Carriers like to change their plans every so often, and use new buzz words to get their customers in and spending more money. Some of them are quite confusing. So let's take a look at their four major US carriers and see if we can make sense of them all.
For the most part, AT&T's plans have remained the same. You can choose to do AT&T Next and upgrade sooner, or stick with the same-old contract. If you choose to sign a contract, you'll be paying $40 for that device to use your data, which is going to be $40 for 3GB of data. Or $80 total. That's before taxes and fees that are accessed monthly. If you choose AT&T Next, it's going to cost you $25 to access the data, so that's $65 total. But with AT&T Next you are paying for your device each month, and that fee can be upwards of around $35 per month on top of that.
Sprint has been changing their plans a lot lately. Their latest plan is their All-In Plan. It gives you unlimited talk, text and data for $80. It is only available for a few smartphones, mostly the flagships, including the Galaxy Note 5 and HTC One M9. This is a lease, so when you decide to upgrade, you'll need to turn that phone in as well. There is another option, with Easy Pay. You get unlimited everything for $60 with Easy Pay, plus up to another $30 for the device you buy. That cost depends on the device that you are buying, however.
Over at T-Mobile, their plans are pretty easy to learn and not too confusing, compared to the competition. You can get unlimited talk and text with 1GB of LTE data (throttled after) for $50. Or 3GB for $60, 5GB for $70 or truly unlimited for $80 per month. Much like the others here, you also are going to be paying separately for your phone. Depending on what phone you get, that can be an extra $30-35 per month. So for the 3GB plan (as that's the example we used in the Verizon and AT&T sections) that would cost you about $90 before taxes.
With these postpaid plans, you also get all kinds of other perks that T-Mobile have. Including Mobile Without Borders, Music Freedom and many more. These are not available on their prepaid plans. T-Mobile also just announced a new Coverage guarantee. Basically saying that you will love their network, or your money back. A pretty strong claim from T-Mobile, and definitely something everyone should take them up on.
As of last month, Verizon got rid of contracts, and is going the financing route. The company also moved to just five data plans. Now contracts are gone and so are subsidies. Basically, you're going to either be paying full price for your phone upfront, or paying it off every month over the course of two years. Verizon has kept the fee for each device to use your data pool. Smartphones will cost $20, while tablets, jetpacks and other devices will cost you $10 per month. On top of that, Verizon has changed their data plans to Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large, and Extra Extra Large. The small data bucket is 1GB for $30, medium at 3GB for $45, Large is 6GB at $60, extra large is 12GB for $80, and the new XXL plan is 18GB of data for $100 per month. The new XXL plan was announced on September 9th.
So just some simple math here. Most flagships are going to run you about $20-30 per month to pay for the actual phone. So if we pick up the medium data plan, that's going to be around $85-95 per month.
As always, it's important to check the coverage of each carrier for where you are, and where you'll be traveling too. So if you are looking at switching carriers, it's a good idea to check out their coverage. You'd have to switch to a new carrier that doesn't have coverage where you live or work or both. Because you'd be paying for service that you can't use. A good tool to use is Sensorly, as their coverage maps are unbiased and crowdsourced.