save around $10 a month going with a Sprint prepaid family plan versus one with another carrier.
Just be prepared to pay outright for new phones on a prepaid plan (thus the steep up-front costs). Thankfully, you can always keep your old phone and transfer it to the Sprint Unlimited Kickstart plan.
Want more prepaid options?
What we don’t like
Let’s not sugarcoat anything—Sprint doesn’t have the best coverage in the world compared to other major carriers.8 If you happen to live in an urban environment, you won’t notice much of a difference, but if you’re chilling in any rural region of the country, well . . . your service won’t be as reliable.
If Sprint doesn’t check all your boxes, here are some alternative prepaid family plans we recommend.
- Best overall mobile plan: The Verizon Beyond Unlimited plan has us hyped. With top-rated coverage and speed plus HD streaming and 22 GB of unthrottled 4G LTE data each month, it was an easy pick for best cell phone plan overall.
- Best prepaid plan: We chose the Simply Prepaid 10 GB plan as the best prepaid plan because of its low price for 10 GB of data and good performance on T-Mobile’s network. But watch out for not-so-great customer service.
- Best unlimited plan: The T-Mobile ONE Plus plan is like trading in your debit card for a black card—you get perks galore plus 50 GB of unthrottled data each month. Oh, and taxes and fees are included in that price you see online. The downside? You might see your signal drop in rural areas.
- Best family plan: We recommend Sprint Unlimited Plus for families since its 50 GB of high-speed data and competitive price will make data-hungry kids and adults happy. Just expect slower speeds when you pass that 50 GB threshold.
- Best prepaid family plan: We picked the Sprint Unlimited Kickstart Plan thanks to its competitive pricing for unlimited data. The coverage isn’t perfect, but it’s certainly good enough for urban areas.
1. Business Insider, “The 10 Industries with the Most Loyal Customers”
2. RootMetrics, “Mobile Performance in the US Part 1: Performance across the Entire US – 2H 2017”
3. OpenSignal, “The 4G Battle Continues between T-Mobile and Verizon”
4. Speedtest, “United States”
5. OpenSignal, “The 4G Battle Continues between T-Mobile and Verizon”
6. Speedtest, “United States”
7. RootMetrics, “Mobile Performance in the US Part 1: Performance across the Entire US – 2H 2017”
8. RootMetrics, “Sprint Coverage Map”