The United States has four "national" wireless carriers. There's Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint. The plans from all four of them are roughly the same, but with their marketing lingo, it's tough to tell which one is actually giving you the best value for your money. So let's break down both individual and family plans for all four carriers.
Sprint hasn't been having a great past few years, but they are still eyeing a turn around. And part of that is dropping their prices pretty low. Their plans start at just $20/month which nets you 1GB of data. For $30 you'll get 3GB, $45 for 6GB, $60 for 12GB and so on. These plans all include unlimited talk and text, and once you hit your data limit, your speeds will be slowed. There are four ways to buy your smartphone, which is where things get tricky. There are 2-year contracts, full price and 24-monthly installments. Some smartphones can also be leased.
When it comes to family plans, the prices are the same. As these plans are data buckets and all the devices on your account will use that data. Adding a line will cost you $20/month just to use that data. So for instance, if you get the 12GB plan, you'll be paying $60 for the data and $20 per line (that's $100 total). So a family of four on the 12GB plan would be paying $140, not that bad of a price when you think about it, but still fairly confusing. Don't forget that you still need to add in the cost of your phone, unless you buy it outright. The LG G5 costs $24/month on Sprint, so a family of four with four LG G5's would be paying $266/month for 12GB of data. While a single line with 3GB of data would cost you $54 per month.
T-Mobile's plans are a bit easier to decipher. Number one, they don't charge you monthly access fees for each line on your account. You can buy smartphones either outright through T-Mobile, or on a payment plan. We'll use the LG G5 here for our example again. The LG G5 costs $26.25 per month on T-Mobile.
Now when it comes to their plans, they offer four postpaid plans. You can get 2GB for $50, 6GB for $65, 10GB for $80 or unlimited high-speed data for $90. These plans all include talk and text, and once you hit your data cap, your speeds will be reduced. For someone on the 2GB plan, that would cost them $76.25 per month, if you need 6GB, that would be $91.25 per month.
When it comes to family plans, they are still pretty simple. A family of four can get 6GB for each line – no data buckets here, each line gets their own data limit – it would cost you $160 per month. Remember there are no monthly access fees, so the only other fees you need to factor in are the cost of your phones. And if you buy them outright, then $160 is your final price. But if you put four LG G5's on this plan, it'll end up costing you $265 per month. Pretty comparable to what Sprint offers, but you get double the data.
Unlike T-Mobile, AT&T does charge monthly access fees for devices. Smartphones are going to cost you $25 per line per month on plans under 5GB, those over 15GB will drop to $15 per line and per month. The LG G5 will cost you $22.97 per month on AT&T Next here, remember that you can also buy the phone outright, if you'd like.
For individual plans, AT&T has quite a few options available. With data plans starting as low as 300MB and that goes all the way up to unlimited data. Their 5GB plan would cost you $50 per month, and adding a LG G5 on that plan would cost you $97.97 per month. While the 15GB plan would cost you $100 for the data, with the total cost being $137.97 with an LG G5.
When it comes to family plans, we'll take a look at the 25GB plan, which will cost you $175 per month. Keep in mind that you do still need to add on the monthly access fee of $15 for each line. So a family of four with the LG G5, would end up paying $326.88 per month. Quite a bit more than T-Mobile and Sprint, but AT&T does also – statistically – have a better network.
Verizon's plans are pretty simple to decipher as well, not quite on T-Mobile's level, but close. They currently have just one plan, which is named "The Verizon Plan". This plan gives you five options, and all of them include unlimited talk and text. Verizon offers 1GB for $30, 3GB for $45, 6GB for $60, 12GB for $80 and finally 18GB for $100. Pretty similar to what Sprint offers, actually. Monthly access fees per line are $20. Smartphones on Verizon can be bought either through Verizon Edge or outright. Verizon Edge will tack on up to another $30 per line per month.
Pricing this out for a single-line plan, with 6GB of data and a LG G5, we're looking at $26/month for the device + $20 for the monthly access fee and $60 for 6GB of data. All that together comes to $106. Of course, the final price will depend on what phone you pick up, as they are all different prices. Now for a family of four, picking up the LG G5 on the 18GB plan, that would bring the cost to $284 when all is said and done.
As you can see the prices between the four carriers are pretty comparable. With the majority of them only being a few bucks different. This is why it's very important that you check out the network coverage of the carrier you are looking to switch to or use. Seeing as these networks are vastly different, and where AT&T may have great service, Verizon may not, and vice versa. Unfortunately, the coverage maps on these carriers' websites can be outdated, and thus inaccurate. But you can check out maps from the likes of OpenSignal and Sensorly for more accurate maps, that are crowdsourced from people like you. So you can see just how good a specific carrier is in your area.