Buying a new smartphone is just part of the equation — the service that goes with it is just as, if not more, important. At AC, we make it our mission to analyze and test all of the most popular wireless providers on the market to help you pick a company that works for you.
From $4/mo. at US Mobile
- Plans are customizable
- Great for people that use a lot of data
- Uses T-Mobile and Verizon for coverage
- Very fast LTE speeds
- Poor phone selection
Customization is king when it comes to US Mobile. You can fine-tune a Custom Plan with the exact talk, text, and data allotment you want, or splurge for a customizable Unlimted Plan. LTE speeds are also fast, and you’ve got ample coverage from either T-Mobile or Verizon.
From $15/mo. at Tracfone
- Low monthly rates
- Refill cards available at retail stores
- Plans for basic phones and smartphones
- Coverage from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon
- Not a good choice if you use a lot of data
Tracfone has been around since the late 1990s, and it’s still a great value to this day. You can sign up for the service online or at your local retail store, with coverage offered from all four major U.S. carriers. Just be aware that data allotment could be an issue for some users.
US Mobile and Tracfone are both designed to help you get reliable wireless service while saving a good deal of money each month. US Mobile is the better fit for people that use a lot of LTE data and want to finely tweak everything about their plan. Tracfone, on the other hand, benefits from having coverage from all four major carriers in the U.S., as well as a strong retail presence.
US Mobile and Tracfone both have a variety of plan options to choose from, but the way each company goes about this is different.
With US Mobile, there are two main plan offerings — Custom Plan and Unlimited Plan. The Custom Plan allows you to pick and choose exactly how many talk minutes, texts, and data you plan on using each month. The Unlimited Plan includes unlimited talk and text by default, but you can then choose if you want 1GB, 5GB, 10GB, or unlimited data. On top of that, you also have the choice of selecting your preferred data speed.
US Mobile’s Standard speed is the default option, but it’s rather slow at just 1Mbps. Stepping up to Fast will get you to 5Mbps, with the Ludicrous tier not having any limits on your LTE performance at all.
Price-wise, US Mobile is competitive. We can’t run through every possible plan configuration, so here are some examples of what you can expect:
- 1000 talk minutes, 1000 texts, 100Mb of data — $15/month
- 100 talk minutes, 600 texts, 2GB of data — $21/month
- Unlimited talk + text, 5GB of Standard data — $25/month
- Unlimited talk + text, 10GB of Fast data — $40/month
- Unlimited talk + text, unlimited Ludicrous data with hotspot access — $70/month
Moving over to Tracfone, there are three tiers of plans on tap — Smartphone Plans, Classic Service Plans, and Basic Phone Plans. The Smartphone Plans are likely what you’ll be most interested in, as the Classic Service Plans come with very little data, and the Basic Phone Plans don’t have any data allotment at all.
Tracfone currently has three Smartphone Plans to choose from, and they work out as follows:
- Unlimited talk + text and 1GB of data — $20/month
- Unlimited talk + text and 2GB of data — $25/month
- Unlimited talk + text and 3GB of data $30/month
In regards to value, Tracfone isn’t quite as compelling as US Mobile. Let’s say your max budget is $30/month for phone service. With Tracfone, you’d be limited to just 3GB of data along with your unlimited talk and text. On US Mobile, you’d also get unlimited talk and text, along with 5GB of fast (5Mbps) data.
Should you find yourself needing more than 3GB of data in a month, Tracfone allows you to buy an additional 1GB of data for $10. That’s a good price, but at US Mobile, another $10/month would take you from 5GB to 10GB.
Tracfone does have the unique advantage of its Unlimited Carryover feature, allowing you to keep any unused data from a previous month and bring it over to your next one, which can make it a compelling option for people that use very little mobile data some months and use a lot of it on others.
Moving over to coverage, this is an area where US Mobile and Tracfone both do really well.
When you sign up for US Mobile, you’ll get two SIM cards in the mail — one for the Super LTE Network and another for the GSM LTE Network. The Super LTE Network uses Verizon’s service, while the GSM LTE Network is T-Mobile.
Verizon offers the very best wireless coverage in the U.S., and its presence with US Mobile is a huge win. You will need a supported phone in order to take advantage of the Super LTE Network / Verizon service, and if your phone isn’t compatible, you’ll simply use the GSM LTE Network / T-Mobile service.
You can’t switch back and forth between Verizon and T-Mobile like you can with Google Fi, but having the option to choose which coverage you want in the first place is still quite nice.
Tracfone, on the other hand, goes even further. It provides access to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and even U.S. Cellular.
Again, while you can’t seamlessly hop back and forth between different providers, being able to choose the one that offers the best service in your area is a huge plus. Plus, for folks that rely on AT&T, Sprint, or U.S. Cellular, this makes Tracfone the clear winner.
When it comes to phone selection, US Mobile and Tracfone are pretty similar. Both companies offer a BYOD program, allowing you to bring over your current phone and just use that.
If you don’t have a phone to use on either network, your best bet is to go out and buy an unlocked phone, get a SIM card, and then start your service. The phones that are sold directly by US Mobile and Tracfone are very weak.
For US Mobile’s Android offerings, some of the latest phones include devices like the Galaxy S6 Edge, LG G4, and HTC One M10. The prices that US Mobile is asking for the phones are even more outrageous, with the S6 Edge — a phone that was first released in 2015 — costing a hefty $569.
Tracfone’s selection is better, but not by much. The Galaxy S7 can be purchased for $200, or you can get a super-cheap LG Rebel 4 for $20. The highlight offering is the new Galaxy A10e, which can be yours for $160.
Again, if you plan on joining either company, do yourself a favor and either use your current phone or buy and bring over an unlocked phone.
It all comes down to your needs
At the end of the day, the “best” choice comes down to your personal needs. That might seem like a cop-out, but it’s the best answer.
US Mobile is a fantastic option if you value having access to a lot of data every month and want to create a plan that fits your exact needs. You also benefit from breakneck LTE speeds, and bringing over your own phone to use with either T-Mobile or Verizon is extremely easy. On the flip side, if you’re someone that really relies on service from AT&T, Sprint, or U.S. Cellular, Tracfone makes the most sense.
We think you’ll be really happy no matter which provider you end up choosing. Do your homework, think about what you’re hoping to get the most out of your phone service, and you should have a clear idea of whether US Mobile or Tracfone makes the most sense for you.
Great plans, fast LTE, and excellent coverage
From $4/mo. at US Mobile
US Mobile checks a lot of boxes for what you’d want in a wireless carrier. It has two great plans that can be highly customized, blazing-fast data speeds, and coverage from two of the best names in the business. To be perfectly honest, there’s not much to complain about.
Low-cost wireless service from all four U.S. carriers
From $15/mo. at Tracfone
Tracfone’s wireless plans aren’t as impressive as US Mobile’s, especially when it comes to data usage, but it does benefit from unmatched coverage. With Tracfone backed by service from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, you can rest assured you’ll be covered no matter where you live.