The US wireless industry has seen quite a bit of competition in the past couple of years. As a result, customers have seen their bills go down, while getting all sorts of new perks. However, a lot of the marketing terms that these carriers use can be a bit confusing, so we're here to break it all down and see which carrier offers the best bang for your buck – and also find out who has the most expensive plans.
First up is AT&T. Now with AT&T things are a bit confusing. You pay one amount for your data, another for your smartphone to access that data and then another fee for the actual phone you bought. Access fees are $25 per line per month on plans up to 5GB, while the larger ones are $15 per line per month. Flagship smartphones typically cost you around $20-$25 per month. In this case, we're looking at the LG G5, which is $22.97 per month.
For a single line, with 5GB of data which is $50 per month, you're looking at $97.97 per month ($50 + 25 +27.97). If you need more data, the 15GB plan costs you $100, bringing the total to $137.97. Unfortunately, AT&T has nothing in between. For family plans, the 25GB plan is going to cost you $175, and all of the lines on that plan get access to that data pool. Access fees would be $60 for a plan with four lines. And four LG G5's would cost you $91.88. Add all that up and that's $326.88. Quite a bit of cash, and that would mean just below 6GB of data per line.
Out of the four wireless carriers in the US, Sprint has changed their plans the most. As they are eyeing a turnaround and have been giving customers more and more options. Sprint's plans start at just $20/month, which gets you 1GB of data, 3GB comes in at $30, 6GB for $45 and 12GB for $60. Sprint does also do access fees per line here, which are $20/month, and you are paying for your phone each month, unless you buy it at full retail. Keeping with the LG G5 theme, it would cost you $24/month for a LG G5 on Sprint.
For those looking for a single line plan, you could get 3GB of data for $30, and an LG G5 for $24, bringing your monthly total to $74 ($30 + $20 + $24). Quite a bit lower than AT&T, but you're also getting less data. For a family of four on the 12GB plan, that would cost you $236 with four LG G5's on your plan. Of course, you can split that almost in half if you buy your smartphones outright, but that can be pretty pricey too.
With T-Mobile, there are no access fees per line. Instead what you pay for is your phone, if it's on EIP, and then your plan. Their plans start at $50/month for 2GB of data. Additionally, these data plans are per line, and not shared with everyone on the plan. Making things a bit easier for family plans. The LG G5 at T-Mobile would set you back $26.25 per month.
For a single line, with 6GB of data for $65, that would mean $91.25 per month ($65 + 26.25). That's more than Sprint, but remember, that's also twice the data. Family plans are pretty simple too. T-Mobile offers up 6GB of data for a family of four for just $160. Add in four LG G5's and that brings the cost to $265 per month. A whole lot more data than what Sprint offers, and close to the same price.
The major changes to plans this month comes from Verizon. They made some big changes here, and we're going to go over them pretty quickly. It's being dubbed "The New Verizon Plan". The "S" is now 2GB for $35, "M" is 4GB for $50, the "L" is now 8GB for $70, "XL" is 16GB for $90 and the "XXL" is now 24GB for $110 per month. Prices went up, but so did the data limits. Monthly access fees are still $20/month and buying phones through Verizon Edge can still cost up to $30/month.
For one line, with a LG G5, we're looking at $81 per month with 2GB of data ($35 + $20 + $26). If you need more data, the cost would jump to $96/month with 4GB of data. Those on a family plan, that would be $274 ($90 + 80 + 104). Close to the same price as what Sprint and T-Mobile offer, and still much, much cheaper than AT&T.
It's important to note that a carrier's prices shouldn't be the only deciding factor for your wireless network. If you decide to join AT&T, but they have little to no coverage where you work and live, then you're basically wasting your money. Which means it's always a good idea to check out coverage from these carriers beforehand. And even more important to use a site that won't have biased information (like the carriers' websites), like Sensorly or OpenSignal.