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Make the most of your new Android with one of the best cell phones plans

The best cell phone plan in 2021 is T-Mobile Magenta, thanks to its 5G-focused design with a massive 100GB of premium data and full 5G access included for everyone with a compatible phone. This is a huge bonus, especially as most of the best Android phones ship with 5G support, and T-Mobile’s network is comfortably in the lead for 5G coverage. But if you’re looking to save some money over the big postpaid carriers, there are more options than ever in prepaid from carriers like Visible and US Mobile whether you need one line or need service for the whole family.

What are the best cell phone plans?

Cell phone plans aren’t just about getting as many minutes and texts as possible anymore. People are using their phones more than ever before and have come to rely on their phone plans as an essential part of their daily lives. Getting the right plan comes down to getting enough data for your needs, using a network with coverage where you need it, and not wasting money on features you don’t want.

Our top plan is T-Mobile Magenta, thanks to its focus on next-generation phones with great support for 5G devices and plenty of data to use them. T-Mobile’s network has also seen major coverage improvements enabled by its acquisition of Sprint and consistent expansion on its coverage-focus band 71. T-Mobile Magenta also offers great value for families with its multi-line savings and Netflix for free with two or more lines.

When it comes to prepaid plans, Visible is a phenomenal choice with only a single plan, unlimited hotspot data, and great ways to save on your bill. Visible is built on the Verizon LTE and 5G network, and while phone support isn’t great, most of the best Android phones are compatible and pretty much every iPhone. Visible only has one plan starting at just $40 per month, but if you link up with a Visible Party on Visible’s website, you can bring your bill down to just $25 per month.

Visible isn’t designed with families in mind, so if you’re looking for great value for the whole family, Verizon Start Unlimited is your best option. You get unlimited data on Verizon’s LTE network, which is still your best bet for consistent rural coverage plus nationwide 5G coverage. This plan can also be combined with Verizon’s Just Kids plans if your kids aren’t ready for a full phone plan. Verizon’s huge network and reliable data make this plan a great choice for keeping your family connected.

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T-Mobile Magenta

Best overall

Bottom line: T-Mobile’s Magenta plan allows you to make the most out of T-Mobile’s growing 5G network and reliable coverage. With unlimited data, 100GB premium data, unlimited hotspot data, international features, and a Netflix subscription, the Magenta plan is the best value cell phone plan you can find today.

Network T-Mobile
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited
Premium Data 100GB
5G Yes
Hotspot data 5GB of high-speed Unlimited at 3G speeds
Mexico and Canada Unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of LTE data Unlimited data at 2G speeds
International data Unlimited (128 Kbps)
International texting Unlimited
International calling Extra charge (except Mexico and Canada)
Streaming SD
Perks Netflix subscription (1 SD screen with 2+ lines) Unlimited Gogo in-flight texting and 1 hour of Wi-Fi
Taxes and fees Included
Single line cost $70 per month

Pros:

  • 100GB of high-speed data before deprioritization
  • Multi-line discounts (third line for free)
  • Unlimited hotspot data
  • Unlimited international data and texting
  • Taxes, fees, and Netflix included

Cons:

  • SD streaming
  • Expensive single line
  • Netflix included with only 2+ lines
  • Only 5GB of high-speed hotspot data

T-Mobile’s coverage has come a long way over the years, and today this carrier offers some of the best cell phone plans you can get. T-Mobile’s 5G network is the largest in the nation and already reaches more than 280 million people with Extended Range 5G. Adding even more speed and capacity is its high-performance Ultra Capacity 5G, available to more than 100 million Americans. There’s no time like the present to join this wireless carrier, and if you’re looking for great value, then look no further than T-Mobile’s Magenta plan.

The Magenta plan is a reasonably affordable postpaid cell phone plan, especially when you factor in multi-line discounts. A single line on this plan will come out to be $70, with taxes and fees included in this price. You’ll pay a total of $120 per month for three lines and $140 per month for four lines. Because T-Mobile is such a great deal when you add a few lines, it also makes for an excellent family plan and comes with a Netflix subscription (one SD screen) included when you have at least two lines. Steaming is offered only in SD, but you can pay $3 extra for an HD day pass.

What’s best about the Magenta plan is the unlimited data you’ll get and the 100GB of premium data. If you consume a lot of high-speed data and want to avoid dealing with slower speeds, this is the plan for you. You’ll also get 5GB of high-speed hotspot data, which should be more than enough for anyone who occasionally tethers their device. Should you run out of your 5GB, you’ll still get unlimited hotspot data just at 3G speeds.

T-Mobile’s Magenta plan doesn’t cease to impress when it comes to international features. With this plan, you’ll be able to use your data abroad at 128Kbps. Unlimited international texting is included, as is unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of LTE data in Mexico and Canada (later unlimited at 2G speeds). This plan gives you everything you could expect from a great cell phone plan and more. It’s the perfect fit for most smartphone users who like having no limits when it comes to data (premium, hotspot, or international) and appreciates T-Mobile’s multi-line discounts and perks.

Best overall

T-Mobile Magenta

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  • From $70/mo. at T-Mobile

The Magenta plan goes beyond most smartphone users’ expectations, offering the fastest speeds on T-Mobile’s vast network with 100GB of premium data.

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Visible

Best overall prepaid

Bottom line: Visible is one of the most affordable prepaid plans available today, and it gets even better with a Party Pay discount. Along with excellent Verizon coverage, Visible gives you access to unlimited data, unlimited hotspot data, and no secret taxes, fees, or contracts to tie you down.

Network Verizon
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited (potentially slowed at times of congestion)
Premium Data None
5G Yes
Hotspot data Unlimited at 5Mbps
International calling and texting Only to Canada, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico
International data None
Streaming SD
Perks Party Pay discount
Taxes and fees Included
Single line cost $40 per month

Pros:

  • Huge Verizon network
  • Unlimited data
  • Affordable price
  • Party Pay discounts
  • Taxes and fees included

Cons:

  • Data speeds may slow at times of congestion
  • Hotspot speed is capped
  • SD streaming
  • Limited international benefits
  • No extra perks

Visible is a prepaid carrier operated by Verizon, and its single plan is a great fit for those that want to forget all about data caps. Along with Verizon 4G LTE and 5G coverage, this prepaid plan gets you unlimited data. Though it may be slowed down during times of congestion, at $40 per month on Verizon’s network, it’s certainly worth the reduced cost. With Visible, you’re able to lower your monthly bill even further by joining Party Pay. Once four lines are in a “party,” your bill drops to $25 per month. Fortunately, taxes and fees are included, so what you see is what you get. Also, each account pays for its bill separately, so it won’t affect you if your family member, friend, or roommate misses a payment. It’s a great plan whether you need a single line or want to take advantage of Party Pay.

In addition to unlimited data, a Visible plan comes with unlimited hotspot data. Speeds are capped at 5Mbps, but that’s just enough to do some basic browsing and streaming from your local coffee shop. Streaming will, however, be in SD, and there aren’t any entertainment perks like you would get with a core Verizon plan. Visible prides itself on being as simple as it gets by offering just one plan, and it’s hard not to respect that. Best of all, if you don’t like how things are going, you can cancel anytime. Visible doesn’t have any physical stores, but you can chat with customer service 24/7 via its website or the Visible app.

One drawback of this plan is that international features are limited, and you’ll get no roaming domestically or abroad. But you can call or text loved ones in Canada, Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Another caveat to note with Visible is that though it does support unlocked phones, they must be compatible with Visible’s network, so you’ll have to check. But if you have an eSIM, switching to Visible should be a breeze. It’s a fantastic prepaid plan to consider if you’re hoping to save some money but still want great coverage and unlimited data.

Best overall prepaid

Visible

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  • From $40/mo. at Visible

For only $40 a month and even less with Party Pay, Visible gives you unlimited data on Verizon’s network without any hidden taxes, fees, or contracts.

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Verizon start unlimited

Best family plan

Bottom line: Unlimited data on Verizon’s network along with access to streaming platforms make this plan a great choice for families. With multi-line discounts, this plan is affordable, but you can save even further by adding a Just Kids plan for the little ones.

Network Verizon
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited (potentially slowed at times of congestion)
Premium Data None
5G Yes (Nationwide) $10 extra per month for Ultra-Wideband access
Hotspot data None
Mexico and Canada Unlimited talk, text, and data 2G speeds after 0.5 GB per day
International data Only in Mexico and Canada
International texting Unlimited to 200+ countries
International calling Extra charge (except Mexico and Canada)
Streaming SD
Perks Disney+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass, and discovery+ for 6 months
Taxes and fees Not included
Single line cost $70 per month

Pros:

  • Verizon’s 4G LTE and 5G Nationwide network
  • Unlimited data
  • Can be combined with Just Kids plan
  • Multi-line discounts
  • Entertainment perks

Cons:

  • No hotspot
  • SD streaming
  • Data may be slowed down
  • Taxes and fees not included
  • Entertainment perks for a limited time

Verizon Start Unlimited gives you just what you need from a cell phone plan on Verizon’s network at one of this carrier’s lowest prices, making it an ideal option as a family cell phone plan. Though one line on this plan will cost $70 per month plus taxes and fees, this price quickly drops when you add a third line ($135 total per month) or a fourth line ($140 total per month). This plan doesn’t come with premium data, so you could see slower data speeds when the network is busy, but you’ll still get unlimited data and access to Verizon’s 4G LTE and 5G Nationwide network. You won’t have access to its 5G Ultra Wideband network, but until its coverage improves, this shouldn’t be much of a dealbreaker.

Like all of Verizon’s core plans, Start Unlimited comes with perks. For six months, you’ll get access to Disney+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Google Play Pass, and discovery+, which is a great way to try out these platforms and see which ones you really need. Streaming on this plan will be in SD, so if you can’t live with that, you’ll have to upgrade to a more expensive Verizon plan that offers HD streaming. Fortunately, Verizon has a mix-and-match policy when it comes to family plans. Because not everyone in a household has to be on the same plan, if you find that you want premium data along with a Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ subscription, you’re able to make the switch.

And as long as you have one unlimited plan, whether that be Start Unlimited or another, your younger ones can be on Verizon’s “Just Kids” plan. One Just Kids plan will cost $50 per month, and the price keeps dropping as you add more lines. With this plan, your kids will get unlimited data at 5Mbps and unlimited talk and text for up to 20 contacts. Best of all, parents can relax with parental controls and location tracking in the Verizon Smart Family app. It’s another great way to save some money while still getting top coverage and keeping everyone happy.

Verizon Start Unlimited isn’t perfect, and unfortunately, it doesn’t come with any hotspot data. Another weakness is when it comes to international features. On this plan, you get unlimited texting to 200+ countries and unlimited talk, text, and data (2G speeds after 0.5 GB per day) in Mexico and Canada. Still, you won’t get unlimited data abroad like you would with some of T-Mobile’s plans. Nevertheless, Start Unlimited remains one of the best Verizon plans that will satisfy most families’ cellular needs.

Best family plan

Verizon Start Unlimited

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  • From $70/mo. at Verizon

Start Unlimited doesn’t include premium or hotspot data, but it’s Verizon’s most affordable plan and will keep families (and their wallets) happy.

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Mint Mobile Unlimited

Best unlimited savings

Bottom line: Mint Mobile Unlimited is the perfect plan for someone that knows they need a lot of data on a single line with great options to save by signing up for multiple months upfront. If it turns out you don’t need unlimited, Mint Mobile will even recommend a cheaper plan at the end of your cycle. Also, because Mint runs on T-Mobile’s LTE and 5G network, it has excellent phone compatibility.

Network T-Mobile
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited (35GB at full speed)
5G Included
Hotspot data 5GB
Mexico and Canada Calling
International data Varies by country
International texting Varies by country
International calling Varies by country
Streaming 480p
Perks Multi-month savings
Taxes and fees Not included
Single line cost 3 months for $40 per month 6 months for $35 per month 12 months for $30 per month

Pros:

  • Access to the full T-Mobile network with 5G
  • Great phone compatibility
  • Multi-month savings
  • 5GB of hotspot data included
  • No overages

Cons:

  • Must buy at least 3 months
  • No multi-line discounts

Mint Mobile delivers great network performance on the T-Mobile LTE and 5G network. Mint has four basic plans with 4GB, 10GB, 15GB, or unlimited (35GB) of high-speed data. Every Mint Mobile plan comes with unlimited talk and text in the U.S. with free calls to Mexico and Canada. 5G is included for free where available, including Ultra Capacity 5G. On top of that, this plan comes with 5GB of hotspot data to share with your other devices.

While Mint asserts that most people don’t need unlimited data, signing up for its unlimited plan is one of the best ways to prove that thanks to a feature called unliMINTed. When it comes time to renew, Mint Mobile will recommend the plan that makes the most sense for you if it turns out you don’t use that much data. Mint also gives you another way to save with big discounts available to those willing to buy six or 12 months of service upfront. Best of all, if you’re not sure if Mint is a good fit, you can try your first three months for the 12-month rate.

Mint Mobile supports both international roaming and international calling with varying prices per country. For example, if you travel to the United Kingdom, calls are $0.25 per minute, texts are $0.05 each, and data is $0.20 per MB. Calling rates are much lower at $0.01 per minute for landlines. You can add funds to your roaming balance in $5, $10, or $20 increments. It’s nice that this is included, but it might be worth finding another SIM with better roaming support if you travel a lot.

Mint Mobile allows you to bring the whole family with Mint Family. Mint Family allows one user to manage all of the lines on the account from one place, and you can choose a mix of whatever plans make the most sense. There is no multi-line discount, however. Finally, Mint Mobile supports just about any unlocked phone thanks to using the T-Mobile network, so if you’ve paid off your phone, there’s a good chance you can bring it to Mint.

Best unlimited savings

Mint Mobile Unlimited

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  • From $30/mo. at Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile Unlimited comes with 35GB of high-speed data, 5G support, and a low price if you buy the whole year at once.

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US Mobile

Best prepaid family plan

Bottom line: US Mobile is one of the most unique family plans, and its features are almost too good to be true. For three or more lines, you’ll pay only $25 per line (taxes and fees included) for great coverage, unlimited data with no speeds caps, international data, and even an entertainment perk or two thrown on top.

Network T-Mobile (GSM LTE) and Verizon (Super LTE)
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited (potentially slower data speeds with GSM LTE)
Premium Data None
5G Yes
Hotspot data Extra $10 per month for 20GB
International calling and texting Calling not included International texting included with GSM LTE
International data Up to 10GB of high-speed 4G LTE data included
Streaming HD
Perks Choice of one perk with three lines (music, video, or gaming) Choice of two perks with four lines (music, video, or gaming)
Taxes and fees Included
Single line cost $45 per month

Pros:

  • Choice between Verizon and T-Mobile networks
  • Great deal for 3+ lines
  • Unlimited data
  • 5G access
  • Taxes and fees included

Cons:

  • Cannot switch between GSM LTE and Super LTE networks
  • Extra hotspot data charge
  • Limited phone selection

US Mobile offers one of the most unique family plans, mainly because this MVNO leverages Verizon’s (Super LTE) and T-Mobile’s (GSM LTE) networks. This means that you have the choice between the two networks depending on which one gives you better coverage. Though US Mobile offers various plans, including customizable plans, the ideal one for families is its unlimited plan. For three or more lines, you’ll pay $25 per line, with all taxes and fees included, making this one of the most affordable prepaid family plans out there.

An inexpensive monthly bill isn’t all that US Mobile has to offer. Along with unlimited data, your plan includes “ludicrous speeds” as well as 5G access—and no data caps. If you’re on the Super LTE network, your data is uncapped and unthrottled. If you’re on the GSM LTE network, you may notice slower speeds after 50GB of use. Fortunately, most people will never reach this amount, and you can rest assured that your data will be fast.

Unfortunately, the unlimited family plan doesn’t come with any hotspot data, but you can add 20GB for only $10 per month. It’ll count toward any high-speed data allotment, but if you’re someone who doesn’t always have a reliable Wi-Fi connection, it could be a good idea. Another great bonus of a US mobile plan is that you get the choice of one entertainment (music, video, or gaming) perk if you have more than three lines. With more than four lines, you get to pick two. These include a Netflix subscription, the Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ bundle, Spotify Family, Playstation Plus, etc. You’re even able to stream in HD.

As if US Mobile didn’t offer enough, each unlimited plan also comes with free international roaming. Depending on the country, you can get up to 10GB of high-speed 4G LTE data when you travel abroad. And if you’re on the GSM LTE network, unlimited international texting is included. The major disadvantage of this prepaid plan is that purchasing a phone directly through US Mobile means you’ll face a limited selection. Still, if the phone you currently own is compatible, this family plan is one of the best deals you can find.

Best prepaid family

US Mobile

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  • From $45/mo. at US Mobile

US Mobile helps families save money while getting great coverage, entertainment perks, fast unlimited data, and free international roaming.

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Verizon Play More

Best unlimited

Bottom line: Verizon Play More gets you unlimited data on Verizon’s fast and reliable network, along with just enough hotspot data and some of the best entertainment perks a cell phone plan has to offer.

Network Verizon
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited
Premium Data 50GB
5G Yes (Nationwide and Ultra Wideband)
Hotspot data 15GB of high-speed Unlimited at 600Kbps
Mexico and Canada Unlimited talk, text, and data 2G speeds after 0.5 GB per day
International data Only in Mexico and Canada
International texting Unlimited to 200+ countries
International calling Extra charge (except Mexico and Canada)
Streaming HD
Perks Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ Apple Music (6 months) discovery+, Apple Arcade, and Google Play Pass (12 months)
Taxes and fees Not included
Single line cost $80 per month

Pros:

  • Access to Verizon’s entire 5G network
  • 50GB of premium data
  • 15GB of high-speed hotspot data
  • Great entertainment perks
  • HD streaming

Cons:

  • Slow hotspot once 15GB allotment has been reached
  • Limited international benefits
  • Expensive
  • Taxes and fees not included

An unlimited plan with Verizon is never a bad idea, especially when considering its extremely reliable 4G LTE network and its quickly growing 5G network that’s now available in most big cities. To accompany its fantastic network, this carrier offers a great selection of unlimited cell phone plans to choose from, though Verizon’s Play More plan hits that sweet spot when it comes to meeting data needs at a price that’s not outrageous. For a single line, you’ll pay $80 per month, whereas, for three lines, your bill becomes $165 per month or $180 per month for four lines. But keep in mind that taxes and fees aren’t included.

With this plan, you’ll get access to Verizon’s entire 5G network (Nationwide and Ultra Wideband) along with unlimited data. Of that unlimited data, 50GB will be premium, which should be more than enough for you never to witness slower data speeds. Though the hotspot offering isn’t quite as generous as Verizon’s top-tier unlimited plan, you’ll still get a solid 15GB of high-speed data to power another device and comfortably work or be entertained when Wi-Fi isn’t an option. But once you’ve used up that allotment, your speeds will slow to 600Kbps for the remainder of the month, so if you’ll need more, it’s best to upgrade.

Verizon Play More shines when it comes to entertainment perks and was created with streamers in mind. A Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ subscription comes included with your plan, as does an Apple Music trial for six months and discovery+, Apple Arcade, and Google Play Pass for a year. To top things off, you’ll get access to HD streaming for all your shows and movies. But with every strength comes a weakness, and this Verizon plan isn’t a top choice for international use. Though you do get unlimited international texting and unlimited talk, text, and data (2G speeds after 0.5 GB per day) in Mexico and Canada, you won’t get much more than that. This plan is a great choice if you already have solid Verizon coverage and need it for hefty domestic data use.

Best unlimited

Verizon Play More

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  • From $80/mo. at Verizon

Verizon Play More was created for anyone who loves HD streaming and wants an unlimited amount of reliable, high-speed data plus entertainment perks.

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T-Mobile Magenta MAX

Best for 5G

Bottom line: With T-Mobile home to the nation’s largest 5G network, it’s hard to imagine another plan better suited for 5G than Magenta MAX. Unlimited premium data and a whopping 40GB of hotspot data will keep plan subscribers connected and never slowed down.

Network T-Mobile
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited
Premium Data Unlimited
5G Yes
Hotspot data 40GB of high-speed Unlimited at 3G speeds
Mexico and Canada Unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of LTE data Unlimited data at 2G speeds
International data Unlimited (256Kbps)
International texting Unlimited
International calling Extra charge (except Mexico and Canada)
Streaming Up to 4K UHD
Perks Netflix subscription (1 SD screen with 1 line or 2 HD screens with 2+ lines) Unlimited Gogo in-flight texting and Wi-Fi
Taxes and fees Included
Single line cost $85 per month

Pros:

  • Unlimited premium data
  • 40GB hotspot data
  • 4K UHD streaming
  • Netflix subscription
  • International data (256Kbps)

Cons:

  • Expensive for a single line

T-Mobile already covers more than 8,300 cities and towns in the U.S. with its 5G network, or roughly 80 percent of Americans, and it has no plans of stopping there. As the nation’s leader in 5G coverage, speed, and reliability, it comes as no surprise that T-Mobile’s latest Magenta MAX cell phone plan was made for the 5G generation. It’s by far the most lavish T-Mobile plan you can get, and it certainly won’t come cheap. A single line on Magenta MAX costs $85 per month, but the third line is free like all other T-Mobile plans. So for three lines, your monthly bill (which includes taxes and fees) will come out to be $141 per month or $172 per month for four lines.

Magenta MAX’s higher price tag is worth it for those who consume heavy amounts of data and want nothing less than the best data speeds possible. Not only does this plan come with unlimited premium data, meaning that data speeds will never be slowed down or deprioritized, but it also offers a very considerate 40GB of hotspot data to keep you connected wherever you go. If you ever manage to use that up, your hotspot will still be unlimited at 3G speeds.

This cell phone plan also comes with several international perks, making it an ideal choice for frequent travelers who rather not deal with swapping out SIM cards or purchasing an add-on feature. Along with unlimited international texting, you’ll also get unlimited data abroad (256Kbps), unlimited talk, text, and 5GB of LTE data (later unlimited at 2G speeds) in Mexico and Canada, and unlimited Gogo in-flight texting and Wi-Fi.

When it comes to entertainment and streaming, Magenta MAX doesn’t fall short. This plan comes with a Netflix subscription included. With one line, you’ll get one SD screen on Netflix, but if you happen to have two lines on your account, you’ll get two HD screens. And if you’re someone who likes streaming on the go, you’re in luck because you can do so in 4K UHD. If you can’t wait to take advantage of T-Mobile’s quickly growing 5G network and already own a 5G compatible device, there’s simply no better plan to consider.

Best for 5G

T-Mobile Magenta MAX

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  • From $85/mo. at T-Mobile

Magenta MAX offers unlimited premium data on T-Mobile’s nationwide 5G network along with an unheard-of 40GB of hotspot data to keep you always connected.

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Tello Economy

Best cheap phone plan

Bottom line: Tello Economy comes with enough data to get by without paying for features you don’t need. Calling and texting are unlimited, including free calls to 60+ destinations.

Network T-Mobile
Talk and text Unlimited
Data 1GB
5G Included
Hotspot data Shared with main
International texting Varies by country
International calling Free to 60+ countries
Streaming No limit
Taxes and fees Included
Single line cost $10 per month

Pros:

  • Great coverage with the T-Mobile network
  • Free calls to 60+ countries
  • Most unlocked phones work
  • Very low starting price

Cons:

  • No international roaming support

Tello is a prepaid carrier that operates on the T-Mobile network. While the carrier formerly used Sprint, current activations will be on the new network with improved coverage and speeds. The T-Mobile network also brings 5G data as long as you have a 5G phone. All Tello plans can be manually configured with a combination of data and minutes, though unlimited texting is included with all plans.

The Economy plan is a ready-made plan with 1GB of high-speed data and unlimited minutes. Of course, like any Tello plan, you can customize it with fewer minutes or even more data. Tello also allows for upgrades or downgrades at any time, so if you aren’t happy with your first configuration, you’re not stuck. Data is available up to 25GB if you need it, and the price is even fairly competitive. Tello also allows you to use as much of your data for tethering (mobile hotspot) as you like.

Tello, unfortunately, does not include any support for international roaming, so you’ll need to find another SIM if you intend to travel. Tello does allow free calls to more than 60 countries, making it a great choice for someone that wants to call family or friends abroad. Tello does allow calling to and texting to other countries with varying rates for each county. Calls start at less than a cent per minute, but some countries are much more expensive, so make sure your country of choice is supported before signing up.

If you’re looking for a cheap and simple plan, Tello can be a fantastic value.

Best cheap phone plan

Tello Economy

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  • From $10/mo. at Tello

Tello’s 1GB configuration is great for light users with enough data to use your phone on the go, plus unlimited talk and text.

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Google Fi Unlimited

Best plan for international use

Bottom line: Google Fi has access to T-Mobile’s network, including Sprint and UScellular, and automatically connects to the country’s best network as long as you have a supported phone. Google Fi also keeps international usage simple and cheap by charging the same per gigabyte used in the U.S. or abroad.

Network T-Mobile, UScellular
Talk and text Unlimited
Data Unlimited (22GB high-speed data)
5G Included
Hotspot data Shared with main
International data Shared with main
International texting Unlimited
International calling 50+ countries included
Streaming SD
Perks Google One membership (100GB) VPN included
Taxes and fees Not included
Single line cost $70 per month

Pros:

  • Great coverage with three networks in the U.S.
  • Free international data roaming in over 200 countries
  • T-Mobile 5G support on all supported phones
  • Free VPN adds security to all connections

Cons:

  • Plans are relatively expensive for domestic use
  • Not all phones support network switching

Google Fi has come to feel like the default carrier for Android enthusiasts with amazing support for Google’s own Pixel line of phones and one of the best international experiences possible. While Google Fi originally only supported a handful of phones, it has expanded with support for nearly any T-Mobile compatible phone, including iPhones. To get the full Fi experience, however, a Designed for Fi phone is still recommended. Designed for Fi means that the phone will support Google Fi’s most compelling features.

Designed for Fi phones include the Pixel series and several devices from other companies such as the Galaxy S21 series. This includes automatic network-switching between T-Mobile, Sprint, and UScellular towers depending on which is strongest. This also enables Fi to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots automatically with a VPN as if you were on your own private Fi network.

Google Fi Unlimited comes with unlimited calls, texts, and 22GB of high-speed data. This data can be used either fully on your phone or as a hotspot. Google Fi also has a data-only SIM that allows you to use your data on another device without creating a hotspot. Keep in mind that videos will only stream in 480p quality most of the time. Fi Unlimited comes with free calls to more than 50 countries and territories.

Google Fi’s most impressive feature is the ability to use data and text abroad for free. Data is used the same way in more than 200 supported countries, helping solidify Google Fi as the best carrier for those that need to travel abroad. Calling is not free while abroad though the rates are reasonably low. For the best results, stick to a VoIP solution like Telegram or Whatsapp to make calls over your data connection.

Fi unlimited comes with 100GB of cloud storage on the Google One platform, so you can be sure you never lose your important files with your phone. Also, Fi comes with Spam protection for calls and family content controls if you bring your kids along. Like many other carriers, Google Fi offers multi-line discounts for up to four lines with a maximum of six lines on your account.

Best plan for international use

Google Fi Unlimited

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  • From $70/mo. at Google Fi

Google fi Unlimited comes with enough data for even heavy users at 22GB that can be used at home or abroad for the same cost.

How to pick the best cell phone plan

Picking a new cell phone plan can be stressful, but if you focus on what matters most to you, you can get set up on the right network for the right price. T-Mobile Magenta has focused on delivering value to those looking to make the most of their smartphones with plenty of premium data so you can forget about watching the meter. T-Mobile was also the first to include 5G in all of its plans, meaning that if you have a new 5G phone or are going to be ready for one in the next couple of years, your plan is ready to go.

Its great phone compatibility also reinforces T-Mobile’s dominance. While a phone designed for AT&T might not get all of T-Mobile’s best coverage, you will be able to bring it with you. The same is true for just about any unlocked phone, whether it runs Android or iOS. If you’re a fan of phones like the OnePlus 9 Pro, for example, you’ll want to make sure you’re using T-Mobile or Verizon for 5G access.

Finally, T-Mobile’s Magenta plan expands into a family plan with multi-line discounts and free Netflix. If you’re already paying for Netflix, it’s a great bonus. T-Mobile also includes 5GB of high-speed hotspot data with unlimited hotspot usage at 3G speeds. If you’re traveling with one of the best Android tablets or a great Chromebook, this is a useful feature to have.

1. How much data do you need?

This is tricky because you don’t want to risk running out of data, but most of us don’t need much more than 4GB. You can get an idea of how much data you use by looking at your prior phone bills or even by keeping track of the data usage section in your phone’s settings. Furthermore, you could also take steps to reduce your usage, such as connecting to Wi-Fi whenever you can.

If you find yourself using more than 10GB, you might actually be able to save some money by selecting an unlimited plan. Cheap unlimited plans are typically structured to deprioritize data usage when network congestion is high. This is due to a lack of premium data which aims to keep you connected at top speed as long as you haven’t used too much.

Deprioritization looks like your connection drops speed for a short period of time before the network recovers. This isn’t ideal for someone that relies on their phone for on-demand high-speed data though if you’re just browsing social media or messaging with friends, you may never even notice a change.

2. Do you need a new phone?

The next thing to consider is your phone. If you just bought a new phone and want to keep using it for a few years, you’ll want to make sure it works as well as possible on your new network. While phones can be unlocked to use on other carriers once they’re paid off, you might not get optimal performance on a different set of towers. This is also true for phones purchased in other markets such as Europe or India. Also, even if your phone supports all of the right bands, you still might run into some activation issues. This is particularly important if you want to use AT&T 5G, which doesn’t work properly with OnePlus most of the time.

If you are ready for a new phone and can front the full cost, you can buy one of the best Android phones unlocked and bring it with you, but if you want to pay for it monthly, you have to plan ahead a bit more. You can buy an unlocked phone with payments directly from the manufacturer, such as Samsung, but other options exist. For example, some credit cards will allow you to spread your payments out interest-free as well.

Finally, you can buy a phone from the carrier, but keep in mind that you’re on the hook for the full amount if you’re paying monthly for it. If you lose or break the phone, you have to finish paying for it. If you’re signing up in a carrier store and the salesperson suggests a bundle, be sure to get an itemized invoice with payment durations for each item to know exactly what you’re paying for.

If you already have a phone and you know it’s unlocked, be sure to check with customer support or use a BYOD compatibility checker on the carrier’s website to be sure. If you’re taking a bit of a risk with this, familiarize yourself with each carrier’s return policy.

3. How is your coverage?

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and UScellular all build and maintain their own towers in the areas where they have coverage. The main three: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, have solid coverage nationwide with roaming agreements in place where they have holes. UScellular maintains the smallest network of the four, with nationwide coverage provided by roaming partners. For the best possible experience, you want to be sure that your carrier has direct coverage in your area.

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all have some level of coverage in just about every major urban or suburban area. If you’re looking for 5G coverage, things are a bit less even. While T-Mobile has the biggest 5G network by far, the other carriers are hard at work trying to catch up. Still, if you want to make the most of 5G today, T-Mobile is your best bet whether you’re using the primary postpaid service or a service like Mint Mobile.

4. Do you need hotspot data?

Most smartphones are capable of sharing their mobile data connections as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This feature is great for getting other devices online, like a tablet or Chromebook. Hotspots can work in one of two ways, with the first sharing your standard mobile data with your other devices. This is nice because you don’t have to worry about managing a second data pool, but it will eat into the data you need for phone usage. This is common on the cheapest data plans such as Mint Mobile’s 4GB, 10GB, or 15GB plans.

The second way is with dedicated hotspot data. Most unlimited plans will use this approach with unlimited data on your phone but a smaller amount for devices connected through the hotspot. Verizon Wireless, for example, includes 15GB of high-speed hotspot data with its Play More Unlimited plan. Some carriers offer unlimited hotspot data with a significant speed cap. Visible, for instance, offers unlimited hotspot data though you’ll only ever see a max of 5Mbps.

5. Do you need international features?

The last thing to consider with your phone plan is international features. While many postpaid services will include talk and text to some countries, you may need to pay by the minute to call internationally. If you need to call another country frequently, check to make sure it’s included or at least cheap.

If you need to travel to another country, things are a bit more limited. Google Fi is a shining example of international roaming support with more than 200 countries included for no extra charge. At least for data use. Some other carriers like Cricket Wireless offer service in Mexico and Canada, while others such as T-Mobile and US Mobile come with at least some international roaming data, though it may be slower than back home.

There’s a lot to keep in mind when you’re looking for the perfect plan and carrier for your new phone, but if you stay focused on the aspects that are most important to you, there should be plenty of options. It’s not possible to eliminate all waste on your phone plan, and you’ll likely buy more data than you need but running out is a lot more of a hassle. Still, the plans listed here will cover most people’s needs and help them make the most out of their phones.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

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Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking and carriers, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It’s the Pentium 3.

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Olivia Lipski is a freelance writer for Android Central and loves testing out the latest smart home tech and discovering the best cell phone plans. When she’s not busy running around NYC trying to find great food or coffee, she’s in her kitchen trying to make it herself.

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