Winning Service: T-Mobile Magenta Plan
If fast and voluminous data usage is your top priority, then the T-Mobile Magenta plan stands out as an appealing choice. With its generous unlimited data offering and fast network connection facilitated by an advanced 5G network, this plan ensures that you have access to the internet whenever you need it.
Price and data allotment
For just $70 a month, you get unlimited on-phone data, with 100 GB of it prioritized. That’s double the allotment of comparable plans at AT&T and Verizon which cost more before the taxes and fees. Moreover, T-Mobile incorporates the taxes and fees into the advertised rate, providing a more transparent cost structure. If you need more lines, two lines of Magenta cost $60 each, and four run $35 each.
The plan offers less data for mobile hotspot sharing, but the 5 GB included here is more than adequate for most users. Above the cap, T-Mobile promises “3G speeds,” which are better than the 2G-level speeds that AT&T and Verizon allow above their hotspot caps.
5G Network Performance
T-Mobile’s 5G frequencies have propelled its network performance ahead of its rivals. With the acquisition of Sprint, T-Mobile was able to secure mid-band spectrum that has enabled the deployment of fast 5G with better coverage. This mid-band 5G, which T-Mobile markets as Ultra Capacity 5G, also delivers faster service than the low-band 5G which is most commonly offered by its competitors.
Third-party tests and industry awards further endorse T-Mobile’s superior 5G performance. Opensignal’s tests gave T-Mobile a lead among the big three for both download and upload speeds. Additionally, PCMag awarded T-Mobile the Fastest Mobile Network in 2021. Ookla’s reports showed that T-Mobile’s 5G network was faster and more available to its customers than other national carriers.
International travelers can take advantage of T-Mobile’s unlimited plan which includes international roaming, free texting, and usage in Canada or Mexico with no roaming charges. You also get an hour of free Gogo inflight Wi-Fi for every flight on compatible aircraft.
For users wanting an unlimited 5G experience, T-Mobile’s Magenta Max provides unlimited priority data on the phone and a full 40 GB of mobile-hotspot data. It also lifts the streaming resolution cap to 4K UHD, offers unlimited Gogo inflight Wi-Fi, and doubles the international data roaming speed.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Despite the benefits, T-Mobile does have a few shortcomings. Its coverage may not be as comprehensive as Verizon and AT&T, particularly in rural areas. T-Mobile also locks phones bought on an installment payment plan until you pay off your balance, and it has had some issues with data breaches. It offers fewer affinity and group discounts, providing them only to customers 55 years and older, military and veterans, and first responders.
However, considering its generous data offerings, faster 5G network, and competitive pricing, the T-Mobile Magenta plan proves to be a winning service for many users prioritizing network performance and data usage.
Second Place: Verizon Wireless
If you are looking for an affordable wireless plan with extensive network coverage, Verizon could be a good fit for you. The provider has consistently been rated for its outstanding coverage, even in more rural areas of the U.S. For users who require less data, Verizon offers two reasonable packages: a 5GB for $55 plan and a 10GB for $65 option, both of which allow for unused data to roll over into the next month. Verizon’s low-band 5G is included in these plans, but not its faster C-band or its mmWave 5G.
Verizon’s ‘Start Unlimited’ plan is not as cost-effective for users seeking unlimited on-phone plans, given that it restricts HD video streaming and mobile hotspot use. However, its ‘Play More Unlimited’ and ‘Do More Unlimited’ plans, both priced at $80, have improved and now include C-band and mmWave 5G. They also offer 50 GB of priority data, 25 GB of mobile hotspot, and streaming-video limits of 720p on LTE and low-band 5G, with 4K UHD video on C-band or mmWave 5G. Each plan includes different extras, with ‘Play More’ focusing on entertainment offerings and ‘Do More’ providing more connectivity options.
The ‘Get More Unlimited’ plan, priced at $90, removes the 50 GB threshold on priority data, doubles the hotspot quota, and includes additional bonuses. There’s also a ‘Just Kids’ plan available, which includes unlimited data at 5 Mbps and parental control features.
A potential downside of Verizon’s network is its reliance on the CDMA network, which could limit the compatibility of some unlocked phones. Also, the cost of international travel with Verizon can add up quickly.
In the context of multiple-line plans, Consumer Cellular and Metro by T-Mobile are recommended for their competitive pricing and customer satisfaction. Consumer Cellular offers the cheapest service for two lines, while Metro by T-Mobile provides the most affordable service for four lines.
For those seeking the cheapest plan, Mint Mobile is recommended. This reseller of T-Mobile’s network offers cheaper prices for longer terms, with the minimum being three months. Despite some compromises, like a limited focus on phone sales, online or over-the-phone support only, and potentially slower bandwidth during peak times, Mint can save you a lot of money if you are willing to pay in advance.
Ma Bell: AT&T
AT&T, currently the third-largest carrier, possesses a robust GSM network yet to match the 5G services provided by its competitors. While its low-band 5G does offer extensive coverage, the speed is only marginally better than its LTE, with instances of running slower. Its variant of millimeter-wave 5G, marketed as “5G+”, is even rarer than Verizon’s equivalent.
The best value among AT&T’s unlimited data plans is the $75 Unlimited Extra, which offers 50 GB of priority data, 15 GB of hotspot usage, and SD video. However, its affordability is overshadowed by T-Mobile’s less expensive unlimited with-hotspot plan. Another thing to note is that if you choose to purchase your phone on an AT&T installment plan, the device will be locked until fully paid off, limiting your ability to switch services early.
For those who use limited data, AT&T offers business and academic discounts, and a unique 15% discount for union members. However, be wary of the $2 “administrative fee,” which has been criticized as unnecessary and has been the subject of a class-action lawsuit.
Exploring Cricket Wireless
Cricket Wireless, AT&T’s prepaid subsidiary, is renowned for its customer satisfaction. Its plans are considerably cheaper, especially for users who don’t require a lot of data or extras such as international roaming. However, mobile hotspot usage is only included in its most expensive plan. Their range of phones for sale is limited, so purchasing an unlocked budget Android phone separately may be a better option.
Google Fi: A Traveler’s Best Friend
Google Fi, Google’s wireless service, resells networks from T-Mobile and regional carrier U.S. Cellular. This service is ideal for frequent international travelers. However, it offers full support only for Google’s Pixel and Nexus series of phones, as well as select LG and Motorola models.
Boost Mobile: The Transformation Phase
Boost Mobile, formerly a subsidiary of Sprint, is now part of Dish Network. The company is currently transitioning from reselling T-Mobile to AT&T, implying some potentially significant changes for customers. The relatively minor savings its plans offer may not justify the pending changes.
Straight Talk: The Walmart Factor
Straight Talk, a prepaid brand of TracFone (a Verizon subsidiary), is one of the most used prepaid services, mainly due to its distribution through Walmart stores. Despite its popularity, its rates no longer outshine those at competing postpaid services.
TracFone: The Prepaid Giant
TracFone, America’s largest prepaid brand and the parent company of Straight Talk, now owned by Verizon, traditionally required customers to purchase separate bundles of data, voice, and text. Now, it offers a few standard 30-day plans.
Verizon Prepaid: An Innovative Pricing Strategy
If you’re interested in saving money with a prepaid or resold plan, Verizon Prepaid offers an intriguing pricing model with rates that decrease over time. After three and nine months, the starting price of its plans drop significantly.
Visible: The Single Plan Strategy
Visible, a Verizon brand, offers only one plan – the $40 unlimited-on-phone Visible Plan. This plan imposes a unique limit on mobile hotspots by restricting the hotspot speed and allowing only one device at a time.
In conclusion, choosing between these services largely depends on your specific needs, preferences, and budget. Each service provides different features and benefits that cater to various customer segments. It is crucial to understand these details to make an informed decision about your mobile service provider.