The wireless industry has seen quite a bit of competition in recent years. Which is great for the consumers, any competition is great for consumers actually. But with each carrier doing something slightly different, it can be confusing as to who's doing what, and which carrier is actually cheaper. So each month we do a round up of plans on the big four US carriers and see which ones are the cheapest. Of course, it's always important to look at coverage before making any choices. What's the point in saving a few bucks if you can't make a phone call at home or at work?
AT&T's Mobile Share Plans are basically all they have now. Having said that, we are looking at family plans together with single line plans. For Family plans we'll be looking at the 10GB data bucket. So with 4 lines at $40 each, and 10GB of data at $100, that equals about $260 per month for four lines. Since AT&T doesn't have an 8GB plan, it's kinda tough to really compare it to Verizon. For a single line, it'll be $40 for the line, and then $40 for 3GB of data. Which means you're paying $80/month.
Switching to off-contract, or no contract. If you do AT&T Next or off-contract, it'll be $25/month on the 300MB-6GB plans and $15/month on the 10GB+ plans. So let's go with 3GB here. That'll be $25/month for the line and $40 for the data, coming out to $65.
Sprint has some interesting plans. For family plans there's the Family Share plan. Which you can get 4 lines, with 20GB of data and unlimited talk and text for $100/month. That's actually a really good deal, considering what other carriers charge.
When we go to single line plans, Sprint offers unlimited everything for $60/month (but hang on, if you buy an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus it'll be $50/month).
On Prepaid, Sprint has a ton of options for you. But we'll leave Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile out. For $35/month you can get 1GB of data, $45/month gets you 3GB of data and $55/month gets you 6GB of data. No throttling here, you are basically cut off when you hit your cap.
Sprint has also added International Value Roaming pass. It's similar to what T-Mobile has. Basically, you can now roam in select countries for free. Although you aren't getting high-speed data, you are limited to Edge. But it is free. This is only available for postpaid, so those on prepaid like Virgin Mobile or Boost Mobile, it won't be offered. There's also Sprint Easy pay where you will be paying for your device over the course of two years, instead of signing a contract for a new smartphone at $199.
With T-Mobile, you can customize your family plan a bit more than the others. With AT&T and Verizon we did 8-10GB of data, so we'll do that with T-Mobile as well as compare it to the 20GB that Sprint has. For 4 lines and 10GB of data (that's 2.5GB for each line) that comes out to $100/month. But you also have to include the price you're paying per month for your phone. Which can be as high as $27, so with phones included, it could be as expensive as $200/month. For 20GB of data, we're looking at $180, plus around $100 for the EIP on smartphones, so that's about $280/month.
Single lines at T-Mobile are pretty straight forward, compared to the others. You've got your EIP which can be as high as $27 each month. Then you can get 1GB of data for just $50, 3GB for $60, 5GB for $70 or unlimited for $80. So if you want truly unlimited, you're looking at about $107.
For prepaid, we're looking at 1GB for $40/month, 3GB for $50/month and 5GB for $60/month. Unfortunately, T-Mobile's $30 plan is being phased out. That consisted of 100 minutes, unlimited text and 5GB of high-speed data. Now this is prepaid so you're buying your phone at full price, which means no EIP.
With Verizon's family plans, you are paying $40 for each smartphone, and $10 for each tablet, just to connect to their network. We'll look at their 8GB plan, that's $85, on top of the monthly access fee. So if you have 4 smartphones and 8GB of data, that works out to about $245/month. With Edge you can get $25 off per line, but you are also paying extra for your phone as you're essentially leasing it. So it doesn't really work out any cheaper. And in some cases it's actually more.
On the single line side, you can get 2GB of data for just $75, or 1GB for $60. With Edge, it'll be $15 off, but similar to the family plan, that doesn't always make it cheaper. So it's important to do your math first, as different devices will cost different prices per month.
With Verizon prepaid your options aren't all that great. They only offer one plan and that's $45/month for unlimited talk and text along with 1GB of data.
Comparing them all
Before you even look at plans, it's important to check out coverage for all four carriers and see who has the best coverage in your area, or where you travel often. Once you've got that narrowed down, now look at plans. You don't want to choose a plan only to find out that the carrier doesn't have adequate coverage in your area. Not a good thing.