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Which Cell Phone Company Pays The Best
Before you switch wireless services, you should make sure you have the answers to these questions.
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Eli Blumenthal is managing editor and focuses on breaking news coverage in the ever-changing worlds of electronic communications, streaming and sports. He previously served as a technology reporter for USA Today.
Switching wireless providers isn’t easy. While there are three major networks in the United States, the actual number of wireless carriers and plans is significantly higher. Sifting through this big and confusing mess can be overwhelming, but we want to help make the process a little easier. How to choose a phone plan in 2023.
There are three main networks in the United States: AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon. All three offer direct services and have strong national networks offering 4G LTE (fast) and 5G (very fast) data.
The most important aspect of choosing a network is finding one that works in your area. This makes it difficult to make a general recommendation about any carrier. For example, T-Mobile service in New York might be great, but if you’re in Iowa, Verizon is more reliable.
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While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are constantly expanding and improving, especially as the big three continue to push to cover the US with 5G. You may have left the network a decade ago complaining about its fragmented service, but now it’s in a booming arms race to acquire customers.
If you know friends or family members in your area who use the carrier you’re considering, ask about their experience. You can also go to a carrier store and see if they offer free ways to try the service before switching, like T-Mobile Netpassa, which lets you try T-Mobile service for free for three months. Verizonnow offers a similar 30-day “trial” program, while prepaid service Cricket has introduced its own trial offer that lets you try AT&T’s main network.
Then, of course, there are the plans themselves. Below is a comparison of the latest plans from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. In this chart, we’ve focused on each carrier’s cheapest plan, as well as the corresponding “mid-range” options that might make the most sense to most people.
It’s worth noting that some plans, like T-Mobile’s Magenta and Verizon’s Play More, include streaming benefits like Netflix or Disney Bundles (Disney Plus, ESPN Plus, and Hulu).
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Plus, Verizon Play More and AT&T Unlimited Extra don’t require you to have all lines on the same plan, so if only one of your family plans needs extra network data, you can switch the rest to cheaper options and save some money. (You just need a line in your account to be on Verizon Play More so you can take advantage of Disney benefits.)
If you’re looking for more lines and the lowest price on T-Mobile, it’s best to use the regular Essentials plan. The carrier’s promotion is offering it for $100 a month for four destinations, which is $20 a month less than the Base Essentials option.
Visible, Google Fi, and Mint Mobile are just a few of the many MVNOs relying on larger networks. Sara Tew
While AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon operate the major networks, there are several smaller wireless carriers that provide service over their airwaves. First, there are prepaid brands that belong to each performer. Verizon has Visible, AT&T has Cricket, and T-Mobile has Metro (and soon Mint Mobile). Everyone uses their parents’ respective networks for services.
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Smaller players also rely on larger networks for services. For example, Mint Mobile and Google Fi use T-Mobile’s network, while cable companies Comcast and Spectrum rely on Verizon for their Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile brands.
Dish-owned Boost Mobile will use a combination of T-Mobile and AT&T, while Dish will build its own 5G network. Dish recently started offering their own service to compete with major carriers, called Boost Infinite. It’s still in beta ahead of its full release later this year.
The advantage of these smaller operators, many of which are known as mobile network operators or MVNOs, is that you can use the service of a larger operator at a lower cost. If you’ve found that Verizon works best where you live, but its service is too expensive, switching to Visible, Spectrum Mobile, or Xfinity Mobile will allow you to maintain similar coverage and pay a little less (although you may miss out on other perks like free). . . streaming services).
We’ve explained some of these providers, including which providers use which networks, and a few things you might want to keep in mind.
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Getting a new iPhone at a steep discount from a carrier often takes a lot of effort. Patrick Holland/
Two-year contracts have virtually disappeared from the US wireless market. Unfortunately, they now seem to have been replaced by increasingly lengthy payment plans.
AT&T and Verizon now only offer 36-month payment plans for the latest devices from Apple, Google and Samsung. T-Mobile still has a 24-month option, but more expensive devices like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 require a 36-month plan if you want to fund them monthly.
With these longer timelines, you can get a flagship phone for a lot less, but you’ll need to stick with that carrier (and possibly a more expensive unlimited plan) for two to three years. If you leave before this time, you risk paying your phone bill, which some providers require first to “unlock” your device for use on other networks.
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Major airlines often offer a few hundred dollars when you change, which helps subsidize the cost of the change. However, before you leave, you’ll want to check your account online or visit your carrier’s store to see how much you can borrow from your phone.
Upgrading phones and networks means your current phone can work just fine on a new carrier. All major wireless carriers offer a similar selection of the latest devices, especially when it comes to the iPhone and Galaxy lines.
To get the most out of any Switch, you’ll want to use this opportunity to upgrade your device, especially if it’s a few years old and lacks modern features like 5G. There are often additional offers when you add or open a new line to pay for a payment plan or upgrade to a better device.
If you’d rather keep what you have, your current device will work fine if it’s unlocked from your previous provider.
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Keep in mind that all carriers offer additional savings that you may be eligible for based on your employer, military status, student status, or even your age. If you have a family plan, one of your family members may be eligible to join.
First responders, military personnel, veterans, nurse practitioners and teachers, in particular, can receive discounts from all major carriers. Verizon offers student discounts, but T-Mobile’s work benefits can cut its Magenta Max plan by $10 a month, and AT&T offers a similar program for its Unlimited Premium and Elite plans, which it calls Signature.
If you’re 55 or older, you can also get a discount plan: T-Mobile offers a national discount plan for up to $55 a month for two lines, while Verizon and AT&T offer similar options, but only for Florida residents.
If you switch, you can save money or lower your current rate slightly and avoid the hassle of switching providers.
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Many major operators reap benefits for using their premium unlimited plans, especially streaming services. Verizon offers the Disney bundle (Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus) for those with unlimited Play More and Get More plans, and T-Mobile offers versions of Netflix with its Magenta and Magenta Max offerings. It will also include an Apple TV Plus subscription. Magenta with Max.
Prepaid and smaller carriers like Cricket (HBO Max with ads) and US Mobile (many options) also offer perks with their unlimited plans.
Additionally, some Verizon plans (like the Get More option) include Apple Music, while T-Mobile’s Magenta and Magenta Max also offer in-flight Wi-Fi and unlimited data abroad. T-Mobile’s Metro offers 100GB of Google One storage, and AT&T is offering six months of free games with an extended trial of Nvidia GeForce Ultimate.
If you’re already paying for one or more of these subscriptions, switching to the right provider can save you even more money. We independently review everything we recommend. When you shop through our links,
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