A cheap carrier with good family plans and not-so-good individual plans
Total Wireless Cell Phone Plans Review
Total Wireless is another discount mobile carrier that’s trying to make its way into the market.
We’re not going to sugarcoat it upfront: Total Wireless is not one of our favorite cell phone companies for individual cell phone plans. But its family plans are another story. They come with more data, more perks, and the same strong network (Verizon).
Enough with the introduction, let’s dive into the details of what we love—and don’t love—about Total Wireless.
Total Wireless individual plans
- Affordable plans
- Great coverage
- Limited full-speed data
- Data deprioritization
What we like
The name Total Wireless might make you think that this company has a ton of plans to choose from. But, truth be told, there are only three options for individual plans. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Total isn’t right for you.
Let’s take a closer look at what these three plans do right.
Total Wireless’s plans are reasonably priced, especially when you compare them to plans from major carriers, like Verizon and AT&T. Each plan comes with unlimited talk and text, plus a certain amount of data.
If you only use data every once in a while—like for Google Maps and SMS messages—then you can get a Total Wireless plan that gives you 1 GB of data for just $25 a month. That’s pretty darn cheap.
Total Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means that it piggybacks on another company’s network. In this case, that company is Verizon. Luckily for Total customers, Verizon operates the largest network in the country.
Take a look at the map down in our coverage section to see how strong the network is in your area.
Verizon’s network isn’t just large. It’s also pretty darn powerful. You should see strong data speeds in most major metropolitan areas, and look for the rollout of 5G in the months (and years) to come.
What we don’t like
Total Wireless’s individual cell phone plans have a couple of significant drawbacks, both of them related to data.
Limited full-speed data
All three of Total’s individual plans come with data. In fact, all of them technically come with “unlimited” data, but it’s very important to clarify: most of that data will be at very slow 2G speeds.
What does that mean, exactly? Well, 2G is three fewer Gs than the most current technology (5G), so it’s kind of like going back to a dial-up modem when you’re used to broadband internet. You won’t be able to do most of the things you actually want to do on the internet, like stream video, listen to music, and play games.
For that, you’ll need higher data speeds (at least 4G). It’s this 4G LTE data that’s limited with Total Wireless. The company’s $25 plan only comes with 1 GB of full-speed data. The $35 plan has 10 GB and the $50 plan has unlimited data. Once you hit those caps in the limited plans, you’ll be slowed down to a slug’s pace.
Sorry to do this to you, but in order to understand Total Wireless we’ll need to jump further down the cell-phone-data rabbit hole by talking about data deprioritization.
Data deprioritization is when a network owner (which, in this case, would be Verizon rather than Total Wireless) decides to slow down your data speeds during times of congestion. All of Total’s plans come with a risk of deprioritization.
That means you might see your data—even your so-called full-speed data—slow down when you’re in a crowded area or during times of peak use (like in the evenings after people get home from work). If you want to avoid the deprioritization issue then you’ll need to shell out for a pricier plan from one of the major three providers: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
How do Total’s plans compare?
Before you decide to order that Total Wireless SIM card, you might want to check out the competition. Here’s a look at how plans from other leading MVNOs compare with Total Wireless’s unlimited data plan. Providers like Visible and Mint Mobile have unlimited plans for even less than Total.
Unlimited plans comparison
Total Wireless family plans
- Discounts on added lines
- Hotspot data
What we like
Switching your phone plan to a cheaper provider like Total Wireless is a great way to save a few bucks each month. But if you really want to cut a large chunk off your monthly wireless bill, you should be looking at family plans.
When you bundle your lines together as a family you don’t just save money. You also may be eligible for some additional perks, like free mobile hotspot data. Here are the details on Total Wireless’s family plans.
Discounts on added lines
You can have up to four lines on your Total Wireless account. That’s one for you, one for your better half, and a couple others for your two favorite kids (just kidding, no one chooses favorites). Each additional line you sign up for comes with unlimited talk and text, and will add more data to the shared data pot.
Here’s a look at how Total Wireless explains it on its website.
As you can see, when you make it up to four lines on a family plan you’ll be sharing 100 GB of high-speed data for $95. That’s 25 GB per line for about $25 per line. In other words, you’ll get the same thing you’d get on the $50 individual plan, but for half the price!
Each line will be on the Verizon network, which, as we stated above, is the largest in the nation. So you should have decent service no matter where the family ends up going on vacation.
All of that, and you’ll get an added perk with this family plan: hotspot data.
Free hotspot data
Your cell phone is basically a mini Wi-Fi router, so why don’t we take advantage of that fact more often? Well, the limiting factor is usually that we don’t have hotspot data. Most plans, including Total Wireless’s individual plans, don’t come with any hotspot data.
But when you bundle up into a family plan, each line will get 10 GB of hotspot data for free. That’s actually a decent amount (enough to binge watch a whole season of The Mandalorian for instance). So go ahead and stream a movie while you’re stuck at the bus stop.
What we don’t like
One of the main issues with Total’s individual plans is the lack of high-speed data. That’s less of an issue with the family plans. But, you’ll still have to reckon with the dreaded deprioritization.
There is a creature—some say a ghost, others say a vampire—that stalks wireless networks. It preys on the MVNO customers at night (and at other times of peak use), slowing down their data speeds so that they can’t scroll through Instagram or play PUBG Mobile. This creature’s name is deprioritization!
Yes, you’ll still have to deal with annoying data slowdowns when you sign up for Total’s family plans. Total. Bummer.
How do Total Wireless’s family plans compare?
Of course, we can’t forget to compare Total’s family plans to those offered by other discount carriers. Here’s the chart.
Total Wireless family plans comparison
Total Wireless coverage
Your cell phone is basically just a really fancy Tamagotchi (remember those?) when it doesn’t have any signal. You can’t text, can’t scroll, and can’t stream. So, you might be wondering, how will my coverage be with Total Wireless? The answer is: pretty darn good. Take a look for yourself.
Total Wireless actually uses Verizon Wireless’s network to give its customers service, which is why you’ll see so much purple in the map above. It’s not only the largest network in the country, but it also packs fast data speeds.
Total Wireless cell phones and devices
Buying a new phone these days can cost more than your mortgage payment or rent. Seriously, the iPhone 12 Pro retails for $999! But, there may be a way to get a better deal.
When you sign up for a new plan with Total Wireless (or pretty much any other provider), you’ll get access to some deals and payment plans. For instance, you can pick up an iPhone 13 mini 128GB for just $25 a month after the upfront cost. That’s a lot more manageable than shelling out a grand upfront.
Here’s a look at some of the other great deals that Total Wireless offers on new devices.
Total Wireless customer service
Ironically, it can often be quite hard to reach your phone carrier on the phone. Yes, telecommunications companies are not known for their stellar customer service. But how does Total Wireless do?
Well, it’s not the easiest thing to measure. There is some data about customer satisfaction for bigger providers, like AT&T, but not for MVNOs like Total. So, we’ll just have to look at what we can find.
If you’re looking for support in signing up for Total Wireless, or you’re an existing customer, you can reach the company like this:
- By phone: 1-866-663-3633
- Online: www.totalwireless.com/contactus
Recap: Is Total Wireless right for you?
Now that we’ve told you everything we know about Total Wireless, it’s up to you. Is this the right discount MVNO for you (and your fam)? Maybe a quick recap will help you decide.
- Individual plans: Total Wireless’s individual plans are relatively cheap and offer great coverage using Verizon’s network. However, the lack of full-speed data and the possibility of slowdowns will be a deal breaker for many people.
- Family plans: Total’s family plans are a step up from its individual plans. The prices are significantly cheaper than buying single lines, and these plans come with more data (including mobile hotspot data).
- Performance: Verizon’s network, which powers Total Wireless, offers unparalleled coverage and super fast data speeds (at least, when you’re not being deprioritized).