As Sprint likes to say in their latest ads, it's 2016 and all wireless networks are great. But which ones offer the best bang for your buck? The wireless industry has become pretty competitive in the last few years, many carriers have dropped their prices to being within a few bucks of each other. So let's compare the big four – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon – and see who offers the best single line plan and family plan (four lines).
For someone looking for just a single line on AT&T, you'll be paying about $80 for 6GB of data if you bring your own smartphone. If not, you could be paying as much as $110 depending on which smartphone you pick up. Let's take a minute to explain this. The 6GB plan costs you $60/month. AT&T charges an access fee of $20/month (together equals $80/month). Then if you buy a smartphone from AT&T on AT&T NEXT, you'll be paying up to $30 or more per month. Depending on the device you pick up. We'll use the Galaxy S7 as an example, which is $23.17/month, bringing the total to $103.17 per month for just one line. Don't forget that if you subscribe to DIRECTV or U-verse you can get unlimited data for $100/month.
Family plans get a bucket of data that is shared with everyone on the account. So for a family of four, the most comparable plan to the 6GB plan we used above is 25GB and that costs you $110/month. Add on access fees for each line, that's $80 total making the bill $190 before factoring in your smartphone fees. Again we'll use the Galaxy S7 here as our example. For four lines with four Galaxy S7's, you'll be looking at about $282.68 each month.
Things at the Uncarrier have gotten pretty simple since launching T-Mobile ONE. Now everyone gets unlimited data, but it's worth pointing out that all video data is streamed in 480p, and mobile hotspot uses 2G speeds. You can pay another $25/month for faster mobile hotspot speeds and higher resolution video though.
Having said that, a single line costs $70 on T-Mobile ONE. There's no access fee here, so if you bring your own phone over, that's your final cost. But if you don't, you'll need to factor that into your bill. The Galaxy S7 costs $27/month which brings your total to $97/month. A family of four can get on T-Mobile ONE for just $160 (or $40/line). That's one of the cheapest plans available for a family. If everyone gets a Galaxy S7, you'll be looking at $268/month ($160 for unlimited talk, text and data + $108 for four Galaxy S7's).
Sprint's plans are also pretty basic now, but they do undercut T-Mobile's a tad. They do cap video resolution at 480p, as well as providing lower-quality music and game streaming. But you can get unlimited for just $60/month, and a Galaxy S7 will cost you $25/month. With Sprint, you'll more than likely have to buy a phone from them, as many unlocked smartphones don't support their network.
For a single line, you can pay just $85/month for a Galaxy S7 with unlimited talk, text and data. That's the cheapest among the four wireless carriers. For a family of four, you're also looking at $160/month, with the only difference in price between T-Mobile being the installment plan on your devices. So if you get cheaper devices, you can be out the door with a plan under $200/month. But continuing on with the Galaxy S7 as our example, you'll be looking at $260/month with four of them.
The closest plan Verizon has to AT&T's 6GB plan is 4GB for $50, so we'll be using that with the Galaxy S7 in our example here. Access fees are $20/month/line so you're looking at $98/month for a Galaxy S7 with 4GB of data.
For a family of four, we'll be using the 24GB package which is $110/month. Remember that access fees will total $80 here, and four Galaxy S7's will cost you $112, bringing you to a total of $302, the most of the four carriers here. Something new out of Verizon though, is Safety Mode. It allows you to continue using your data after you've hit your limit without getting hit with overages. When this first launched, it was $5/month on the smaller plans, but it is now free for everyone. Which is a nice perk, so that users can still use their smartphone when they need too.
Plans haven't changed much, if at all in the past few months. But there are plenty of promotions going on at all four of the wireless carriers, due to the holiday season. So if you were looking to jump ship, or add a line, or upgrade your smartphone, then now is definitely the time to do so. Remember before jumping ship to a new carrier, to check their coverage in your area. The last thing you'd want to do is jump to a carrier that has non-existent coverage where you need them.