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  • Our picks haven’t changed, but we’ve updated this guide with the latest data metrics and more information in the How we picked section.

November 15, 2021

If you haven’t looked at how your current bill compares with what it might be under a new plan or on a new service, you should check now. Despite the recent shift from four national carriers to three, and the transitions from 3G networks to 4G and now 5G, prices have gone down while data allocations have gone up, especially among the dozens of smaller carriers reselling services from the big three. But as always, most deals come with a catch.

There may not be one carrier or plan we can recommend for everyone, but we have recommendations for some of the most common needs, and advice for anyone with more unusual requirements too.

Why you should trust us

I’ve covered the wireless industry since the late 1990s—my first guide to cell phone service, written in 1998, devoted much ink to comparing analog and digital cellular. I’ve tested smartphones and cell phone plans from all the major carriers—the historic foursome of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plus Nextel before then—for the Washington Post, CNN Money, Discovery News, PCMag, VentureBeat, and others, and I now cover tech and telecom issues for Fast Company, USA Today, and other sites, including trade publications like Light Reading and FierceTelecom. And in July of 2021, I put in more than a thousand miles of drive testing from Baltimore to Atlanta for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks project.

How we picked

We limited this guide to the most widely used national options—starting with the three biggest nationwide carriers and their prepaid services and subsidiaries, and then adding services that have ranked high in surveys from sites such as PCMag, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and J.D. Power.

We also chose to exclude contenders available only in parts of the US. That meant dismissing the regional carrier U.S. Cellular and the resold services of cable firms such as Comcast and Spectrum, which require subscriptions to their residential broadband to get their advertised pricing or to sign up at all. Last, we cut prepaid services that required separate purchases of data, texts, or voice minutes to meet any of our monthly usage quotas.

That left us with the following services to assess:

  • AT&T Wireless, its prepaid program, and its prepaid brand Cricket Wireless
  • T-Mobile, its prepaid option, and its Metro by T-Mobile brand
  • Verizon Wireless, its prepaid offering, and its prepaid brand Visible
  • Boost Mobile, formerly a Sprint prepaid brand and now Dish Network’s T-Mobile reseller
  • Consumer Cellular, an AT&T and T-Mobile reseller
  • Google Fi, a Google service based on resold coverage from T-Mobile and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular
  • Mint Mobile, a T-Mobile reseller
  • Tracfone (which has agreed to a $6.25 billion acquisition by Verizon) and its Straight Talk brand, both of which resell all three networks but put you on whichever one they judge as best for you

Data value

For each, we computed the cost of three typical bundles of smartphone service: moderate use at 3 GB of data; a for-most-people scenario requiring unlimited data for the phone but with no more than 3 GB of mobile hotspot use; and a heavy-use case with unlimited on-phone data plus 10 GB of mobile hotspot use. These totals are higher than in past editions of this guide because typical data usage has gone up substantially. In August, NPD Group analyst Brad Akyuz told us that the firm’s research showed US median smartphone cellular data usage—not average, which can be skewed by extreme cases—had hit 13.9 GB per month.

We no longer factor in included messages or voice minutes, because all of the services that qualify for inclusion now offer unmetered messaging and calling.

Network reliability/speed

A wireless network’s quality isn’t something you can assess in a single-letter grade: Coverage and performance usually vary considerably by location. They also change over time—as anybody who was using T-Mobile in 2011 and remains on that carrier today can attest. To try to get the most balanced picture possible of the big three carriers (and the services that resell their networks), we consulted independently conducted surveys of wireless network coverage and performance from Opensignal, PCMag and RootMetrics. We were less interested in exceptionally fast download speeds if the coverage to access those speeds was spotty; consistently good performance in the places where most people live, work, and visit was  a higher priority.

Hotspot policy

Our cost estimates assumed that anybody who wants to use their phone’s mobile-hotspot feature to share their LTE or 5G bandwidth for any sustained period would want to do so at its full speed, not cut back to 3G or worse, as some “unlimited” plans require. We also assumed that most people won’t use up more than 3 GB of data a month with this feature, as it can put a real dent in a phone’s battery, but we do have an intensive scenario that assumes up to 10 GB a month in smartphone use.

Discount possibilities

We also crunched these same numbers for shared-use plans for two and four lines, because so many of you have said you want to see your options for family pricing compared.

If a plan offered a lower rate for enabling autopay or paying for a year in advance, or included loyalty discounts that cut your bill over time (a new feature at Verizon Prepaid as of summer 2020), we factored in those options. We did not, however, count deals that required trading in a phone or porting over a number.

What else we don’t consider

Because almost all US-market phones will work on any of the big three carriers, we paid no attention to the phones each carrier or service sells on its own site and in its own stores. Nor did we factor in the promotions that wireless services throw out for each new iPhone.

Finally, we didn’t factor in taxes and regulatory fees because they vary by jurisdiction (in my case, with a legacy T-Mobile plan, for example, these fees added up to 7.4% of my October 2021 bill). But wherever you live, taxes and fees should hit you equally across all of your options—except for T-Mobile’s Magenta plan and the offerings at Boost and Visible, all of which include taxes in their advertised prices.

Best for the most data: T-Mobile Magenta/Magenta Max

If data is your priority—in the sense of having a fast network connection and being able to use that to download and upload in volume—you should consider the T-Mobile Magenta plan. T-Mobile’s primary unlimited data offering is more generous than those of its two rivals, and its rollout of 5G has made an already good network considerably better in a steadily expanding share of the country.

Price alone should get your attention: Magenta costs $70 a month for unlimited on-phone data, with 100 GB of it prioritized. (After that, T-Mobile might slow your connection to make room for other customers’ connections, but whether you experience this depends on outside factors like how many customers are in one area and how busy the network is.) That’s double the allotment of comparable plans at AT&T and Verizon, which cost $5 and $10 more before the taxes and fees. T-Mobile folds those fees into the advertised rate. (Two lines of Magenta cost $60 each, and four run $35 each.) You don’t get as much data to use for mobile hotspot sharing, but the 5 GB included here is still a lot—and the unlimited 3G hotspot use that’s allowed above that gap will remain much more practical for basic connectivity than the 2G-level speeds AT&T and Verizon allow.

All the data allotment in the world isn’t helpful if it’s too slow to use, but T-Mobile’s network has jumped ahead, in part because of its 5G frequencies. The mid-band spectrum that T-Mobile picked up when it bought Sprint has allowed it to deploy impressively fast 5G with much better coverage than the faster but far more fragile millimeter-wave 5G that AT&T and Verizon offer. And this mid-band 5G, which T-Mobile now markets as “Ultra Capacity 5G,” also provides much speedier service than the low-band 5G that fills out its network and constitutes the most widely available form of 5G among its competitors.

Map of T-Mobile LTE data with portions of the map painted pink.

Opensignal’s crowdsourced test results for T-Mobile, released in July of 2021, give T-Mobile a commanding lead among the big three for upload speeds and have T-Mobile behind AT&T but ahead of Verizon for download speeds. But that firm’s more recent, 5G-specific tests show a much bigger advantage for T-Mobile: average 5G download speeds of 118.7 Mbps, far above the 56 Mbps and 51.5 Mbps download averages at Verizon and AT&T. And you have much better odds of enjoying them, with 5G available 34.7% of the time—more than double the second-best figure of 16.4% at AT&T.

Median 5G Download5G Availability
T-Mobile135.1764.4%
Verizon78.9434.3%
AT&T72.4644.8%

Ookla’s September 2021 report showed that T-Mobile’s 5G network was on the median faster and more available to its customers than the other two national carriers.

Ookla’s Speedtest showed T-Mobile with sizable advantages in median 5G downloads, which were around 80% faster—as well as 5G availability, which was nearly double Verizon’s and around 50% more than AT&T’s network. When combining 4G and 5G speeds, T-Mobile’s lead held up by a narrower margin: 62.35 Mbps, compared with 47.42 Mbps and 39.91 Mbps at AT&T and Verizon.

RootMetrics was not as complimentary in its latest State of the Mobile Union report, finding T-Mobile slower overall. But even that drive testing-based report, which has a history of finding slower T-Mobile performance than others, noted that the carrier’s “median download speed across the US increased by over 50% since the second half of 2020 (20.1 Mbps to 30.3 Mbps), and six of its seven US RootScores were above 90 (compared with two above 90 last time).”

A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage by T-Mobile in the New York City area.

Frequent travelers will find other bonuses in T-Mobile’s unlimited plan. Magenta includes international roaming, and although that’s limited to 128 Kbps speeds, I’ve found it to be more than adequate for email and basic browsing. You also get free texting, 25¢-per-minute calling, and the ability to use your phone in Canada or Mexico with no roaming charges, even for LTE. And it includes an hour of free Gogo inflight Wi-Fi for every flight on compatible aircraft.

For users looking for the least limited 5G experience possible, T-Mobile’s Magenta Max includes unlimited priority data on the phone and a full 40 GB of mobile-hotspot data—$85 for one line, $70 each for two lines, $43 each for four lines. It also lifts the streaming resolution cap all the way to 4K UHD, provides unlimited Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on compatible planes and doubles the international data roaming to 256 Kbps.

AT&T’s Unlimited Elite offers the same priority data, as well as mobile hotspot and streaming video provisions, but its $85 rate doesn’t include the taxes and fees wrapped into T-Mobile’s $85 rate. That carrier’s $75 Unlimited Extra is slightly cheaper even after taxes but only offers 50 GB of priority data and 15 GB of mobile hotspot. Both AT&T plans suffer from a 5G network that is almost all low-band signal with little advantage in speed.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Coverage at Verizon and AT&T remains more comprehensive than T-Mobile’s—as I saw on country roads in the Southeast while doing drive testing for PCMag—but the past few years of improvement in T-Mobile’s network means you’ll have to get into fairly rural areas to notice this difference. You will have to decide if your likely travel patterns are more apt to make this an ongoing problem.

Although T-Mobile’s international roaming costs much less than AT&T and Verizon’s international options, you may have to pay those charges if you buy your phone from T-Mobile on an installment payment plan, as this carrier keeps those handsets locked until you pay off your balance—or conclude the term on a free-upgrade deal such as those it’s offering on the iPhone 13.

T-Mobile also has a history of data breaches, with its most recent and largest happening in August and affecting some 40 million customers. (I was among them. I thought about dropping T-Mobile, but the telecom industry’s general indifference to the concept of data minimization left me with little reason to think I’d fare that much better in the long run elsewhere.)

Finally, T-Mobile offers fewer affinity and group discounts, instead limiting discounts to customers 55 years and older, military and veterans, and first responders.

Coverage first: Verizon Wireless

Verizon’s historic strength has been the reach of its network, and that remains an advantage for people who roam into the more rural reaches of the US, with multiple testing organizations giving it top marks again in 2021. While it isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, it is a sounder choice for people looking for maximum coverage.

A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage by Verizon in the New York City area.

If you need less data than typical, Verizon also offers two unlikely bargains: a 5 GB for $55 plan and a 10 GB for $65 option that each let you carry over unused data to the next month. (Those rates, listed on Verizon’s site under a shared-plans heading, require signing up for autopay using a checking account or debit card, which does preclude running up points on a travel rewards credit card.) Unlike Verizon’s cheapest unlimited on-phone data plan, called Start Unlimited,  both of these include full-speed mobile hotspot and allow HD streaming video, albeit capped at 720p resolution on phones and 1080p on tablets. They also include Verizon’s low-band 5G but not its fast but scarce millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G—aka “Ultra Wideband”—which is not much of a loss given how unavailable mmWave 5G has been in our experience.

Verizon offers less of a deal to subscribers looking for unlimited on-phone plans. The $70 Start Unlimited plan not only bans HD video streaming and mobile hotspot use, it may throttle your speeds “in times of congestion,” even at the start of a billing cycle before you’ve burned up any data yourself. And as with the 5 and 10 GB plans, it covers Verizon’s low-band 5G but not its mmWave 5G.

Verizon’s Play More Unlimited and Do More Unlimited, both $80, add mmWave 5G and allot 50 GB of priority data, 15 GB of mobile hotspot (plus unlimited via mmWave 5G, if you can find it), and up to 720p streaming video on phones. Their differences only surface in the non-phone parts of each bundle; the latter swaps out a free bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for 600 GB of cloud storage and 50% off connected-device plans for hotspots, tablets, and smartwatches. Both represent a better value than Start Unlimited, but you can see how Verizon feels its coverage allows it to charge a premium.

Map of Verizon LTE data with portions of the map painted orange.

Finally, the company’s $90 Get More Unlimited plan doubles the hotspot quota to 30 GB, keeps the deprioritization threshold at 50 GB (meaning that at above that, they may slow your data to keep the network faster for other customers) and video streaming at 720p, and throws in Apple Music, the streaming-video bundle, the connected-device discount, and the cloud storage.

Verizon also offers a Just Kids plan you can add to your own: $40 or less, when added to an unlimited plan (depending on how many other lines you have), gets unlimited data at 5 Mbps plus parental control and location tracking tools for you.

Verizon offers discounts to employees and members of designated companies and organizations; only its military and veterans discount applies to unlimited plans. If you sign up for its Fios wired broadband, you can also qualify for a discount.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The CDMA foundation of Verizon’s network—and Verizon’s decision to launch its 5G service on mmWave frequencies that go unused in many other markets—can also limit the compatibility of some unlocked phones. For example, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G, our pick for the best budget Android phone, is a 4G-only phone at Verizon—a shortfall that Verizon acknowledges via omission by calling the unlocked version of this phone that it sells on its own site the “OnePlus Nord N200.”

Multiple-line plans: Metro or Consumer Cellular

Due to constantly shifting promotions and terms, family plan pricing is difficult to sort through, and this time we have to split our recommendation for multiple-line service between two options. For two lines in our typical-usage scenario—unlimited on-phone data with 3 GB of mobile hotspot use—Consumer Cellular is an easy call.

This reseller of AT&T and T-Mobile (5G included) consistently tops customer surveys such as PCMag’s annual survey and J.D. Power’s purchase-experience studies. And at $75 for two lines on its unlimited plan, Consumer Cellular also undercuts every provider. You will, however, need to ask to have mobile hotspot use enabled on your account—it’s blocked by default—before you can use as much of your 50 GB of priority data as you wish for tethering. You can get hotspot switched on via its phone support or, as I did with a family member’s phone, in its customer service chat online.

Price for two lines with unlimited on-phone data plus 3 GB hotspot each

Prices are current as of October 28, 2021.

We also like that Consumer Cellular allows you to specify an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM, whereas prepaid carriers such as Tracfone determine that for you unless you buy a SIM card in person. As with other carriers, Consumer Cellular’s unlimited plan does have limits: After you use 50 GB combined between the lines, the service warns that “your access to high speed data will be reduced, and you may experience slower speeds.”

For four lines, however, T-Mobile’s Metro by T-Mobile prepaid brand offers the cheapest deal in our typical usage scenario at $120. This includes T-Mobile’s strong 5G service but does have a relatively low priority data threshold of 35 GB, plus a fairly generous mobile hotspot allocation of 15 GB. Metro has done well in customer-satisfaction metrics; it placed second to Consumer Cellular in J.D. Power’s surveys and outranked T-Mobile itself in PCMag’s Reader’s Choice survey.

Price for four lines with unlimited on-phone data plus 3 GB hotspot each

Prices are current as of October 19, 2021.

The cheapest plan: Mint Mobile

If the lowest possible bill on a good-enough network is your top priority, we recommend Mint Mobile, a newer reseller of T-Mobile’s LTE and 5G network. It beats everybody else’s costs with a simple pricing tactic: It offers cheaper prices for longer terms, with the minimum being three months. When you sign up, you can choose 4 GB, 10 GB, 15 GB, or unlimited data per month and then pay up front for either three, six, or 12 months—the longer the package, the better the price per month.

The first three months come at the cheapest price, which on the unlimited plan is just $30 a month, after which you can balance commitment and price: $40 a month on a three-month term, $35 on a six-month policy, or $30 for a year. The same math works for minimal usage: 4 GB per month costs $25 per month over a three-month term, or $15 per month on a full-year deal. You may find even lower prices from temporary promotions at Amazon and Best Buy, according to Mint customers on Reddit’s r/mintmobile subreddit.

Mint’s unlimited plan deserves extra contemplation because it includes similar usage limits to other “unlimited” plans: a priority-data cap, 35 GB, a 5 GB cap on mobile-hotspot usage, and a 480p streaming-video limit. You can buy another 5 GB of hotspot data for $15—or you could save $5 by trading down to the 15 GB plan, which lets you use all of that data for mobile hotspot and has no streaming-video resolution constraint.

Mobile
hotspot
Monthly cost
on a 3-month term
Annual
cost
Monthly cost on
a 12-month term
Annual
cost
15 GB15 GB$45$540$25$300
Unlimited5 GB$40$480$30$360

Prices current as of October 18, 2021; rates exclude new-customer discounts for the first three months.

Mint does require some compromises, though. The company doesn’t focus on phone sales, so your best option is to bring your own unlocked device, and support is available only online or over the phone. In addition, your data slows to 128 Kbps after you hit your cap unless you upgrade your plan or switch to the unlimited plan, and international roaming quickly gets expensive at 20¢ a megabyte in most countries. And you face the risk of seeing your bandwidth deprioritized behind that of T-Mobile subscribers, especially when the network is busy.

Mint Mobile’s reliability and customer service were unknown a year ago beyond generally positive word of mouth and the satisfactory experiences of some Wirecutter staffers, but in 2020 the service earned the fifth-highest ranking in PCMag’s Readers’ Choice survey and in 2021 climbed to third place. So if the above compromises aren’t dealbreakers for you, Mint can save you a lot of money over time.

How to determine which network has the best coverage for you

Selecting a network is the trickiest part of picking a plan. Coverage can vary from block to block or even building to building, so carrier coverage maps can be a good starting point only if you can zoom in to the street level—and even then they say nothing about how the network fares in busy areas. Opensignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics all publish independently sourced network-performance metrics, but those studies take different approaches and are thus good for different purposes. (When you’re consulting these metrics and a carrier’s own coverage maps for your local area, don’t forget to check a network’s coverage in frequent business or vacation destinations, too.)

A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage in the New York City area.

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—which, unlike its network scores, also folds in crowd-based estimates from users of its mobile apps—encompasses basically every major US city street and highway, as well as all of the towns and thoroughfares that connect them. You can also find reports tailored to specific metropolitan areas. This amount of detail makes RootMetrics a great source for gauging overall performance by region.

A chart comparing speeds and reliability between AT&T 4G, Sprint 4G, T-Mobile 4G, and Verizon 4G.

PCMag takes a similar approach but focuses more specifically on network data speed and reliability. The site tends to look more at metropolitan centers and their suburbs, with the testing in between mostly limited to roads—which, when I put in more than a thousand miles of driving for the project in July, were primarily two-lane rural roads at the request of editor Sascha Segan. PCMag also conducts its tests with the same model of high-end phone—this year, the Samsung Galaxy S21—that may support more high-speed frequencies than your own.

Coverage data map for the New York City area, by Opensignal. Almost everywhere has good coverage (green) with some red and yellow dots signifying worse coverage.

Opensignal has complete coverage data in densely populated areas like New York City.

Opensignal map showing coverage in Berryville, VA. Coverage data is spotty.

But it has spottier data in less dense, suburban areas such as Berryville, Virginia. This doesn't mean that you won't get cell service there, just that Opensignal can't tell you how strong your connection will be.

Opensignal’s network tests rely on crowdsourcing: Anyone can download the Opensignal app and run tests. But the majority of people don’t, and as such, Opensignal’s data skews heavily toward densely populated, urban areas. In those regions, it has block-by-block information. If you live in a city, you can use Opensignal’s data to check all the spots you frequent.

In August of 2021, the Federal Communications Commission rolled out its own reality check: a map of estimated LTE coverage, based on signal-propagation models applied to its own data of cell sites. While this only shows the presence of at least basic LTE service—5 Mbps downloads and just 1 Mbps uploads—in my own spot checking, it’s been more accurate than the carriers’ own coverage maps at warning of dead zones.

How much data do you need?

Once you’ve determined which network will work best for you, the next step is to figure out how much data you actually use—which may be much more than you expected if you haven’t checked that detail in months. We have seen both average and median data use roughly triple from the first quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021, going by NPD Group’s figures. The advent of faster 5G service only seems to be accelerating that trend: An Opensignal report posted in June of 2021 found that in the US, LTE users running that firm’s testing software averaged 9 GB a month, while those on 5G hit 14.9 GB a month.

Both Android and iOS provide estimates of your current data use that can help if you’re trying to see which of your apps eats up the most data, but your carrier’s website will give you the number that counts for billing purposes. You’ll then need to take an educated guess at how far that number could rise in a year, then see which plans will cover that with a reasonable margin.

Shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.

Since so many services—in particular, the “postpaid” subscriptions of the major carriers—have either stopped selling older limited-data plans while adding cheaper unlimited-data plans, you’re increasingly likely to find that an unlimited plan works for you.

But then you need to figure out just what sort of unlimited data you’ll be buying. All three carriers and their sub-brands and resellers have carved out restrictions on features such as priority data, hotspot use, and streaming video while adding premium tiers or paid add-ons that lift some of those limits. Shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.

Among the Basic Economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data plans, AT&T’s $65 Unlimited Starter and Verizon’s $70 Start Unlimited provide no priority or premium data, meaning you’re at risk of “temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy,” as AT&T puts it—even if it’s the start of a billing period and you haven’t burned through any data yourself. Those AT&T and Verizon plans also ban hotspot use. T-Mobile’s entry-level Essentials, at $60, is more generous by allotting 50 GB of priority data and allowing hotspot use at previous-gen 3G speeds, although past Opensignal surveys rated its 3G downloads highest among all the major carriers. All three carriers cap the resolution of streaming video on their network at a DVD-grade 480p.

If your usage only slightly exceeds the cap on a service’s limited-data plans—say you use 3.25 GB in a month and your carrier offers a 3 GB plan—you should see if that plan lets you roll over unused data from months when you don’t hit your maximum. Also, see if that service offers unmetered slow 2G service once you exhaust your high-speed data so your phone will still have basic (read: slower) internet access and you won’t get charged extra for going over your cap. These features may help you choose a less expensive plan.

The big three, and many of the smaller services, offer two step-up tiers—one that provides more priority data and a limited allotment of full-speed mobile hotspot use, and a second, pricier plan with substantially more priority data and more mobile hotspot use, or more of both; higher-definition streaming may also be part of that upgrade.

CostPlanPriority
data
Phone
hotspot data
Hotspot speed
above data cap
Streaming-video
resolution
AT&T$65Unlimited StarterNoneNonen/a480p
AT&T$75Unlimited Extra50 GB15 GB128 Kbps480p
AT&T$85Unlimited EliteUnlimited40 GB128 Kbps4K UHD
T-Mobile$60Essentials50 GBUnlimited3G only480p
T-Mobile$70Magenta100 GB5 GB3G only480p
T-Mobile$85Magenta MaxUnlimited40 GB3G only4K UHD
Verizon Wireless$70Start UnlimitedNoneNonen/a480p
Verizon Wireless$80Play/Do More Unlimited50 GB15 GB600 Kbps720p
Verizon Wireless$90Get More Unlimited50 GB30 GB600 Kbps720p

Information current as of October 11, 2021. Data allotments on older plans may vary. T-Mobile 3G download speeds averaged 4.6 Mbps in Opensignal’s January 2020 report.

If your usage remains sufficiently low, you should look past the apparent simplicity of unlimited plans to consider those with a manageable data-usage cap but fewer fine print rules on that data. Both AT&T and Verizon offer noteworthy deals in that category: AT&T’s 4 GB plan, $50 after autopay discounts, has no separate limit on hotspot use but still restricts streaming to 480p, while Verizon’s 5 GB shared-data plan, $55 after autopay, also includes hotspot use up to that line and allows 720p streaming. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind complications such as expensive international roaming and a lack of in-person support, Mint’s 4 GB, 10 GB and 15 GB plans offer even more substantial savings.

As for talk and text amounts, all of the postpaid plans from the major carriers provide unlimited calling and messaging, so in theory you don’t even have to calculate those numbers. A shrinking number of prepaid and resold services offer cheaper rates if you’re willing to stay within certain limits. As with data usage, the best way to check your current texting and calling habits is to view your bill.

The filters and search setting on the WhistleOut tool for comparing cell phone plans.

If your usage doesn’t fall into our specific categories and you sometimes think in spreadsheets, you can do your own calculations using WhistleOut’s carrier-comparison tool. It even lets you filter by network—you can ask it for, say, only prepaid options that resell AT&T service—and location. But this comparison tool requires careful reading: Like Google searches, it shows sponsored results before organic ones. It also includes far more services than we cover here and shows not just plans with the required amount of data, minutes, and texts, but also those that exceed your needs, producing a cluttered presentation overall.

Should you buy postpaid, prepaid, or resold service?

If you want unlimited calls and texts, more attentive customer service, and phone financing through your carrier, you should stick with a traditional postpaid plan, where you get a bill for service after you use it. Postpaid costs a bit more and requires decent credit to qualify, but it offers you every phone the carrier sells, usually with no-interest financing, and the service you get should match what you see in the carrier’s ads.

However, switching to prepaid, where you pay for service before you use it, can be an easy way to save $10 to $20 a month or more. Many prepaid services are provided by smaller companies that simply resell service from one of the big carriers, so they offer coverage similar to that of the major carriers at a lower price. But for resellers to undersell the major carriers while using the same networks, they need to make some trade-offs; similarly, the major carriers’ own prepaid plans tend to involve restrictions that their postpaid plans lack. We don’t recommend switching to prepaid unless you meet most of these criteria:

  • You don’t mind buying your own phone separately, since prepaid carriers’ phone selections are often poor (and some carriers don’t offer phones at all).
  • You’re okay with potentially being on your own if you have to work through service hiccups or tech-support travails. Retail support may not be an option, and phone or online support may be limited.
  • You’re comfortable relying on prepaid SIM cards while traveling abroad.
  • You’re willing to read the fine print. As analyst Jeffrey Moore advised us, data roaming, and sometimes even voice roaming, may not be included in some prepaid plans. These plans may also omit Wi-Fi calling, one common way to get around holes in coverage.

Switching to prepaid, where you pay for service before you use it, can be an easy way to save $10 to $20 a month or more.

Some carriers throttle prepaid service to a lower speed by default, as AT&T did until October 2021 with some Cricket plans. Others prioritize their own customers over third-party prepaid traffic, as happens with the Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary. A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed that policy, saying that although the service for postpaid plans and prepaid plans have the same priority, Metro by T-Mobile and other resellers “may notice slower speeds in times of network congestion.” Aron North, chief marketing officer at Mint’s then-parent firm Ultra Mobile, confirmed in an email in 2019 that “at times where there is network congestion” Mint may be “reprioritized.” That remained in effect in 2020.

The wireless services some cable operators offer, based on resold network capacity from one of the big three carriers, represent their own special case. They offer some serious bargains but also require you to use that cable firm’s broadband to get the advertised pricing.

For example, Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile starts at 1 GB for $15 a month, with 10 GB costing just $60, or “unlimited” service going for $45 but with mobile hotspot use clamped down to a useless 600 Kbps—oh, and after 20 GB of that allegedly unlimited service—your download speeds get throttled back to 1.5 Mbps. You also have to keep Comcast’s Xfinity internet, TV, or voice service, otherwise you’ll owe another $25 per line.

Spectrum Mobile is a little better, since its $45 unlimited plan includes 5 GB of full-speed hotspot—but it cuts your speeds even more sharply after 20 GB, with downloads limited to 1 Mbps and uploads to just 512 Kbps. Keeping this service after dropping Spectrum’s cable internet will cost an extra $20 a month.

If you’re looking to save money on smartphone service by getting resold service from your cable operator but are also considering dropping your cable operator’s broadband, understand that these wireless plans are best understood as a customer-retention tool.

What to look forward to

As all three carriers continue to build out their 5G networks, AT&T and Verizon are also rushing to get their own mid-band 5G spectrum into service, using the “C-band” frequencies purchased at FCC-run spectrum auctions. That should do a lot to make 5G a more even fight among the three, although we’ll have to see if the slightly higher frequencies of C-band 5G (around 3.5 GHz) will result in shorter range than what T-Mobile can deliver over its 2.5 GHz mid-band 5G. AT&T and Verizon also continue to build out millimeter-wave 5G, but in practice that continues to exhibit such severe coverage limits that we doubt it will be worth factoring into a sign-up decision.

AT&T and Verizon also have yet to deploy “standalone” 5G, a network upgrade in which cell sites can connect directly to compatible phones without needing a 4G connection to set up that 5G link. T-Mobile began rolling out its own standalone 5G in 2020.

After some lag for phone manufacturers to ship phones that support all these different flavors of 5G, you now have much less of a concern except for millimeter-wave support. Some cheaper models omit that—but we don’t think you should let that hold up a purchase of an otherwise appealing phone.

Meanwhile, services keep trying to make themselves harder to leave in various ways beyond installment payment plans; for example, the aggressive discounts on the iPhone 13 from the big three all took the form of two- or even three-year installment payments zeroed out, except that subscribers who leave early have to pay back the remaining price without that discount. Free-with-your-plan media bonuses like a subscription to HBO Max or extra storage through Google One can save you money on services you were going to pay for anyway—but also make it harder for you to leave the service.

The competition

AT&T

AT&T, now the third-largest carrier, offers a strong GSM network that’s yet to get 5G service to match. Though this carrier’s low-band 5G offers impressive scope, it’s not that much faster than its LTE and sometimes runs slower; the millimeter-wave 5G that it markets as “5G+,” meanwhile, is even scarcer than Verizon’s mmWave service.

Among its plans for unlimited on-phone data, AT&T’s $75 Unlimited Extra offers the best value, with 50 GB of priority data, 15 GB of hotspot use, and SD video for $5 less than Verizon’s Play More and Do More unlimited rates. But that’s also $5 more than the price for T-Mobile’s unlimited with-hotspot plan—before the taxes and fees that T-Mobile folds into its rate. And we don’t think anyone should get AT&T’s Unlimited Starter option, which costs $65 per month and has no hotspot allowance.

Like Verizon, AT&T requires automatic payments for you to get its advertised prices, though you can use a credit card. AT&T also disqualifies all of its discounts except its military and veterans deal from that plan.

Buying your phone on AT&T’s installment plan brings an extra risk: Until you’ve paid off the phone, the device will be locked and stuck with international-roaming charges of $10 a day in most countries—and unavailable to use with a different service if you want to leave AT&T early.

AT&T’s self-branded prepaid service can represent a good deal for people who don’t need much data, but in any unlimited data context it’s scarcely cheaper than the carrier’s postpaid plans—and across four lines in our typical data usage scenario, it’s 25% more expensive. Note that outside of Canada and Mexico, these prepaid plans offer no international roaming data options.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless, AT&T’s prepaid brand, outranks its corporate mothership in customer satisfaction surveys and offers much cheaper choices if you don’t need a lot of data and extras like international roaming options. But unlike Mint, Cricket only includes mobile hotspot use on its most expensive offering (although the allocation there is a fairly generous 15 GB). Cricket’s own selection of phones for sale is not too impressive, but in this category you’re better off buying an unlocked budget Android phone separately.

Google Fi

Google Fi, the company’s wireless service, resells the networks of T-Mobile and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular. It’s good for frequent international travelers—we like its rates and LTE roaming better than T-Mobile’s—but it offers full support only for Google’s Pixel and Nexus series of phones as well as some LG and Motorola models. Fi now offers limited support for some Samsung and OnePlus models and even some iPhones. But iPhone owners should know that getting texts from non-iPhones requires some fiddling around in settings; in addition, you don’t get iOS’s visual voicemail feature, and you can’t use a VPN. If your passport has dozens of stamps and your current or desired phone is on its list, though, Google Fi is worth a look.

Boost Mobile

The former Sprint subsidiary is now a Dish Network subsidiary—one part of the complicated approval architecture that allowed T-Mobile to engulf its competitor, and a change that’s supposed to lead to Dish spinning up an all-5G network. Boost had planned on reselling T-Mobile until it could launch its own network but is now readying a switch to AT&T, which means customers of Boost (and the other resellers Dish has bought, such as Ting and Republic Wireless) are in for some potentially drastic changes. To us, that doesn’t justify the relatively modest savings some of its plans offer.

Straight Talk

The Straight Talk prepaid brand of Tracfone, which is itself a subsidiary of the Mexican carrier América Móvil, is one of the most widely used prepaid services—thanks in part to its distribution through Walmart stores—and also does well in many customer surveys. It offers the advantage of reselling service from all three carriers, at the cost of your having to trust the company’s judgment about which network works best for you. But if you want service with mobile-hotspot use included, you won’t save that much over even postpaid service.

TracFone

The biggest prepaid brand in America and the corporate parent of Straight Talk—and, if things go as Verizon hopes, a soon-to-be Verizon property—TracFone has historically required smartphone customers to patch together a service bundle by buying separate buckets of data, voice, and text. Now it offers a few standard 30-day plans. At 3 GB, its $25 rate is fairly competitive, but its pricing doesn’t hold up in more intensive usage scenarios. And TracFone doesn’t help its cause by prohibiting mobile-hotspot use.

Verizon Prepaid

If you’d like to save some money with a prepaid or resold plan, Verizon Prepaid now offers the interesting wrinkle of rates that drop over time. So the starting price of $35 for its 5 GB plan drops to $30 after three months and $25 after nine; the $45 rate for 15 GB becomes $40 and then $35 in the same way. As with Verizon’s postpaid plans, you still get unlimited 2G data after you hit your plan’s data cap.

Visible

This Verizon brand—you’ll have to inspect its site closely to see confirmation of that corporate tie—offers only one plan, the $40 unlimited-on-phone Visible Plan. The mobile-hotspot limit here isn’t like any other carrier: Instead of capping how much data can go to that application, Visible limits your hotspot speed to 5 Mbps and allows only one device at a time. We like the creativity on display here; however, we’re not sure how many people need an unlimited-on-phone plan but see almost no need to share that bandwidth with other devices via mobile hotspot.

Sources

  1. Sascha Segan, Fastest Mobile Networks 2020, PCMag, September 9, 2020

  2. Ben Gottesman, Readers’ Choice Awards 2020: Smartphones, Carriers, and Mobile Operating Systems, PCMag, March 24, 2020

  3. Sue Marek, USA Mobile Network Experience Report January 2020, Opensignal, December 31, 2020

  4. Ian Fogg, USA 5G User Experience Report June 2020, Opensignal, June 30, 2020

  5. Sue Marek, USA Mobile Network Experience Report July 2020, Opensignal, July 13, 2020

  6. Dave Andersen, Review of the US Mobile Landscape 1H 2019: carrier performance at national, state, and metro levels, RootMetrics, July 15, 2019

  7. Dave Andersen, US State of the Mobile Union: carrier performance at national, state, and metro levels 2H 2019, RootMetrics, January 27, 2020

  8. Wireless Carrier Investments in Self-Service Tools Drive Satisfaction and Revenue in Customer Care, J.D. Power Finds, J.D. Power, February 6, 2020

  9. Consumer Cellular Tops in Customer Satisfaction Among Wireless Carriers; Xfinity Mobile Makes Strong Debut, ACSI Data Show, American Customer Satisfaction Index, May 19, 2020

  10. WhistleOut

  11. Sascha Segan, Fastest Mobile Networks 2020, PCMag, September 9, 2020

About your guide

Rob Pegoraro
Источник: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-wireless-carrier/

Contact MetroPCS Customer Service

MetroPCS Phone Numbers and Emails

Customer Service:

  • (866) 862-3397

    Premium Handset Protection

  • (888) 863-8768

Legal:

  • (425) 383-4000

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Corporate Office Address:

T-Mobile USA, Inc.

PO Box 601119

Dallas,Texas75360

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Metro by T-Mobile

PO Box 5119

Carol Stream, IL 60197-5119, US

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MetroPCS Rating Based on 757 Reviews

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Summary of MetroPCS Customer Service Calls

23.9K TOTAL
CALLS

05:56 AVG CALL
DURATION

11% ISSUES
RESOLVED

Top Reasons of Customers Calls

Consumers Call the Most From

Why Do People Call MetroPCS Customer Service?

Payments and Charges Question:

  • “Pay my phone bill”
  • “Pay bill”
  • “To see is my bill paid”

Product/ Service Question:

  • “Network unlock code”
  • “Get mobile hotspot working”
  • “My diveces and s not working”

Request for Information Question:

  • “How can I get my account number?”
  • “Can i pay more than one month at a time”
  • “Need help with metro app”

Staff Question:

  • “No service”
  • “Check service”
  • “My phone keeps telling me that my service provider has temporarily cut my voice service off”

Account Question:

  • “I need my account number”
  • “Account”
  • “Sim hacked again”

Activation/ Cancellation Question:

  • “Cancel account”
  • “I need to deactivate a phone it was stolen”
  • “Cancellation of service”

Cards Question:

  • “Need new sim card”
  • “Need my pin number”
  • “Switch sim card to a new phone”

Return/ Replace Question:

  • “Replacement phone”
  • “Change”
  • “To get my phone replaced”

Shipping and Delivery Question:

  • “To see if I get the call logs on account”
  • “Have not received my replacement phone yet”
  • “Phone not coming on”

Refund Question:

  • “Refund”
  • “Need a refunded not happy”
  • “Refund on my bill”

Employment Question:

  • “I need to switch phone because my screen is cracked too bad and it's not functioning properly. I don't have the money to switch at a store cause I don't get paid for two weeks. So could you please be so kind as to wave this fee and switch my phone”
  • “Pay stubs”
  • “My phone is off and i font get paid until friday”

Website/ Application Question:

  • “Ebb sitee of metro app does not work”
  • “Application”
  • “Stores refuse to sell a nationally advertised phone for price stated on metro pcs website”

Other Question:

  • “Pagar lines”
  • “I locked my self out of my phone”
  • “Phone”

About

Top MetroPCS Services

Phone Service, Customer Care, Phone Plan

Top MetroPCS Products

Account, Warranty, Website

MetroPCS Pros and Cons

Pros: I used to like your company, Price, Phone promotions, No contract, But i am done

Cons: Customer service, Service, Unprofessional service, Unable to use cell phone, Metro pcs

Related Companies

TMobile, Sprint, Assurance Wireless, Metro by TMobile, Clear Internet

Summary

MetroPCS is a prepaid wireless service. It is provided by T-Mobile US, Inc. The company is headquartered in Richardson, Texas, United States. MetroPCS was established in 1994 as General Wireless, Inc. It offers the following services: text, data, and nationwide talk. The company uses such networks as GPS, HSPA, HSPA+, 4G LTE. Available plans are as follows: 2GB (4G LTE Data), 3GB (4G LTE Data), Unlimited (4G LTE Data), and Unlimited (4G LTE Data +Hotspot). MetroPCS provides phones of such brands as Samsung, LG, HTS, Alcatel, and ZTE. There is also a large stock of accessories including keyboards, headsets, screen protectors, memory cards, and speakers.

MetroPCS reviews and complaints

MetroPCS is ranked 185 out of 1707 in Telecommunications category

Payment Methods

VISA

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Источник: https://metropcs.pissedconsumer.com/customer-service.html
  • Our picks haven’t changed, but we’ve updated this guide with the latest data metrics and more information in the How we picked section.

November 15, 2021

If you haven’t looked at how your current bill compares with what it might be under a new myprovidence org my bills or on a new service, you should check now. Despite the recent shift from four national carriers to three, and the transitions from 3G networks to 4G and now 5G, prices have gone down while data allocations have gone up, especially among the dozens of smaller carriers reselling services from the big three. But as always, most deals come with a catch.

There may not be one carrier or plan we can recommend for everyone, but we have recommendations for some of the most common needs, and advice for anyone with more unusual requirements too.

Why you should trust us

I’ve covered the wireless industry since the late 1990s—my first guide to cell phone service, written in 1998, devoted much ink to comparing analog and digital cellular. I’ve tested smartphones and cell phone plans from all the major carriers—the historic foursome of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plus Nextel before then—for the Washington Post, CNN Money, Discovery News, PCMag, VentureBeat, and others, and I now cover tech and telecom issues for Fast Company, USA Today, and other sites, including trade publications like Light Reading and FierceTelecom. And in July of 2021, I put in more than a thousand miles of drive testing from Baltimore to Atlanta for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks project.

How we picked

We limited this guide to the most widely used national options—starting with the three biggest nationwide carriers and their prepaid services and subsidiaries, and then adding services that have ranked high in surveys from sites such as PCMag, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and J.D. Power.

We also chose to exclude contenders available only in parts of the US. That meant dismissing the regional carrier U.S. Cellular and the resold services of cable firms such as Comcast and Spectrum, which require subscriptions to their residential broadband to get their advertised pricing or to sign up at all. Last, we cut prepaid services that required separate purchases of data, texts, or voice minutes to meet any of our monthly usage quotas.

That left us with the following services to assess:

  • AT&T Wireless, its prepaid program, and its prepaid brand Cricket Wireless
  • T-Mobile, its prepaid option, and its Metro by T-Mobile brand
  • Verizon Wireless, its prepaid offering, and its prepaid brand Visible
  • Boost Mobile, formerly a Sprint prepaid brand and now Dish Network’s T-Mobile reseller
  • Consumer Cellular, an AT&T and T-Mobile reseller
  • Google Fi, a Google service based on resold coverage from T-Mobile and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular
  • Mint Mobile, a T-Mobile reseller
  • Tracfone (which has agreed to a $6.25 billion acquisition by Verizon) and its Straight Talk brand, both of which resell all three networks but put you on whichever one they judge as best for you

Data value

For each, we computed the cost of three typical bundles of smartphone service: moderate use at 3 GB of data; a for-most-people scenario requiring unlimited data for the phone but with no more than 3 GB of mobile hotspot use; and a heavy-use case with unlimited on-phone data plus 10 GB of mobile hotspot use. These totals are higher than in past editions of this guide because typical data usage has gone up substantially. In August, NPD Group analyst Brad Akyuz told us that the firm’s research showed US median smartphone cellular data usage—not average, which can be skewed by extreme cases—had hit 13.9 GB per month.

We no longer factor in included messages or voice minutes, because all of the services that qualify for inclusion now offer unmetered messaging and calling.

Network reliability/speed

A wireless network’s quality isn’t something you can assess in a single-letter grade: Coverage and performance usually vary considerably by location. They also change over time—as anybody who was using T-Mobile in 2011 and remains on that carrier today can attest. To try to get the most balanced picture possible of the big three carriers (and the services that resell their networks), we consulted independently conducted surveys of wireless network coverage and performance from Opensignal, PCMag and RootMetrics. We were less interested in exceptionally fast download speeds if the coverage to access those speeds was spotty; consistently good performance in the places where most people live, work, and visit was  a higher priority.

Hotspot policy

Our cost estimates assumed that anybody who wants to use their phone’s mobile-hotspot feature to share their LTE or 5G bandwidth for any sustained period would want to do so at its full speed, not cut back to 3G or worse, as some “unlimited” plans require. We also assumed that most people won’t use up more bank of america financial center bakersfield ca 3 GB of data a month with this feature, as it can put a real dent in a phone’s battery, but we do have an walmart bismarck nd store hours scenario that assumes up to 10 GB a month in smartphone use.

Discount possibilities

We also crunched these same numbers for shared-use plans for two and four lines, because so many of you have said you want to see your options for family pricing compared.

If a plan offered a lower rate for enabling autopay or paying for a year in advance, or included loyalty discounts that cut your bill over time (a new feature at Verizon Prepaid as of summer 2020), we factored in those options. The bank job true story did not, however, count deals that required trading in a phone or porting over a number.

What else we don’t consider

Because almost all US-market phones will work on any of the big three carriers, we paid no attention to the phones each carrier or service sells on its own site and in its own stores. Nor metro pcs customer service to pay bill we factor in the promotions that wireless services throw out for each new iPhone.

Finally, we didn’t factor in taxes and regulatory fees because they vary by jurisdiction (in my case, with a legacy T-Mobile plan, for example, these fees added up to 7.4% of my October 2021 bill). But wherever you live, taxes and fees should hit you equally across all of your options—except for T-Mobile’s Magenta plan and the offerings at Boost and Visible, all of which include taxes in their advertised prices.

Best for the most data: T-Mobile Magenta/Magenta Max

If data is your priority—in the sense of having a fast network connection and being able to use that to download and upload in volume—you should consider the T-Mobile Magenta plan. T-Mobile’s primary unlimited data offering is more generous than those of its two rivals, and its rollout of 5G has made an already good network considerably better in a steadily expanding share of the country.

Price alone should get your attention: Magenta costs $70 a month for unlimited on-phone data, with 100 GB of it prioritized. (After that, T-Mobile might slow your connection to make room for other customers’ connections, but whether you experience this depends on outside factors like how many customers tarrant county district court online records in one area and how busy the network is.) That’s double the allotment of comparable plans at AT&T and Verizon, which cost $5 and $10 more before the taxes and fees. T-Mobile folds those fees into the advertised rate. (Two lines of Magenta cost $60 each, and four run $35 each.) You don’t get as much data to use for mobile hotspot sharing, but the 5 GB included here is still a lot—and the unlimited 3G hotspot use that’s allowed above that gap will remain much more practical for basic connectivity than the 2G-level speeds AT&T and Verizon allow.

All the data allotment in the world isn’t helpful if it’s too slow to use, but T-Mobile’s network has jumped ahead, in part because of its 5G frequencies. The mid-band spectrum that T-Mobile picked up when it bought Sprint has allowed it to deploy impressively fast 5G with much better coverage than the faster but far more fragile millimeter-wave 5G that AT&T and Verizon offer. And this mid-band 5G, which T-Mobile now markets as “Ultra Capacity 5G,” also provides much speedier service than the low-band 5G that fills out its network and constitutes the most widely available form of 5G among its competitors.

Map of T-Mobile LTE data with portions of the map painted pink.

Opensignal’s crowdsourced test results for T-Mobile, released in July of 2021, give T-Mobile a commanding lead among the big three for upload speeds and have T-Mobile behind AT&T but ahead of Verizon for download speeds. But that firm’s more recent, 5G-specific tests show a much bigger advantage for T-Mobile: average 5G download speeds of 118.7 Mbps, far above the 56 Mbps and 51.5 Mbps download averages at Verizon and AT&T. And you have much better odds of enjoying them, with 5G available 34.7% of the time—more than double the second-best figure of 16.4% at AT&T.

Median 5G Download5G Availability
T-Mobile135.1764.4%
Verizon78.9434.3%
AT&T72.4644.8%

Ookla’s September 2021 report showed that T-Mobile’s 5G network was on the median faster and more available to its customers than the other two national carriers.

Ookla’s Speedtest showed T-Mobile with sizable advantages in median 5G downloads, which were around 80% faster—as well as 5G availability, which was nearly double Verizon’s and around 50% more than AT&T’s network. When combining 4G and 5G speeds, T-Mobile’s lead held up by a narrower margin: 62.35 Mbps, compared with 47.42 Mbps and 39.91 Mbps at AT&T and Verizon.

RootMetrics was not as complimentary in its latest State of the Mobile Union report, finding T-Mobile slower overall. But even that drive testing-based report, which has a history of finding slower T-Mobile performance than others, noted that the carrier’s “median download speed across the US increased by over 50% since the second half of 2020 (20.1 Mbps to 30.3 Mbps), and six of its seven US RootScores were above 90 (compared with two above 90 last time).”

A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage by T-Mobile in the New York City area.

Frequent travelers will find other bonuses in T-Mobile’s unlimited plan. Magenta includes international roaming, and although that’s limited to 128 Kbps speeds, I’ve found it to be more than adequate for email and basic browsing. You also get free texting, 25¢-per-minute calling, and the ability to use your phone in Canada or Mexico with no roaming charges, even for LTE. And it includes an hour of free Gogo inflight Wi-Fi for every flight on compatible aircraft.

For users looking for the least limited 5G experience possible, T-Mobile’s Magenta Max includes unlimited priority data on the phone and a full 40 GB of mobile-hotspot data—$85 for one line, $70 each for two lines, $43 each for four lines. It also lifts metro pcs customer service to pay bill streaming resolution cap all the way to 4K UHD, provides unlimited Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on compatible planes and doubles the international data roaming to 256 Kbps.

AT&T’s Unlimited Elite offers the same priority data, as well as mobile hotspot and streaming video provisions, but its $85 rate doesn’t include the taxes and fees wrapped into T-Mobile’s $85 rate. That carrier’s $75 Unlimited Extra is slightly cheaper even after taxes but only offers 50 GB of priority data and 15 GB of mobile hotspot. Both AT&T plans suffer from a 5G network that is almost all low-band signal with little advantage in speed.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Coverage at Verizon and AT&T remains more comprehensive than T-Mobile’s—as I saw on country roads in the Southeast while doing drive testing for PCMag—but the past few years of improvement in T-Mobile’s network means you’ll have to get into fairly rural areas to notice this difference. You will have to decide if your likely travel patterns are more apt to make this an ongoing problem.

Although T-Mobile’s international roaming costs much less than AT&T and Verizon’s international options, you may have to pay those charges if you buy your phone from T-Mobile on an installment payment plan, as this carrier keeps those handsets locked until you pay off your balance—or conclude the term on a free-upgrade deal such as those it’s offering on the iPhone 13.

T-Mobile also has a history of data breaches, with its most recent and largest happening in August and affecting some 40 million customers. (I was among them. I thought about dropping T-Mobile, but the telecom industry’s general indifference to the concept of data minimization left me with little reason to think I’d fare that much better in the long run elsewhere.)

Finally, T-Mobile offers fewer affinity and group discounts, instead limiting discounts to customers 55 years and older, military and veterans, and first responders.

Coverage first: Verizon Wireless

Verizon’s historic strength has been the reach of its network, and that remains an advantage for people who roam into the more rural reaches of the US, with multiple testing organizations giving it top marks again in 2021. While it isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, it is a sounder choice for people looking for maximum coverage.

A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage by Verizon in the New York City area.

If you need less data than typical, Verizon also offers two unlikely bargains: a 5 GB for $55 plan and a 10 GB for $65 option that each let you carry over unused data to the next month. (Those rates, listed on Verizon’s site under a shared-plans heading, require signing up for autopay using a checking account or debit card, which does preclude running up points on a travel rewards credit card.) Unlike Verizon’s cheapest unlimited on-phone data plan, called Start Unlimited,  both of these include full-speed mobile hotspot and allow HD streaming video, albeit capped at 720p resolution on phones and 1080p on tablets. They also include Staten island university hospital south low-band 5G but not its fast but scarce millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G—aka “Ultra Wideband”—which is not much of a loss given how unavailable mmWave 5G has been in our experience.

Verizon offers less of a deal to subscribers looking for unlimited on-phone plans. The $70 Start Unlimited plan not only bans HD video streaming and mobile hotspot use, it may throttle your speeds “in times of congestion,” even at the start of a billing cycle before you’ve burned up any data yourself. And as with the 5 and 10 GB plans, it covers Verizon’s low-band 5G but not its mmWave 5G.

Verizon’s Play More Unlimited and Do More Unlimited, both $80, add mmWave 5G and allot 50 GB of priority data, 15 GB of mobile hotspot (plus unlimited via mmWave 5G, if you can find it), and up to 720p streaming video on phones. Their differences only surface in the non-phone parts of each bundle; the latter swaps out a free bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for 600 GB of cloud storage and 50% off connected-device plans for hotspots, tablets, and smartwatches. Both represent a better value than Start Unlimited, but you can see how Verizon feels its coverage allows it to charge a premium.

Map of Verizon LTE data with portions of the map painted orange.

Finally, the company’s $90 Get More Unlimited plan doubles the hotspot quota to 30 GB, keeps the deprioritization threshold at 50 GB (meaning that at above that, they may slow your data to keep the network faster for other customers) and video streaming at 720p, and throws in Apple Music, the streaming-video bundle, the connected-device discount, and the cloud storage.

Verizon also offers a Just Kids plan you can add to your own: $40 or less, when added to an unlimited plan (depending on how many other lines you have), gets unlimited data at 5 Mbps plus parental control and location tracking tools for you.

Verizon offers discounts to employees and members of designated companies and organizations; only its military and veterans discount applies to unlimited plans. If you sign up for its Fios wired broadband, you can also qualify for a discount.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

The CDMA foundation of Verizon’s network—and Verizon’s decision to launch its 5G service on mmWave frequencies that go unused in many other markets—can also limit the compatibility of some unlocked phones. For example, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G, our pick for the best budget Android phone, is a 4G-only phone at Verizon—a shortfall that Verizon acknowledges via omission by calling the unlocked version of this phone that it sells on its own site the “OnePlus Nord N200.”

Multiple-line plans: Metro or Consumer Cellular

Due to constantly shifting promotions and terms, family plan pricing is difficult to sort through, and this time we have to split our recommendation for multiple-line service between two options. For two lines in our typical-usage scenario—unlimited on-phone data with 3 GB of mobile hotspot use—Consumer Cellular is an easy call.

This reseller of AT&T and T-Mobile (5G included) consistently tops customer surveys such as PCMag’s annual survey and J.D. Power’s purchase-experience studies. And at $75 for two lines on its unlimited plan, Consumer Cellular also undercuts every provider. You will, however, need to ask to have mobile hotspot use enabled on your account—it’s blocked by default—before you can use as much of your 50 GB of priority data as you wish for tethering. You can get hotspot switched on via its phone support or, as I did with a family member’s phone, in its customer service chat online.

Price for two lines with unlimited on-phone data plus 3 GB hotspot each

Prices are current as of October 28, 2021.

We also like that Consumer Cellular allows you to specify an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM, whereas prepaid carriers such as Tracfone determine that for you unless you buy a SIM card in person. As with other carriers, Consumer Cellular’s unlimited plan does have limits: After you use 50 GB combined between the lines, the service warns that “your access to high speed data will be reduced, and you may experience slower speeds.”

For four lines, however, T-Mobile’s Metro by T-Mobile prepaid brand offers the cheapest deal in our typical usage scenario at $120. This includes T-Mobile’s strong 5G service but does have a relatively low priority data threshold of 35 GB, plus a fairly generous mobile hotspot allocation of 15 GB. Metro has done well in bank of america business online banking login metrics; it placed second to Consumer Cellular in J.D. Power’s surveys and outranked T-Mobile itself in PCMag’s Reader’s Choice survey.

Price for four lines with unlimited on-phone data plus 3 GB hotspot each

Prices are current as of October 19, 2021.

The cheapest plan: Mint Mobile

If the lowest possible bill on a good-enough network is your top priority, we recommend Mint Mobile, a newer reseller of T-Mobile’s LTE and 5G network. It beats everybody else’s costs with a simple pricing tactic: It offers cheaper prices for longer terms, with the minimum being three months. When you sign up, you can choose 4 GB, 10 GB, 15 GB, or unlimited data per month and then pay up front for either three, six, or 12 months—the longer the package, the better the price per month.

The first three months come at the cheapest price, which on the unlimited plan is just $30 a month, after which you can balance commitment and price: $40 a month on a three-month term, $35 on a six-month policy, or $30 for a year. The same math works for minimal usage: 4 GB per month costs $25 per month over a three-month term, or $15 per month on a full-year deal. You may find even lower prices from temporary promotions at Amazon and Best Buy, according to Mint customers on Reddit’s r/mintmobile subreddit.

Mint’s unlimited plan deserves extra contemplation because it includes similar usage limits to other “unlimited” plans: a priority-data cap, 35 GB, a 5 GB cap on mobile-hotspot usage, and a 480p streaming-video limit. You can buy another 5 GB of hotspot data for $15—or you could save $5 by trading down to the 15 GB plan, which lets you use all of that data for mobile hotspot and has no streaming-video resolution constraint.

Mobile
hotspot
Monthly cost
at home remedies for heartburn indigestion a 3-month term
Annual
cost
Monthly cost on
a 12-month term
Annual
cost
15 GB15 GB$45$540$25$300
Unlimited5 GB$40$480$30$360

Prices current as of October 18, 2021; rates exclude new-customer discounts for the first three months.

Mint does require some compromises, though. The company doesn’t focus on phone sales, so your best option is to bring your own unlocked device, and support is available only online or over the phone. In addition, your data slows to 128 Kbps after you hit your cap unless you upgrade your plan or switch to the unlimited plan, and international roaming quickly gets expensive at 20¢ a megabyte in most countries. And you face the risk of seeing your bandwidth deprioritized behind that of T-Mobile subscribers, especially when the network is busy.

Mint Mobile’s reliability and customer service were unknown a year ago beyond generally positive word of mouth and the satisfactory experiences of some Wirecutter staffers, but in 2020 the service earned the fifth-highest ranking in PCMag’s Readers’ Choice survey and in 2021 climbed to third place. So if the above compromises aren’t dealbreakers for you, Mint can save you a lot of money over time.

How to determine which network has the best coverage for you

Selecting a network is the trickiest part of picking a plan. Coverage can vary from block to block or even building to building, so carrier coverage maps can be a good starting point only if you can zoom in to the street level—and even then they say nothing about how the network fares in busy areas. Opensignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics all publish independently sourced network-performance metrics, but those studies take different approaches and are thus good for different purposes. (When you’re consulting these metrics and a carrier’s own coverage maps for your local area, don’t forget to check a network’s coverage in frequent business or vacation destinations, too.)

A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage in the New York City area.

RootMetrics uses cars set up with “leading Android-based smartphones for each network” to gather figures on data, talk, and text performance www prudential com structured settlements the country. Its coverage map—which, unlike its network scores, also folds in crowd-based estimates from users of its mobile apps—encompasses basically every major US city street and highway, as well as all of the towns and thoroughfares that connect them. You can also find reports tailored to specific metropolitan areas. This amount of detail makes RootMetrics a great source for gauging overall performance by region.

A chart comparing speeds and reliability between AT&T 4G, Sprint 4G, T-Mobile 4G, and Verizon 4G.

PCMag takes a similar approach but focuses more specifically on network data speed and reliability. The site tends to look more at metropolitan centers and their suburbs, with the testing in between mostly limited to roads—which, when I put in more than a thousand miles of driving for the project in July, were primarily two-lane rural roads at the request of editor Sascha Segan. PCMag also conducts its tests with the same model of high-end phone—this year, the Samsung Galaxy S21—that may support more high-speed frequencies than your own.

Coverage data map for the New York City area, by Opensignal. Almost everywhere has good coverage (green) with some red and yellow dots signifying worse coverage.

Opensignal has complete coverage data in densely populated areas like New York City.

Opensignal map showing coverage in Berryville, VA. Coverage data is spotty.

But it has spottier data in less dense, suburban areas such as Berryville, Virginia. This doesn't mean that you won't get cell service there, just that Opensignal can't tell you how strong your connection will be.

Opensignal’s network tests rely on crowdsourcing: Anyone can download the Opensignal app and run tests. But the majority of people don’t, and as such, Opensignal’s data skews heavily toward densely populated, urban areas. In those regions, it has block-by-block information. If you live in a city, you can use Opensignal’s data to check all the spots you frequent.

In August of 2021, the Federal Communications Commission rolled out its own reality check: a map of estimated LTE coverage, based on signal-propagation models applied to its own data of cell sites. While this only shows the presence of at least basic LTE service—5 Mbps downloads and just 1 Mbps uploads—in my own spot checking, it’s been more accurate than the carriers’ own coverage maps at warning of dead zones.

How much data do you need?

Once you’ve determined which network will work best for you, the next step is to figure out how much data you metro pcs customer service to pay bill use—which may be much more than you expected if you haven’t checked that detail in months. We have seen both average and median data use roughly triple from the first quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021, going by NPD Group’s figures. The advent of faster 5G service only seems to be accelerating that trend: An Opensignal report posted in June of 2021 found that in the US, LTE users running that firm’s testing software averaged 9 GB a month, while those on 5G hit 14.9 GB a month.

Both Android and iOS provide estimates of your current data use that can help if you’re trying to see which of your apps eats up the most data, but your carrier’s website will give you the number that counts for billing purposes. You’ll then need to take an educated guess at how far that number could rise in a year, then see which plans will cover that with a reasonable margin.

Shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.

Since so many services—in particular, the “postpaid” subscriptions of the major carriers—have either stopped selling older limited-data plans while adding cheaper unlimited-data plans, you’re increasingly likely to find that an unlimited plan works for you.

But then you need to figure out just what sort of unlimited data you’ll be buying. All three carriers and their sub-brands and resellers have carved out restrictions on features such as priority data, hotspot use, and streaming video while adding premium tiers or paid add-ons that lift some of those limits. Shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.

Among the Basic Economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data plans, AT&T’s $65 Unlimited Starter and Verizon’s $70 Start Unlimited provide no priority or premium data, meaning you’re at risk of “temporarily slow data speeds if hyvee mankato mn weekly ad network is busy,” as AT&T puts it—even if it’s the start of a billing period and you haven’t burned through any data yourself. Those AT&T and Verizon plans also ban hotspot use. T-Mobile’s entry-level Farmers savings bank wellington oh, at $60, is more generous by allotting 50 GB of priority data and allowing hotspot use at previous-gen 3G speeds, although past Opensignal surveys rated its 3G downloads highest among all the major carriers. All three carriers cap the resolution of streaming video on their network at a DVD-grade 480p.

If your usage only slightly exceeds the cap on a service’s limited-data plans—say you use 3.25 GB in a month and your carrier offers a 3 GB plan—you should see if that plan lets you roll over unused data from months when you don’t hit your maximum. Also, see if that service offers unmetered slow 2G service once you exhaust your high-speed data so your phone will still have basic (read: slower) internet access and you won’t get charged extra for going over your cap. These features may help you choose a less expensive plan.

The ope sorry three, and many of the smaller services, offer two step-up tiers—one that provides more priority data and a limited allotment of full-speed mobile hotspot use, and a second, pricier plan with substantially more priority data and more mobile hotspot use, or more of both; higher-definition streaming may also be part of that upgrade.

CostPlanPriority
data
Phone
hotspot data
Hotspot speed
above data cap
Streaming-video
resolution
AT&T$65Unlimited StarterNoneNonen/a480p
AT&T$75Unlimited Extra50 GB15 GB128 Kbps480p
AT&T$85Unlimited EliteUnlimited40 GB128 Kbps4K UHD
T-Mobile$60Essentials50 GBUnlimited3G only480p
T-Mobile$70Magenta100 GB5 GB3G only480p
T-Mobile$85Magenta MaxUnlimited40 GB3G only4K UHD
Verizon Wireless$70Start UnlimitedNoneNonen/a480p
Verizon Wireless$80Play/Do More Unlimited50 GB15 GB600 Kbps720p
Verizon Wireless$90Get More Unlimited50 GB30 GB600 Kbps720p

Information current as of October 11, 2021. Data allotments on older plans may vary. T-Mobile 3G download speeds averaged 4.6 Mbps in Opensignal’s January 2020 report.

If your usage remains sufficiently low, you should look past the apparent simplicity of unlimited plans to consider those with a manageable data-usage cap but fewer fine print rules on that data. Both AT&T and Verizon offer noteworthy deals in that category: AT&T’s 4 GB plan, $50 after autopay discounts, has no separate limit on hotspot use but still restricts streaming to 480p, while Verizon’s 5 GB shared-data plan, $55 after autopay, also includes hotspot use up to that line and allows 720p streaming. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind complications such as expensive international roaming and a lack of in-person support, Mint’s 4 GB, 10 GB and 15 GB plans offer even more substantial savings.

As for talk and text amounts, all metro pcs customer service to pay bill the postpaid plans from the major carriers provide unlimited calling and messaging, so in theory you don’t even have to calculate those numbers. A shrinking number of prepaid and resold services offer cheaper rates if you’re willing to stay within certain limits. As with data usage, the best way to check your current texting and calling habits is to view your bill.

The filters and search setting on the WhistleOut tool for comparing cell phone plans.

If your usage doesn’t fall into our specific categories and you sometimes think in spreadsheets, you can do your own calculations using WhistleOut’s carrier-comparison tool. It even lets you filter by network—you can ask it for, say, only prepaid options that resell AT&T service—and location. But this comparison tool requires careful reading: Like Google searches, it shows sponsored results before organic ones. It also includes far more services than we cover here and shows not just plans with the required amount of data, minutes, and texts, but also those that exceed your needs, producing a cluttered presentation overall.

Should you buy postpaid, prepaid, or resold service?

If you want unlimited calls and texts, more attentive customer service, and phone financing through your carrier, you should stick with a traditional postpaid plan, where you get a bill for service after you use it. Postpaid costs a bit more and requires decent credit to qualify, but it offers you every phone the carrier sells, usually with no-interest financing, and the service you get should match what you see in the carrier’s ads.

However, switching to prepaid, where you pay for service before you use it, can be an easy way to save $10 to $20 a month or more. Many prepaid services are provided by smaller companies that simply resell service from one of the big carriers, so they offer coverage similar to that of the major carriers at a lower price. But for resellers to undersell the major carriers while using the same networks, they need to make some trade-offs; similarly, the major carriers’ own prepaid plans tend to involve restrictions that their postpaid plans lack. We don’t recommend switching to prepaid unless you meet most of these criteria:

  • You don’t mind buying your own phone separately, since prepaid carriers’ phone selections are often poor (and some carriers don’t offer phones at all).
  • You’re okay with potentially being on your own if you have to work through service hiccups or tech-support travails. Retail support may not be an option, and phone or online support may be limited.
  • You’re comfortable relying on prepaid SIM cards while traveling abroad.
  • You’re willing to read the fine print. As analyst Jeffrey Moore advised us, data roaming, and sometimes even voice roaming, may not be included in some prepaid plans. These plans may also omit Wi-Fi calling, one common way to get around holes in coverage.

Switching to prepaid, where you pay for service before you use it, can be an easy way to save $10 to $20 a month or more.

Some carriers throttle prepaid service to a lower speed by default, as AT&T did until October 2021 with some Cricket plans. Others prioritize their own customers over third-party prepaid traffic, as happens with the Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary. A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed that policy, saying that although the service for postpaid plans and prepaid plans have the same priority, Metro by T-Mobile and other resellers “may notice slower speeds in times of network congestion.” Aron North, chief marketing officer at Mint’s then-parent firm Ultra Mobile, confirmed in an email in 2019 that “at times where there is network congestion” Mint may be “reprioritized.” That remained in effect in 2020.

The wireless services some cable operators offer, based on resold network capacity from one of the big three carriers, represent their own special case. They offer some serious bargains but also require you to use that cable firm’s broadband to get the advertised pricing.

For example, Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile starts at 1 GB for $15 a month, with 10 GB costing just $60, or “unlimited” service going for $45 but with mobile hotspot use clamped down to a useless 600 Kbps—oh, and after 20 GB of that allegedly unlimited service—your download speeds get throttled back to 1.5 Mbps. You also have to keep Comcast’s Xfinity internet, TV, or voice service, otherwise you’ll owe another $25 per line.

Spectrum Mobile is a little better, since its $45 unlimited plan includes 5 GB of full-speed hotspot—but it cuts your speeds even more sharply after 20 GB, with downloads limited to 1 Mbps and uploads to just 512 Kbps. Keeping this service after dropping Spectrum’s cable internet will cost an extra $20 a month.

If you’re looking to save money on smartphone service by getting resold service from your cable operator but are also considering dropping your cable operator’s broadband, understand that these wireless plans are best understood as a customer-retention tool.

What to look forward to

As all three carriers continue to build out their 5G networks, AT&T and Verizon are also rushing to get their own mid-band 5G spectrum into service, using the “C-band” frequencies purchased at FCC-run spectrum auctions. That should do a lot to make 5G a more even fight among the three, although we’ll have to see if the slightly higher frequencies of C-band 5G (around 3.5 GHz) will result in shorter range than what T-Mobile can deliver over its 2.5 GHz mid-band 5G. AT&T and Verizon also continue to build out millimeter-wave 5G, but in practice that continues to exhibit such severe coverage limits that we doubt it will be worth factoring into a sign-up decision.

AT&T and Verizon also have yet to deploy “standalone” 5G, a network upgrade in which cell sites can connect directly to compatible phones without needing a 4G connection to set up that 5G link. T-Mobile began rolling out its own standalone 5G in 2020.

After some lag for phone manufacturers to ship phones that support all these different flavors of 5G, you now have much less of a concern except for millimeter-wave support. Some cheaper models omit that—but we don’t think you should let that hold up a purchase of an otherwise appealing phone.

Meanwhile, services keep trying to make themselves harder to leave in various ways beyond installment payment plans; for example, the aggressive discounts on the iPhone 13 from the big black owned banks in san francisco bay area all took the form of two- or even three-year installment payments zeroed out, except that subscribers who leave early have to pay back the remaining price without that discount. Free-with-your-plan media bonuses like a subscription to HBO Max or extra storage through Google One can save you money on services you were going to pay for anyway—but also make it harder for you to leave the service.

The competition

AT&T

AT&T, now the third-largest carrier, offers a strong GSM network that’s yet to get 5G service to match. Though this carrier’s low-band 5G offers impressive scope, it’s not that much faster than its LTE and sometimes runs slower; the millimeter-wave 5G that it markets as “5G+,” meanwhile, is even scarcer than Verizon’s mmWave service.

Among its plans for unlimited on-phone data, AT&T’s $75 Unlimited Extra offers the best value, with 50 GB of priority data, 15 GB of hotspot use, and SD video for $5 less than Verizon’s Play More and Do More unlimited rates. But that’s also $5 more than the price for T-Mobile’s unlimited with-hotspot plan—before the taxes and fees that T-Mobile folds into its rate. And we don’t think anyone should get AT&T’s Unlimited Starter option, which costs $65 per month and has no hotspot allowance.

Like Verizon, AT&T metro pcs customer service to pay bill automatic payments for you to get its advertised prices, though you can use a credit card. AT&T also disqualifies all of its discounts except its military and veterans deal from that plan.

Buying your phone on AT&T’s installment plan brings an extra risk: Until you’ve paid off the phone, the device will be locked and stuck with international-roaming charges of $10 a day in most countries—and unavailable to use with a different service if you want to leave AT&T early.

AT&T’s self-branded prepaid service can represent a good deal for people who don’t need much data, but in any unlimited data context it’s scarcely cheaper than the carrier’s postpaid plans—and across four lines in our typical data usage scenario, it’s 25% more expensive. Note that outside of Canada and Mexico, these prepaid plans offer no international roaming data options.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless, AT&T’s prepaid brand, outranks its corporate mothership in customer satisfaction surveys and offers much cheaper choices if you don’t need a lot of data and extras like international roaming options. But unlike Mint, Cricket only includes mobile hotspot use on its most expensive offering (although the allocation there is a fairly generous 15 GB). Cricket’s own selection of phones for sale is not too impressive, but in this category you’re better off buying an unlocked budget Android phone separately.

Google Fi

Google Fi, the company’s wireless service, resells the networks of T-Mobile and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular. It’s good for frequent international travelers—we like its rates and LTE roaming better than T-Mobile’s—but it offers full support only for Google’s Pixel and Nexus series of phones as well as some LG and Metro pcs customer service to pay bill models. Fi now offers limited support for some Samsung and OnePlus models and even some iPhones. But iPhone owners should know that getting texts from non-iPhones requires some fiddling around in settings; in addition, you don’t get iOS’s visual voicemail feature, and you can’t use a VPN. If your passport has dozens of stamps and your current or desired phone is on its list, though, Google Fi is worth a look.

Boost Mobile

The former Sprint subsidiary is now a Dish Network subsidiary—one part of the complicated approval architecture that allowed T-Mobile to engulf its competitor, and a change that’s supposed to lead to Dish spinning up an all-5G network. Boost had planned on reselling T-Mobile until it could launch its own network but is now readying a switch to AT&T, which means customers of Boost (and the other resellers Dish has bought, such as Ting and Republic Wireless) are in for some potentially drastic changes. To us, that doesn’t justify the relatively modest savings some of its plans offer.

Straight Talk

The Straight Talk prepaid brand of Tracfone, which is itself a subsidiary of the Mexican carrier América Móvil, is one of the most widely used prepaid services—thanks in part to its distribution through Walmart stores—and also does well in many customer surveys. It offers the advantage of reselling service from all three carriers, at the cost of your having to trust the company’s judgment about which network works best for you. But if you want service with mobile-hotspot use included, you won’t save that much over even postpaid service.

TracFone

The biggest prepaid brand in America and the corporate parent of Straight Talk—and, if things go as Verizon hopes, a soon-to-be Verizon property—TracFone has historically required smartphone customers to patch together a service bundle by buying separate buckets metro pcs customer service to pay bill data, voice, and text. Now it offers a few standard 30-day plans. At 3 GB, its $25 rate is fairly competitive, but its pricing doesn’t hold up in more intensive usage scenarios. And TracFone doesn’t help its cause by prohibiting mobile-hotspot use.

Verizon Prepaid

If you’d like to save some money with a prepaid or resold plan, Verizon Prepaid now offers the interesting wrinkle of rates that drop over time. So the starting price of $35 for its 5 GB plan drops to $30 after three months and $25 after nine; the $45 rate for 15 GB becomes $40 and then $35 in the same way. As with Verizon’s postpaid plans, you still get unlimited 2G data after you hit your plan’s data cap.

Visible

This Verizon brand—you’ll have to inspect its site closely to see confirmation of that corporate tie—offers only one plan, the $40 unlimited-on-phone Visible Plan. The mobile-hotspot limit here isn’t like any other carrier: Instead of capping how much data can go to that application, Visible limits your hotspot speed to 5 Mbps and allows only one device at a time. We like the creativity on display here; however, we’re not sure how many people need an unlimited-on-phone plan but see almost no need to share that bandwidth with other devices via mobile hotspot.

Sources

  1. Sascha Segan, Fastest Mobile Networks 2020, PCMag, September 9, 2020

  2. Ben Gottesman, Readers’ Choice Awards 2020: Smartphones, Carriers, and Mobile Operating Systems, PCMag, March 24, 2020

  3. Sue Marek, USA Mobile Network Experience Report January 2020, Opensignal, December 31, 2020

  4. Ian Fogg, USA 5G User Experience Report June 2020, Opensignal, June 30, 2020

  5. Sue Marek, USA Mobile Network Experience Report July 2020, Opensignal, July 13, 2020

  6. Dave Andersen, Review of the US Mobile Landscape 1H 2019: carrier performance at national, state, and metro levels, RootMetrics, July 15, 2019

  7. Dave Andersen, US State of the Mobile Union: carrier performance at pnc bank login for business, state, and metro levels 2H 2019, RootMetrics, January 27, 2020

  8. Wireless Carrier Investments in Self-Service Tools Drive Satisfaction and Revenue in Customer Care, J.D. Power Finds, J.D. Power, February 6, 2020

  9. Consumer Cellular Tops in Customer Satisfaction Among Wireless Carriers; Xfinity Mobile Makes Strong Debut, ACSI Data Show, American Customer Satisfaction Index, May 19, 2020

  10. WhistleOut

  11. Sascha Segan, Fastest Mobile Networks 2020, PCMag, September 9, 2020

About your guide

Rob Pegoraro
Источник: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-wireless-carrier/

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    MetroPCS is a prepaid wireless service. It is provided by T-Mobile US, Inc. The company is headquartered in Richardson, Texas, United States. MetroPCS was established in 1994 as General Wireless, Inc. It offers the following services: text, data, and nationwide talk. The company uses such networks as GPS, HSPA, HSPA+, 4G LTE. Available plans are as follows: 2GB (4G LTE Data), 3GB (4G LTE Data), Unlimited (4G LTE Data), and Unlimited (4G LTE Data +Hotspot). MetroPCS provides phones of such brands as Samsung, LG, HTS, Alcatel, and ZTE. There is also a large stock of accessories including keyboards, headsets, screen protectors, memory cards, and speakers.

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    • Our picks haven’t changed, but we’ve updated this guide with the latest data metrics and more information in the How we picked section.

    November 15, 2021

    If you haven’t looked at how your current bill compares with what it might be under a new plan or on a new service, you should check now. Despite the recent shift from four national carriers to three, and the transitions from 3G networks to 4G and now 5G, prices have gone down while data allocations have gone up, especially among the dozens of smaller carriers reselling services from the big three. But as always, most deals come with a catch.

    There may not be one carrier or plan we can recommend for everyone, but we have recommendations for some of the most common needs, and advice for anyone with more unusual requirements too.

    Why you should trust us

    I’ve covered the wireless industry since the late 1990s—my first guide to cell phone service, written in 1998, devoted much ink to comparing analog and digital cellular. I’ve tested smartphones and cell phone plans from all the major carriers—the historic foursome of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, plus Nextel before then—for the Washington Post, CNN Money, Discovery News, PCMag, VentureBeat, and others, and I now cover tech and telecom issues for Fast Company, USA Today, and other sites, including trade publications like Light Reading and FierceTelecom. And in July of 2021, I put in more than a thousand miles of drive testing from Baltimore to Atlanta for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Networks project.

    How we picked

    We limited this guide to the most widely used national options—starting with the three biggest nationwide carriers and their prepaid services and subsidiaries, and then adding services that have ranked high in surveys from sites such as PCMag, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and J.D. Power.

    We also chose to exclude contenders available only in parts of the US. That meant dismissing the regional carrier U.S. Cellular and the resold services of cable firms such as Comcast and Spectrum, which require subscriptions to their residential broadband to get their advertised pricing or to sign up at all. Last, we cut prepaid services that required separate purchases of data, texts, or voice minutes to meet any of our monthly usage quotas.

    That left us with the following services to assess:

    • AT&T Wireless, its prepaid program, and its prepaid brand Cricket Wireless
    • T-Mobile, its prepaid option, and its Metro by T-Mobile brand
    • Verizon Wireless, its prepaid offering, and its prepaid brand Visible
    • Boost Mobile, formerly a Sprint prepaid brand and now Dish Network’s T-Mobile reseller
    • Consumer Cellular, an AT&T and T-Mobile reseller
    • Google Fi, a Google service based on resold coverage from T-Mobile and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular
    • Mint Mobile, a T-Mobile reseller
    • Tracfone (which has agreed to a $6.25 billion acquisition by Verizon) and its Straight Talk brand, both of which resell all three networks but put you on whichever one they judge as best for you

    Data value

    For each, we computed the cost of three typical bundles of smartphone service: moderate use at 3 GB of data; a for-most-people scenario requiring unlimited data for the phone but with no more than 3 GB of mobile hotspot use; and a heavy-use case with unlimited on-phone data plus 10 GB of mobile hotspot use. These totals are higher than in past editions of this guide because typical data usage has gone up substantially. In August, NPD Group analyst Brad Akyuz told us that the firm’s research showed US median smartphone cellular data usage—not average, which can be skewed by extreme cases—had hit 13.9 GB per month.

    We no longer factor in included messages or voice minutes, because all of the services that qualify for inclusion now offer unmetered messaging and calling.

    Network reliability/speed

    A wireless network’s quality isn’t something you can assess in a single-letter grade: Coverage and performance usually vary considerably by location. They also change over time—as anybody who was using T-Mobile in 2011 and remains on that carrier today can attest. To try to get the most balanced picture possible of the big three carriers (and the services that resell their networks), we consulted independently conducted surveys of wireless network coverage and performance from Opensignal, PCMag and RootMetrics. We were less interested in exceptionally fast download speeds if the coverage to access those speeds was spotty; consistently good performance in the places where most people live, work, and visit was  a higher priority.

    Hotspot policy

    Our cost estimates assumed that anybody who wants to use their phone’s mobile-hotspot feature to share their LTE or 5G bandwidth for any sustained period would want to do so at its full speed, not cut back to 3G or worse, as some “unlimited” plans require. We also assumed that most people won’t use up more than 3 GB of data a month with this feature, as it can put a real dent in a phone’s battery, but we do have an intensive scenario that assumes up to 10 GB a month in smartphone use.

    Discount possibilities

    We also crunched these same numbers for shared-use plans for two and four lines, because so many of you have said you want to see your options for family pricing compared.

    If a plan offered a lower rate for enabling autopay or paying for a year in advance, or included loyalty discounts that cut your bill over time (a new feature at Verizon Prepaid as of summer 2020), we factored in those options. We did not, however, count deals that required trading in a phone or porting over a number.

    What else we don’t consider

    Because almost all US-market phones will work on any of the big three carriers, we paid no attention to the phones each carrier or service sells on its own site and in its own stores. Nor did we factor in the promotions that wireless services throw out for each new iPhone.

    Finally, we didn’t factor in taxes and regulatory fees because they vary by jurisdiction (in my case, with a legacy T-Mobile plan, for example, these fees added up to 7.4% of my October 2021 bill). But wherever you live, taxes and fees should hit you equally across all of your options—except for T-Mobile’s Magenta plan and the offerings at Boost and Visible, all of which include taxes in their advertised prices.

    Best for the most data: T-Mobile Magenta/Magenta Max

    If data is your priority—in the sense of having a fast network connection and being able to use that to download and upload in volume—you should consider the T-Mobile Magenta plan. T-Mobile’s primary unlimited data offering is more generous than those of its two rivals, and its rollout of 5G has made an already good network considerably better in a steadily expanding share of the country.

    Price alone should get your attention: Magenta costs $70 a month for unlimited on-phone data, with 100 GB of it prioritized. (After that, T-Mobile might slow your connection to make room for other customers’ connections, but whether you experience this depends on outside factors like how many customers are in one area and how busy the network is.) That’s double the allotment of comparable plans at AT&T and Verizon, which cost $5 and $10 more before the taxes and fees. T-Mobile folds those fees into the advertised rate. (Two lines of Magenta cost $60 each, and four run $35 each.) You don’t get as much data to use for mobile hotspot sharing, but the 5 GB included here is still a lot—and the unlimited 3G hotspot use that’s allowed above that gap will remain much more practical for basic connectivity than the 2G-level speeds AT&T and Verizon allow.

    All the data allotment in the world isn’t helpful if it’s too slow to use, but T-Mobile’s network has jumped ahead, in part because of its 5G frequencies. The mid-band spectrum that T-Mobile picked up when it bought Sprint has allowed it to deploy impressively fast 5G with much better coverage than the faster but far more fragile millimeter-wave 5G that AT&T and Verizon offer. And this mid-band 5G, which T-Mobile now markets as “Ultra Capacity 5G,” also provides much speedier service than the low-band 5G that fills out its network and constitutes the most widely available form of 5G among its competitors.

    Map of T-Mobile LTE data with portions of the map painted pink.

    Opensignal’s crowdsourced test results for T-Mobile, released in July of 2021, give T-Mobile a commanding lead among the big three for upload speeds and have T-Mobile behind AT&T but ahead of Verizon for download speeds. But that firm’s more recent, 5G-specific tests show a much bigger advantage for T-Mobile: average 5G download speeds of 118.7 Mbps, far above the 56 Mbps and 51.5 Mbps download averages at Verizon and AT&T. And you have much better odds of enjoying them, with 5G available 34.7% of the time—more than double the second-best figure of 16.4% at AT&T.

    Median 5G Download5G Availability
    T-Mobile135.1764.4%
    Verizon78.9434.3%
    AT&T72.4644.8%

    Ookla’s September 2021 report showed that T-Mobile’s 5G network was on the median faster and more available to its customers than the other two national carriers.

    Ookla’s Speedtest showed T-Mobile with sizable advantages in median 5G downloads, which were around 80% faster—as well as 5G availability, which was nearly double Verizon’s and around 50% more than AT&T’s network. When combining 4G and 5G speeds, T-Mobile’s lead held up by a narrower margin: 62.35 Mbps, compared with 47.42 Mbps and 39.91 Mbps at AT&T and Verizon.

    RootMetrics was not as complimentary in its latest State of the Mobile Union report, finding T-Mobile slower overall. But even that drive testing-based report, which has a history of finding slower T-Mobile performance than others, noted that the carrier’s “median download speed across the US increased by over 50% since the second half of 2020 (20.1 Mbps to 30.3 Mbps), and six of its seven US RootScores were above 90 (compared with two above 90 last time).”

    A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage by T-Mobile in the New York City area.

    Frequent travelers will find other bonuses in T-Mobile’s unlimited plan. Magenta includes international roaming, and although that’s limited to 128 Kbps speeds, I’ve found it to be more than adequate for email and basic browsing. You also get free texting, 25¢-per-minute calling, and the ability to use your phone in Canada or Mexico with no roaming charges, even for LTE. And it includes an hour of free Gogo inflight Wi-Fi for every flight on compatible aircraft.

    For users looking for the least limited 5G experience possible, T-Mobile’s Magenta Max includes unlimited priority data on the phone and a full 40 GB of mobile-hotspot data—$85 for one line, $70 each for two lines, $43 each for four lines. It also lifts the streaming resolution cap all the way to 4K UHD, provides unlimited Gogo inflight Wi-Fi on compatible planes and doubles the international data roaming to 256 Kbps.

    AT&T’s Unlimited Elite offers the same priority data, as well as mobile hotspot and streaming video provisions, but its $85 rate doesn’t include the taxes and fees wrapped into T-Mobile’s $85 rate. That carrier’s $75 Unlimited Extra is slightly cheaper even after taxes but only offers 50 GB of priority data and 15 GB of mobile hotspot. Both AT&T plans suffer from a 5G network that is almost all low-band signal with little advantage in speed.

    Flaws but not dealbreakers

    Coverage at Verizon and AT&T remains more comprehensive than T-Mobile’s—as I saw on country roads in the Southeast while doing drive testing for PCMag—but the past few years of improvement in T-Mobile’s network means you’ll have to get into fairly rural areas to notice this difference. You will have to decide if your likely travel patterns are more apt to make this an ongoing problem.

    Although T-Mobile’s international roaming costs much less than AT&T and Verizon’s international options, you may have to pay those charges if you buy your phone from T-Mobile on an installment payment plan, as this carrier keeps those handsets locked until you pay off your balance—or conclude the term on a free-upgrade deal such as those it’s offering on the iPhone 13.

    T-Mobile also has a history of data breaches, with its most recent and largest happening in August and affecting some 40 million customers. (I was among them. I thought about dropping T-Mobile, but the telecom industry’s general indifference to the concept of data minimization left me with little reason to think I’d fare that much better in the long run elsewhere.)

    Finally, T-Mobile offers fewer affinity and group discounts, instead limiting discounts to customers 55 years and older, military and veterans, and first responders.

    Coverage first: Verizon Wireless

    Verizon’s historic strength has been the reach of its network, and that remains an advantage for people who roam into the more rural reaches of the US, with multiple testing organizations giving it top marks again in 2021. While it isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, it is a sounder choice for people looking for maximum coverage.

    A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage by Verizon in the New York City area.

    If you need less data than typical, Verizon also offers two unlikely bargains: a 5 GB for $55 plan and a 10 GB for $65 option that each let you carry over unused data to the next month. (Those rates, listed on Verizon’s site under a shared-plans heading, require signing up for autopay using a checking account or debit card, which does preclude running up points on a travel rewards credit card.) Unlike Verizon’s cheapest unlimited on-phone data plan, called Start Unlimited,  both of these include full-speed mobile hotspot and allow HD streaming video, albeit capped at 720p resolution on phones and 1080p on tablets. They also include Verizon’s low-band 5G but not its fast but scarce millimeter-wave (mmWave) 5G—aka “Ultra Wideband”—which is not much of a loss given how unavailable mmWave 5G has been in our experience.

    Verizon offers less of a deal to subscribers looking for unlimited on-phone plans. The $70 Start Unlimited plan not only bans HD video streaming and mobile hotspot use, it may throttle your speeds “in times of congestion,” even at the start of a billing cycle before you’ve burned up any data yourself. And as with the 5 and 10 GB plans, it covers Verizon’s low-band 5G but not its mmWave 5G.

    Verizon’s Play More Unlimited and Do More Unlimited, both $80, add mmWave 5G and allot 50 GB of priority data, 15 GB of mobile hotspot (plus unlimited via mmWave 5G, if you can find it), and up to 720p streaming video on phones. Their differences only surface in the non-phone parts of each bundle; the latter swaps out a free bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for 600 GB of cloud storage and 50% off connected-device plans for hotspots, tablets, and smartwatches. Both represent a better value than Start Unlimited, but you can see how Verizon feels its coverage allows it to charge a premium.

    Map of Verizon LTE data with portions of the map painted orange.

    Finally, the company’s $90 Get More Unlimited plan doubles the hotspot quota to 30 GB, keeps the deprioritization threshold at 50 GB (meaning that at above that, they may slow your data to keep the network faster for other customers) and video streaming at 720p, and throws in Apple Music, the streaming-video bundle, the connected-device discount, and the cloud storage.

    Verizon also offers a Just Kids plan you can add to your own: $40 or less, when added to an unlimited plan (depending on how many other lines you have), gets unlimited data at 5 Mbps plus parental control and location tracking tools for you.

    Verizon offers discounts to employees and members of designated companies and organizations; only its military and veterans discount applies to unlimited plans. If you sign up for its Fios wired broadband, you can also qualify for a discount.

    Flaws but not dealbreakers

    The CDMA foundation of Verizon’s network—and Verizon’s decision to launch its 5G service on mmWave frequencies that go unused in many other markets—can also limit the compatibility of some unlocked phones. For example, the OnePlus Nord N200 5G, our pick for the best budget Android phone, is a 4G-only phone at Verizon—a shortfall that Verizon acknowledges via omission by calling the unlocked version of this phone that it sells on its own site the “OnePlus Nord N200.”

    Multiple-line plans: Metro or Consumer Cellular

    Due to constantly shifting promotions and terms, family plan pricing is difficult to sort through, and this time we have to split our recommendation for multiple-line service between two options. For two lines in our typical-usage scenario—unlimited on-phone data with 3 GB of mobile hotspot use—Consumer Cellular is an easy call.

    This reseller of AT&T and T-Mobile (5G included) consistently tops customer surveys such as PCMag’s annual survey and J.D. Power’s purchase-experience studies. And at $75 for two lines on its unlimited plan, Consumer Cellular also undercuts every provider. You will, however, need to ask to have mobile hotspot use enabled on your account—it’s blocked by default—before you can use as much of your 50 GB of priority data as you wish for tethering. You can get hotspot switched on via its phone support or, as I did with a family member’s phone, in its customer service chat online.

    Price for two lines with unlimited on-phone data plus 3 GB hotspot each

    Prices are current as of October 28, 2021.

    We also like that Consumer Cellular allows you to specify an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM, whereas prepaid carriers such as Tracfone determine that for you unless you buy a SIM card in person. As with other carriers, Consumer Cellular’s unlimited plan does have limits: After you use 50 GB combined between the lines, the service warns that “your access to high speed data will be reduced, and you may experience slower speeds.”

    For four lines, however, T-Mobile’s Metro by T-Mobile prepaid brand offers the cheapest deal in our typical usage scenario at $120. This includes T-Mobile’s strong 5G service but does have a relatively low priority data threshold of 35 GB, plus a fairly generous mobile hotspot allocation of 15 GB. Metro has done well in customer-satisfaction metrics; it placed second to Consumer Cellular in J.D. Power’s surveys and outranked T-Mobile itself in PCMag’s Reader’s Choice survey.

    Price for four lines with unlimited on-phone data plus 3 GB hotspot each

    Prices are current as of October 19, 2021.

    The cheapest plan: Mint Mobile

    If the lowest possible bill on a good-enough network is your top priority, we recommend Mint Mobile, a newer reseller of T-Mobile’s LTE and 5G network. It beats everybody else’s costs with a simple pricing tactic: It offers cheaper prices for longer terms, with the minimum being three months. When you sign up, you can choose 4 GB, 10 GB, 15 GB, or unlimited data per month and then pay up front for either three, six, or 12 months—the longer the package, the better the price per month.

    The first three months come at the cheapest price, which on the unlimited plan is just $30 a month, after which you can balance commitment and price: $40 a month on a three-month term, $35 on a six-month policy, or $30 for a year. The same math works for minimal usage: 4 GB per month costs $25 per month over a three-month term, or $15 per month on a full-year deal. You may find even lower prices from temporary promotions at Amazon and Best Buy, according to Mint customers on Reddit’s r/mintmobile subreddit.

    Mint’s unlimited plan deserves extra contemplation because it includes similar usage limits to other “unlimited” plans: a priority-data cap, 35 GB, a 5 GB cap on mobile-hotspot usage, and a 480p streaming-video limit. You can buy another 5 GB of hotspot data for $15—or you could save $5 by trading down to the 15 GB plan, which lets you use all of that data for mobile hotspot and has no streaming-video resolution constraint.

    Mobile
    hotspot
    Monthly cost
    on a 3-month term
    Annual
    cost
    Monthly cost on
    a 12-month term
    Annual
    cost
    15 GB15 GB$45$540$25$300
    Unlimited5 GB$40$480$30$360

    Prices current as of October 18, 2021; rates exclude new-customer discounts for the first three months.

    Mint does require some compromises, though. The company doesn’t focus on phone sales, so your best option is to bring your own unlocked device, and support is available only online or over the phone. In addition, your data slows to 128 Kbps after you hit your cap unless you upgrade your plan or switch to the unlimited plan, and international roaming quickly gets expensive at 20¢ a megabyte in most countries. And you face the risk of seeing your bandwidth deprioritized behind that of T-Mobile subscribers, especially when the network is busy.

    Mint Mobile’s reliability and customer service were unknown a year ago beyond generally positive word of mouth and the satisfactory experiences of some Wirecutter staffers, but in 2020 the service earned the fifth-highest ranking in PCMag’s Readers’ Choice survey and in 2021 climbed to third place. So if the above compromises aren’t dealbreakers for you, Mint can save you a lot of money over time.

    How to determine which network has the best coverage for you

    Selecting a network is the trickiest part of picking a plan. Coverage can vary from block to block or even building to building, so carrier coverage maps can be a good starting point only if you can zoom in to the street level—and even then they say nothing about how the network fares in busy areas. Opensignal, PCMag, and RootMetrics all publish independently sourced network-performance metrics, but those studies take different approaches and are thus good for different purposes. (When you’re consulting these metrics and a carrier’s own coverage maps for your local area, don’t forget to check a network’s coverage in frequent business or vacation destinations, too.)

    A map generated by RootMetrics showing cellular coverage in the New York City area.

    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—which, unlike its network scores, also folds in crowd-based estimates from users of its mobile apps—encompasses basically every major US city street and highway, as well as all of the towns and thoroughfares that connect them. You can also find reports tailored to specific metropolitan areas. This amount of detail makes RootMetrics a great source for gauging overall performance by region.

    A chart comparing speeds and reliability between AT&T 4G, Sprint 4G, T-Mobile 4G, and Verizon 4G.

    PCMag takes a similar approach but focuses more specifically on network data speed and reliability. The site tends to look more at metropolitan centers and their suburbs, with the testing in between mostly limited to roads—which, when I put in more than a thousand miles of driving for the project in July, were primarily two-lane rural roads at the request of editor Sascha Segan. PCMag also conducts its tests with the same model of high-end phone—this year, the Samsung Galaxy S21—that may support more high-speed frequencies than your own.

    Coverage data map for the New York City area, by Opensignal. Almost everywhere has good coverage (green) with some red and yellow dots signifying worse coverage.

    Opensignal has complete coverage data in densely populated areas like New York City.

    Opensignal map showing coverage in Berryville, VA. Coverage data is spotty.

    But it has spottier data in less dense, suburban areas such as Berryville, Virginia. This doesn't mean that you won't get cell service there, just that Opensignal can't tell you how strong your connection will be.

    Opensignal’s network tests rely on crowdsourcing: Anyone can download the Opensignal app and run tests. But the majority of people don’t, and as such, Opensignal’s data skews heavily toward densely populated, urban areas. In those regions, it has block-by-block information. If you live in a city, you can use Opensignal’s data to check all the spots you frequent.

    In August of 2021, the Federal Communications Commission rolled out its own reality check: a map of estimated LTE coverage, based on signal-propagation models applied to its own data of cell sites. While this only shows the presence of at least basic LTE service—5 Mbps downloads and just 1 Mbps uploads—in my own spot checking, it’s been more accurate than the carriers’ own coverage maps at warning of dead zones.

    How much data do you need?

    Once you’ve determined which network will work best for you, the next step is to figure out how much data you actually use—which may be much more than you expected if you haven’t checked that detail in months. We have seen both average and median data use roughly triple from the first quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021, going by NPD Group’s figures. The advent of faster 5G service only seems to be accelerating that trend: An Opensignal report posted in June of 2021 found that in the US, LTE users running that firm’s testing software averaged 9 GB a month, while those on 5G hit 14.9 GB a month.

    Both Android and iOS provide estimates of your current data use that can help if you’re trying to see which of your apps eats up the most data, but your carrier’s website will give you the number that counts for billing purposes. You’ll then need to take an educated guess at how far that number could rise in a year, then see which plans will cover that with a reasonable margin.

    Shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.

    Since so many services—in particular, the “postpaid” subscriptions of the major carriers—have either stopped selling older limited-data plans while adding cheaper unlimited-data plans, you’re increasingly likely to find that an unlimited plan works for you.

    But then you need to figure out just what sort of unlimited data you’ll be buying. All three carriers and their sub-brands and resellers have carved out restrictions on features such as priority data, hotspot use, and streaming video while adding premium tiers or paid add-ons that lift some of those limits. Shopping for wireless service can look a lot like buying a plane ticket: You can’t jump on the cheapest price you see, lest you wind up in Basic Economy.

    Among the Basic Economy, entry-level versions of unlimited data plans, AT&T’s $65 Unlimited Starter and Verizon’s $70 Start Unlimited provide no priority or premium data, meaning you’re at risk of “temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy,” as AT&T puts it—even if it’s the start of a billing period and you haven’t burned through any data yourself. Those AT&T and Verizon plans also ban hotspot use. T-Mobile’s entry-level Essentials, at $60, is more generous by allotting 50 GB of priority data and allowing hotspot use at previous-gen 3G speeds, although past Opensignal surveys rated its 3G downloads highest among all the major carriers. All three carriers cap the resolution of streaming video on their network at a DVD-grade 480p.

    If your usage only slightly exceeds the cap on a service’s limited-data plans—say you use 3.25 GB in a month and your carrier offers a 3 GB plan—you should see if that plan lets you roll over unused data from months when you don’t hit your maximum. Also, see if that service offers unmetered slow 2G service once you exhaust your high-speed data so your phone will still have basic (read: slower) internet access and you won’t get charged extra for going over your cap. These features may help you choose a less expensive plan.

    The big three, and many of the smaller services, offer two step-up tiers—one that provides more priority data and a limited allotment of full-speed mobile hotspot use, and a second, pricier plan with substantially more priority data and more mobile hotspot use, or more of both; higher-definition streaming may also be part of that upgrade.

    CostPlanPriority
    data
    Phone
    hotspot data
    Hotspot speed
    above data cap
    Streaming-video
    resolution
    AT&T$65Unlimited StarterNoneNonen/a480p
    AT&T$75Unlimited Extra50 GB15 GB128 Kbps480p
    AT&T$85Unlimited EliteUnlimited40 GB128 Kbps4K UHD
    T-Mobile$60Essentials50 GBUnlimited3G only480p
    T-Mobile$70Magenta100 GB5 GB3G only480p
    T-Mobile$85Magenta MaxUnlimited40 GB3G only4K UHD
    Verizon Wireless$70Start UnlimitedNoneNonen/a480p
    Verizon Wireless$80Play/Do More Unlimited50 GB15 GB600 Kbps720p
    Verizon Wireless$90Get More Unlimited50 GB30 GB600 Kbps720p

    Information current as of October 11, 2021. Data allotments on older plans may vary. T-Mobile 3G download speeds averaged 4.6 Mbps in Opensignal’s January 2020 report.

    If your usage remains sufficiently low, you should look past the apparent simplicity of unlimited plans to consider those with a manageable data-usage cap but fewer fine print rules on that data. Both AT&T and Verizon offer noteworthy deals in that category: AT&T’s 4 GB plan, $50 after autopay discounts, has no separate limit on hotspot use but still restricts streaming to 480p, while Verizon’s 5 GB shared-data plan, $55 after autopay, also includes hotspot use up to that line and allows 720p streaming. If you’re on a budget and don’t mind complications such as expensive international roaming and a lack of in-person support, Mint’s 4 GB, 10 GB and 15 GB plans offer even more substantial savings.

    As for talk and text amounts, all of the postpaid plans from the major carriers provide unlimited calling and messaging, so in theory you don’t even have to calculate those numbers. A shrinking number of prepaid and resold services offer cheaper rates if you’re willing to stay within certain limits. As with data usage, the best way to check your current texting and calling habits is to view your bill.

    The filters and search setting on the WhistleOut tool for comparing cell phone plans.

    If your usage doesn’t fall into our specific categories and you sometimes think in spreadsheets, you can do your own calculations using WhistleOut’s carrier-comparison tool. It even lets you filter by network—you can ask it for, say, only prepaid options that resell AT&T service—and location. But this comparison tool requires careful reading: Like Google searches, it shows sponsored results before organic ones. It also includes far more services than we cover here and shows not just plans with the required amount of data, minutes, and texts, but also those that exceed your needs, producing a cluttered presentation overall.

    Should you buy postpaid, prepaid, or resold service?

    If you want unlimited calls and texts, more attentive customer service, and phone financing through your carrier, you should stick with a traditional postpaid plan, where you get a bill for service after you use it. Postpaid costs a bit more and requires decent credit to qualify, but it offers you every phone the carrier sells, usually with no-interest financing, and the service you get should match what you see in the carrier’s ads.

    However, switching to prepaid, where you pay for service before you use it, can be an easy way to save $10 to $20 a month or more. Many prepaid services are provided by smaller companies that simply resell service from one of the big carriers, so they offer coverage similar to that of the major carriers at a lower price. But for resellers to undersell the major carriers while using the same networks, they need to make some trade-offs; similarly, the major carriers’ own prepaid plans tend to involve restrictions that their postpaid plans lack. We don’t recommend switching to prepaid unless you meet most of these criteria:

    • You don’t mind buying your own phone separately, since prepaid carriers’ phone selections are often poor (and some carriers don’t offer phones at all).
    • You’re okay with potentially being on your own if you have to work through service hiccups or tech-support travails. Retail support may not be an option, and phone or online support may be limited.
    • You’re comfortable relying on prepaid SIM cards while traveling abroad.
    • You’re willing to read the fine print. As analyst Jeffrey Moore advised us, data roaming, and sometimes even voice roaming, may not be included in some prepaid plans. These plans may also omit Wi-Fi calling, one common way to get around holes in coverage.

    Switching to prepaid, where you pay for service before you use it, can be an easy way to save $10 to $20 a month or more.

    Some carriers throttle prepaid service to a lower speed by default, as AT&T did until October 2021 with some Cricket plans. Others prioritize their own customers over third-party prepaid traffic, as happens with the Metro by T-Mobile subsidiary. A T-Mobile spokesperson confirmed that policy, saying that although the service for postpaid plans and prepaid plans have the same priority, Metro by T-Mobile and other resellers “may notice slower speeds in times of network congestion.” Aron North, chief marketing officer at Mint’s then-parent firm Ultra Mobile, confirmed in an email in 2019 that “at times where there is network congestion” Mint may be “reprioritized.” That remained in effect in 2020.

    The wireless services some cable operators offer, based on resold network capacity from one of the big three carriers, represent their own special case. They offer some serious bargains but also require you to use that cable firm’s broadband to get the advertised pricing.

    For example, Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile starts at 1 GB for $15 a month, with 10 GB costing just $60, or “unlimited” service going for $45 but with mobile hotspot use clamped down to a useless 600 Kbps—oh, and after 20 GB of that allegedly unlimited service—your download speeds get throttled back to 1.5 Mbps. You also have to keep Comcast’s Xfinity internet, TV, or voice service, otherwise you’ll owe another $25 per line.

    Spectrum Mobile is a little better, since its $45 unlimited plan includes 5 GB of full-speed hotspot—but it cuts your speeds even more sharply after 20 GB, with downloads limited to 1 Mbps and uploads to just 512 Kbps. Keeping this service after dropping Spectrum’s cable internet will cost an extra $20 a month.

    If you’re looking to save money on smartphone service by getting resold service from your cable operator but are also considering dropping your cable operator’s broadband, understand that these wireless plans are best understood as a customer-retention tool.

    What to look forward to

    As all three carriers continue to build out their 5G networks, AT&T and Verizon are also rushing to get their own mid-band 5G spectrum into service, using the “C-band” frequencies purchased at FCC-run spectrum auctions. That should do a lot to make 5G a more even fight among the three, although we’ll have to see if the slightly higher frequencies of C-band 5G (around 3.5 GHz) will result in shorter range than what T-Mobile can deliver over its 2.5 GHz mid-band 5G. AT&T and Verizon also continue to build out millimeter-wave 5G, but in practice that continues to exhibit such severe coverage limits that we doubt it will be worth factoring into a sign-up decision.

    AT&T and Verizon also have yet to deploy “standalone” 5G, a network upgrade in which cell sites can connect directly to compatible phones without needing a 4G connection to set up that 5G link. T-Mobile began rolling out its own standalone 5G in 2020.

    After some lag for phone manufacturers to ship phones that support all these different flavors of 5G, you now have much less of a concern except for millimeter-wave support. Some cheaper models omit that—but we don’t think you should let that hold up a purchase of an otherwise appealing phone.

    Meanwhile, services keep trying to make themselves harder to leave in various ways beyond installment payment plans; for example, the aggressive discounts on the iPhone 13 from the big three all took the form of two- or even three-year installment payments zeroed out, except that subscribers who leave early have to pay back the remaining price without that discount. Free-with-your-plan media bonuses like a subscription to HBO Max or extra storage through Google One can save you money on services you were going to pay for anyway—but also make it harder for you to leave the service.

    The competition

    AT&T

    AT&T, now the third-largest carrier, offers a strong GSM network that’s yet to get 5G service to match. Though this carrier’s low-band 5G offers impressive scope, it’s not that much faster than its LTE and sometimes runs slower; the millimeter-wave 5G that it markets as “5G+,” meanwhile, is even scarcer than Verizon’s mmWave service.

    Among its plans for unlimited on-phone data, AT&T’s $75 Unlimited Extra offers the best value, with 50 GB of priority data, 15 GB of hotspot use, and SD video for $5 less than Verizon’s Play More and Do More unlimited rates. But that’s also $5 more than the price for T-Mobile’s unlimited with-hotspot plan—before the taxes and fees that T-Mobile folds into its rate. And we don’t think anyone should get AT&T’s Unlimited Starter option, which costs $65 per month and has no hotspot allowance.

    Like Verizon, AT&T requires automatic payments for you to get its advertised prices, though you can use a credit card. AT&T also disqualifies all of its discounts except its military and veterans deal from that plan.

    Buying your phone on AT&T’s installment plan brings an extra risk: Until you’ve paid off the phone, the device will be locked and stuck with international-roaming charges of $10 a day in most countries—and unavailable to use with a different service if you want to leave AT&T early.

    AT&T’s self-branded prepaid service can represent a good deal for people who don’t need much data, but in any unlimited data context it’s scarcely cheaper than the carrier’s postpaid plans—and across four lines in our typical data usage scenario, it’s 25% more expensive. Note that outside of Canada and Mexico, these prepaid plans offer no international roaming data options.

    Cricket Wireless

    Cricket Wireless, AT&T’s prepaid brand, outranks its corporate mothership in customer satisfaction surveys and offers much cheaper choices if you don’t need a lot of data and extras like international roaming options. But unlike Mint, Cricket only includes mobile hotspot use on its most expensive offering (although the allocation there is a fairly generous 15 GB). Cricket’s own selection of phones for sale is not too impressive, but in this category you’re better off buying an unlocked budget Android phone separately.

    Google Fi

    Google Fi, the company’s wireless service, resells the networks of T-Mobile and the regional carrier U.S. Cellular. It’s good for frequent international travelers—we like its rates and LTE roaming better than T-Mobile’s—but it offers full support only for Google’s Pixel and Nexus series of phones as well as some LG and Motorola models. Fi now offers limited support for some Samsung and OnePlus models and even some iPhones. But iPhone owners should know that getting texts from non-iPhones requires some fiddling around in settings; in addition, you don’t get iOS’s visual voicemail feature, and you can’t use a VPN. If your passport has dozens of stamps and your current or desired phone is on its list, though, Google Fi is worth a look.

    Boost Mobile

    The former Sprint subsidiary is now a Dish Network subsidiary—one part of the complicated approval architecture that allowed T-Mobile to engulf its competitor, and a change that’s supposed to lead to Dish spinning up an all-5G network. Boost had planned on reselling T-Mobile until it could launch its own network but is now readying a switch to AT&T, which means customers of Boost (and the other resellers Dish has bought, such as Ting and Republic Wireless) are in for some potentially drastic changes. To us, that doesn’t justify the relatively modest savings some of its plans offer.

    Straight Talk

    The Straight Talk prepaid brand of Tracfone, which is itself a subsidiary of the Mexican carrier América Móvil, is one of the most widely used prepaid services—thanks in part to its distribution through Walmart stores—and also does well in many customer surveys. It offers the advantage of reselling service from all three carriers, at the cost of your having to trust the company’s judgment about which network works best for you. But if you want service with mobile-hotspot use included, you won’t save that much over even postpaid service.

    TracFone

    The biggest prepaid brand in America and the corporate parent of Straight Talk—and, if things go as Verizon hopes, a soon-to-be Verizon property—TracFone has historically required smartphone customers to patch together a service bundle by buying separate buckets of data, voice, and text. Now it offers a few standard 30-day plans. At 3 GB, its $25 rate is fairly competitive, but its pricing doesn’t hold up in more intensive usage scenarios. And TracFone doesn’t help its cause by prohibiting mobile-hotspot use.

    Verizon Prepaid

    If you’d like to save some money with a prepaid or resold plan, Verizon Prepaid now offers the interesting wrinkle of rates that drop over time. So the starting price of $35 for its 5 GB plan drops to $30 after three months and $25 after nine; the $45 rate for 15 GB becomes $40 and then $35 in the same way. As with Verizon’s postpaid plans, you still get unlimited 2G data after you hit your plan’s data cap.

    Visible

    This Verizon brand—you’ll have to inspect its site closely to see confirmation of that corporate tie—offers only one plan, the $40 unlimited-on-phone Visible Plan. The mobile-hotspot limit here isn’t like any other carrier: Instead of capping how much data can go to that application, Visible limits your hotspot speed to 5 Mbps and allows only one device at a time. We like the creativity on display here; however, we’re not sure how many people need an unlimited-on-phone plan but see almost no need to share that bandwidth with other devices via mobile hotspot.

    Sources

    1. Sascha Segan, Fastest Mobile Networks 2020, PCMag, September 9, 2020

    2. Ben Gottesman, Readers’ Choice Awards 2020: Smartphones, Carriers, and Mobile Operating Systems, PCMag, March 24, 2020

    3. Sue Marek, USA Mobile Network Experience Report January 2020, Opensignal, December 31, 2020

    4. Ian Fogg, USA 5G User Experience Report June 2020, Opensignal, June 30, 2020

    5. Sue Marek, USA Mobile Network Experience Report July 2020, Opensignal, July 13, 2020

    6. Dave Andersen, Review of the US Mobile Landscape 1H 2019: carrier performance at national, state, and metro levels, RootMetrics, July 15, 2019

    7. Dave Andersen, US State of the Mobile Union: carrier performance at national, state, and metro levels 2H 2019, RootMetrics, January 27, 2020

    8. Wireless Carrier Investments in Self-Service Tools Drive Satisfaction and Revenue in Customer Care, J.D. Power Finds, J.D. Power, February 6, 2020

    9. Consumer Cellular Tops in Customer Satisfaction Among Wireless Carriers; Xfinity Mobile Makes Strong Debut, ACSI Data Show, American Customer Satisfaction Index, May 19, 2020

    10. WhistleOut

    11. Sascha Segan, Fastest Mobile Networks 2020, PCMag, September 9, 2020

    About your guide

    Rob Pegoraro
    Источник: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-wireless-carrier/

    Contact MetroPCS Customer Service

    MetroPCS Phone Numbers and Emails

    Customer Service:

    • (866) 862-3397

      Premium Handset Protection

    • (888) 863-8768

    Legal:

    • (425) 383-4000

      Copyright Infringement Inquiries

    MetroPCS Emails:

    Legal

    Copyright Infringement Inquiries, Privacy Inquiries

    Media

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    MetroPCS Contact Information

    Corporate Office Address:

    T-Mobile USA, Inc.

    PO Box 601119

    Dallas,Texas75360

    United States

    Other Info (opening hours):

    Mailing Address

    Payments

    Metro by T-Mobile

    PO Box 5119

    Carol Stream, IL 60197-5119, US

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    MetroPCS Rating Based on 757 Reviews

    Rating details

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    All 1.5K MetroPCS reviews

    Summary of MetroPCS Customer Service Calls

    23.9K TOTAL
    CALLS

    05:56 AVG CALL
    DURATION

    11% ISSUES
    RESOLVED

    Top Reasons of Customers Calls

    Consumers Call the Most From

    Why Do People Call MetroPCS Customer Service?

    Payments and Charges Question:

    • “Pay my phone bill”
    • “Pay bill”
    • “To see is my bill paid”

    Product/ Service Question:

    • “Network unlock code”
    • “Get mobile hotspot working”
    • “My diveces and s not working”

    Request for Information Question:

    • “How can I get my account number?”
    • “Can i pay more than one month at a time”
    • “Need help with metro app”

    Staff Question:

    • “No service”
    • “Check service”
    • “My phone keeps telling me that my service provider has temporarily cut my voice service off”

    Account Question:

    • “I need my account number”
    • “Account”
    • “Sim hacked again”

    Activation/ Cancellation Question:

    • “Cancel account”
    • “I need to deactivate a phone it was stolen”
    • “Cancellation of service”

    Cards Question:

    • “Need new sim card”
    • “Need my pin number”
    • “Switch sim card to a new phone”

    Return/ Replace Question:

    • “Replacement phone”
    • “Change”
    • “To get my phone replaced”

    Shipping and Delivery Question:

    • “To see if I get the call logs on account”
    • “Have not received my replacement phone yet”
    • “Phone not coming on”

    Refund Question:

    • “Refund”
    • “Need a refunded not happy”
    • “Refund on my bill”

    Employment Question:

    • “I need to switch phone because my screen is cracked too bad and it's not functioning properly. I don't have the money to switch at a store cause I don't get paid for two weeks. So could you please be so kind as to wave this fee and switch my phone”
    • “Pay stubs”
    • “My phone is off and i font get paid until friday”

    Website/ Application Question:

    • “Ebb sitee of metro app does not work”
    • “Application”
    • “Stores refuse to sell a nationally advertised phone for price stated on metro pcs website”

    Other Question:

    • “Pagar lines”
    • “I locked my self out of my phone”
    • “Phone”

    About

    Top MetroPCS Services

    Phone Service, Customer Care, Phone Plan

    Top MetroPCS Products

    Account, Warranty, Website

    MetroPCS Pros and Cons

    Pros: I used to like your company, Price, Phone promotions, No contract, But i am done

    Cons: Customer service, Service, Unprofessional service, Unable to use cell phone, Metro pcs

    Related Companies

    TMobile, Sprint, Assurance Wireless, Metro by TMobile, Clear Internet

    Summary

    MetroPCS is a prepaid wireless service. It is provided by T-Mobile US, Inc. The company is headquartered in Richardson, Texas, United States. MetroPCS was established in 1994 as General Wireless, Inc. It offers the following services: text, data, and nationwide talk. The company uses such networks as GPS, HSPA, HSPA+, 4G LTE. Available plans are as follows: 2GB (4G LTE Data), 3GB (4G LTE Data), Unlimited (4G LTE Data), and Unlimited (4G LTE Data +Hotspot). MetroPCS provides phones of such brands as Samsung, LG, HTS, Alcatel, and ZTE. There is also a large stock of accessories including keyboards, headsets, screen protectors, memory cards, and speakers.

    MetroPCS reviews and complaints

    MetroPCS is ranked 185 out of 1707 in Telecommunications category

    Payment Methods

    VISA

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    Источник: https://metropcs.pissedconsumer.com/customer-service.html

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