Best phone carriers of 2021

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It’s official that the iPhone 13 is out and the Pixel 6 follows this month which means that you’re probably trying for the most reliable provider for your mobile service. If you’re not looking to upgrade phones, it’s worthwhile to check out the different options available from other carriers to ensure that you’re receiving the top service for the monthly cost.

The best phone provider is more than simply choosing the one that charges the least amount for data each month (though choosing the most efficient cell phone plan is an essential element of the procedure). Some phone companies stand out by their coverage of networks especially as wireless companies expand their network to include 5G. Also, you should think about customer service. The most reliable phone companies can address billing questions as simply as they help you troubleshoot issues with your device. Some carriers also leave their mark by rewarding subscribers with a variety of benefits.

Cheapest mobile phone plan for less than $40

The top phones all-around

MVNOs: What do they mean and how do you choose the top choices?

It’s a lot of things to keep track of when making a decision on the best phone provider for your company. But luckily, there’s no need to do that, as we take everything into consideration when ranking the top phone companies. Right now, there’s a race among T-Mobile and Verizon to be the top phone carrier with the Uncarrier just beating over Big Red. If you’re willing to look beyond the main wireless companies there are plenty of quality from smaller companies such as Mint Mobile and Visible.

Today’s top three most price phone carriers

The top phone carriers in general

 T-Mobile

The most reliable phone carrier in general

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan Cost: $70 per month Magenta plan

Best Tiered Data Plan: N/A

Best Prepaid Plan 15$/month 2.5GB plan

5G Coverage: 300 million people (nationwide)

Parent Network: T-Mobile

Reasons to buy

Unlimited plans with attractive pricing and low-cost tiered data plans and a host of advantages for customers

There are reasons to avoid

-2.5GB, 5.5GB prepaid plans include a hard limit on data

In terms of the most optimal mix of coverage, data plans, and benefits, T-Mobile is a tough phone provider to beat, however, a massive security breach that occurred in the month of August caused an embarrassment to the firm. However, T-Mobile has changed the ways that wireless companies conduct business by offering a wide range of unlimited data plans and blazing promotional campaigns. This is why we named T-Mobile the top phone provider within our Tom’s Guide Awards 2021 and that’s the reason it’s the number one choice here.

T-Mobile provides the most comprehensive Unlimited data plans that you can find, by offering a $70 Magenta plan, which bakes in fees and taxes into the price of the plan. It allows you to make use of your data even when you’re in another country (albeit at lower speeds). Discounts that are healthy as you add lines make Magenta the most affordable family-friendly cell phone plan especially when you consider T-Mobile offering a discount on an additional line in the current promo.

If you don’t really need all this data, TMobile’s 2.5GB and 5.5GB prepay plans rank among the lowest that you can discover. T-Mobile is currently upgrading its monthly plans to offer 5G coverage.

In our LTE testing of the network, We found that T-Mobile’s LTE speed for downloads was extremely fast even though Verizon, as well as AT&T both, came better than the Uncarrier at the time we tried. In addition, a third-party testing firm Opensignal claims that T-Mobile is the fastest in 5G speeds, both for uploads and downloads, and also the highest 5G coverage and accessibility. The T-Mobile 5G service is currently available to over 300 million users who are the majority of them being can access the company’s more efficient Super Capacity 5G services.

What truly makes T-Mobile apart are the benefits it offers its customers. Every week, T-Mobile Tuesday giveaways feature rewards and prizes, while the Team of Experts program also provides exceptional customer service for subscribers. Family plan members can have the cost of the Netflix account in their plans and T-Mobile is now offering a complimentary year’s subscription to Apple TV Plus to Magenta and Magenta Max subscribers.

 Verizon

A great alternative to T-Mobile.

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan: $80/month Play More plan

Best Tiered Data Plan: $55/month 5GB plan

The Best Plan for Prepaid: $45/month, 15GB plan

5G Coverage: 230 million people (nationwide); 82 cities (mmWave)

Parent Network: Verizon

Reasons to buy

+Network offers a wide range of coverage and fast 5G speeds with mmWave+Excellent Prepaid plans

The reasons to stay clear of

Best unlimited plans are expensive-Fastest 5G speeds are limited to a few regions

Verizon’s plans might be more expensive than other carriers. However, there’s plenty to love about America’s top wireless provider, beginning with the coverage and the performance that its networks offer. As we’ve tested LTE rates, Verizon has come out in the top spot, and third-party testing company RootMetrics has placed Verizon in the top spot for the last 16 consecutive semi-annual reports, which includes the first half of 2021.

Big Red’s mmWave-based Ultrawideband 5G is available in greater than 80 metropolises and typically delivers 1Gbps download speeds. The coverage is more extensive, reaching the 230 million population, however, this 5G version isn’t quite as fast as Ultra-Wideband. Verizon’s purchase of spectrum C-band is expected to expand the range of its speedier 5G service by the end of the year. Verizon will also make it easier to access 5G with any phone, even ones that are broken to lower the costs of moving to a phone with 5G. This includes the brand new iPhone 13 Pro.

For the price of the service, you’ll get cheaper and more readable unlimited data plans from T-Mobile However, Verizon’s plans offer interesting perks. Its Do More plan, which is priced at $80 per month for one account (and the price is $180 for four) comes with the cloud’s capacity of 600GB as well as the 50GB limit before Verizon can throttle your speed. Play More, priced the same amount, gives you access to a range of Disney streaming services (Disney Plus and ads-supported Hulu as well as ESPN Plus) along with an entire year’s subscription to Discovery Plus as part of your wireless plan. An annual subscription to a gaming streaming service, such as Apple Arcade as well as Google Play Pass — is now part of the list of options available to Play More subscribers.

The prepaid plans offered by Verizon are attractive with the recent announcement that Verizon increases the quantity of data that you can use. It offers a 15GB plan that costs $45 per month with a discount of $5 on autopay and loyalty rewards cut prices even more. When you have completed three months the price drops to $40. Nine additional months bring the cost down to just $35. All prepaid plans come with 5G connectivity however the Ultra-Wideband coverage is available only to those who have unlimited plans that are prepaid.

Verizon has been a success when we’ve evaluated customer support for mobile carriers and continues to provide a broad choice of phones, which includes exclusive models. (Verizon provides Ultra Wideband versions of both the Samsung Galaxy A42 5G and the Motorola One 5G Ace as cheaper 5G alternatives.) If you’re not afraid of paying an extra amount on each month’s bill Verizon offers the speed and quality that is worth the price.

AT&T

Third place in the top carriers.

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan: $85/month Unlimited Elite

Best Tiered Data Plan: $50/month 4GB

Top Prepaid Plans: 40$/month, 15GB plan

5G Coverage: 250 million people (nationwide)

Parent Network: AT&T

Reasons to buy

Extensive network, growing coverage of 5G and HBO Max tie-in to Unlimited Elite plan

There are reasons to avoid

The best-unlimited plan is expensive

AT&T is currently in a difficult spot with the other major carriers. AT&T’s rates and promotions don’t compare to what T-Mobile provides as well as Verizon is still the most popular total service (though AT&T’s network with 5G does have more coverage at present). It means that AT&T is at the third spot in our top phone carrier ranking, but there are some positives for the service.

When we last evaluated network performance, AT&T finished second for LTE download speeds. Other tests by third-party companies provide a more positive image and show RootMetrics providing AT&T the top spot as the fastest network for the first quarter of 2021. RootMetrics also lauds AT&T’s five-G speed, which is faster than its competitors.

In terms of plans, AT&T’s best-selling unlimited data option is the most expensive option which is an $85 per month Unlimited Elite plan that includes the HBO Max streaming service. AT&T has removed any limit on data usage, which means Unlimited Elite customers will not see their speeds slow as well as you’ll have additional hotspot data. The lower tiers of unlimited plans offered by AT&T aren’t as favorable with T-Mobile or Verizon plans, however, the majority of AT&T unlimited plans now come with 5G connectivity at no additional cost. AT&T also lets families blend and mix unlimited plans to ensure that each line will have a different level that offers unlimited bandwidth. Unlimited plans include the option of six months of Stadia Pro streaming games.

AT&T’s prepaid services offer plenty of data as well. The most effective plan currently gives you a substantial amount of data — 15GBfor just $40 per month. The more appealingly priced $30 prepaid plan offers the same amount of data, which is 5GB.

Visible

An easier way to obtain unlimited data

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan: $40/month Best Tiered Data Plan: N/A

Best Prepaid Plan: N/A

5G Coverage: 230 million people (nationwide); 82 cities (mmWave)

Parent Network: Verizon

Reasons to buy

Unlimited data for $40+ discounts on multiple lines. Services are offered through Verizon’s network

The reasons to stay clear of

Speeds may be reduced when coverage of the network is congested and restricted to iPhones

Variety isn’t the main ingredient of life with regards to Visible’s services, since the discount provider along with Verizon MVNO offers only one service plan. However, it’s a fantastic choice — you can receive unlimited data for just $40 per month, which is on Verizon’s LTE network which was the best performer in our tests.

Visible was able to put limits on the speed of data at the time it launched however that limitation was lifted in the past. This means that you’ll be able to benefit from the full potential of Verizon’s network, but with speed slowing only when the network becomes too crowded. (That’s normal procedure for networks such as Visible that use another provider’s towers to provide coverage, but.) 5G service is accessible through Visible through Verizon’s coverage using the iPhone 13, iPhone 13, iPhone 12, Galaxy S21 Plus, Galaxy S21, Galaxy A42 5G, Motorola One 5G Ace, Pixel 4a 5G, Pixel 5, and Blade X1 5G users able to connect to 5G with no additional cost.

In comparison to the most affordable plan for cell phones, Visible offers the top plan for families due to the huge discounts when the plan is expanded with lines. The two lines that are unlimited with Visible cut the cost per line to just $35. A family of four can pay the total amount cost of 100 dollars (or the equivalent of $25 for each line) every month. The Visible Party Plan doesn’t limit you to those living in the same house It can also be used to cover distant relatives, friends, or roommates. Referral programs can lower your monthly bill to $5 per month once an additional customer you’ve referred is accepted into Visible.

Visible started out as an iPhone-only provider but it later added Android phones into the mix with everything from flagships like Galaxy S21 and Pixel 5 to budget phones like Galaxy S21 and Pixel 5 to affordable options such as Galaxy A42. Galaxy A42. The new early upgrade plan allows you to upgrade to a different phone after you’ve paid back 50 percent of your phone. You may also bring your existing device to the Visible.

Mint Mobile

The best rates are when you pay in advance

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan: $30/month unlimited data plan

Best Tiered Data Plan: N/A

Most Prepaid Plans: $20/month for a 10GB plan

5G Coverage: 300 million people (nationwide)

Parent Network: T-Mobile

Reasons to buy

Monthly rates are low, especially for unlimited data.

The reasons to stay clear of

Low rates are contingent on a year’s commitment. Minimal benefits

Mint Mobile offers some of the lowest prices available for mobile data if you’re willing to purchase coverage upfront. Pricing starts at $15 per month to get 4GB LTE data. This is more than T-Mobile’s Simple Connect plan. However, this price is only valid for the initial three months of your subscription. To keep that price it’s necessary to enroll for a full year of coverage, which limits your options to switch carriers if you’re unhappy with the service. (That method is also the case for Mint’s 15GB and 10GB plans, as well as for the company’s $30 per month unlimited-data plan.)

Mint utilizes T-Mobile’s network to ensure coverage, which means you can expect speedy performance especially if you’re in an urban location. Mint promises coverage for 4G or 5G depending on which signal is more powerful — provided you’ve got the right phone for 5G and obviously.

When it comes to devices, Mint sells both iPhones as well as Android phones, with an array of price points. It is also possible to bring your existing device to Mint for a different experience if you’d prefer. The Mint Mobile vs. AT&T and Verizon comparisons. Mint Mobile comparisons offer an in-depth look at the way this discount service stacks up with the larger phone companies.

 Metro by T-Mobile

A good discount phone carrier

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan 50/month Unlimited plan

Best Tiered Data Plan: N/A

The Best Plan for Prepaid: $39/month for a 10GB plan

5G Coverage: 300 million people (nationwide)

Parent Network: T-Mobile

Reasons to buy

Good variety of plans and 5G coverage and network coverage from T-Mobile with compatible phones

The reasons to stay clear of

Some perks: Data speeds could be reduced when there is a high volume of traffic on the network.

Metro By T-Mobile — previously MetroPCS is still one of the top phones for those who don’t want to shell out a large amount of money on your mobile phone service. However, Metro is facing stepped-up competition from both big-name rivals and small discount providers alike. The parent company T-Mobile has taken a piece of Metro’s acclaim by offering the cheapest $15/month mobile phone plan, and Verizon has increased in the quantity of data that it includes in its prepaid plans.

There’s plenty to love about Metro which is a benefit of the cellular network of T-Mobile to provide coverage. Although Metro traffic may slow when the towers of T-Mobile get crowded In our tests it’s been rare. Most importantly, Metro customers with 5G-capable phones can take advantage of T-Mobile’s 5G coverage, which currently extends all the way from coast to coast.

Verizon might provide additional data for customers who pay However, Metro’s plan of $40 per month offers a generous amount of 10GB data with music streaming of more than 40 different services that aren’t counted against your limit. Metro’s unlimited plans include $50 for the basic plan, and $60 for a plan with the Amazon Prime membership and more hotspot data quite attractive, too. With a special offer that you can take 50% off the unlimited $50 plan when switching to Cricket or Boost, and the $25 per month price will remain until the end of two years.

Metro has a large selection of handsets, with nearly one-third of the phones available for sale at lower than 200 dollars. There are additional savings by porting over the number of your phone when you sign in to services with Metro.

Google Fi

The best phone carrier is if you choose Pixel

Specifications

Most Unlimited Plan: $70/month for unlimited

Best-Tiered data plan: 20$/month to talk and text, plus $10/GB

Best Prepaid Plan: N/A

5G Coverage: 300 million people (nationwide)

Parent Network: T-Mobile, US Cellular

Reasons to buy

Only pay just for the data that you use. Use data and text abroad and optimized specifically for Google Pixels, select Moto phones

The reasons to stay clear of

Unlimited data from -Cheaper is available from other sources

It’s no longer limited to Google’s phones and tablets, the Google Fi wireless service now is compatible with nearly every kind of mobile (including iPhones). It’s the most effective choice if you own a Google Pixel device or a fully compatible phone from a third party such as those like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 or Motorola phones like Motorola One 5G Ace, the Moto G Power, or Motorola One 5G Ace. These phones can seamlessly switch between providers that offer Google Fi’s coverage including Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular and you’ll always have the most reliable connection. It’s not as easy if you connect your phone with you to Google Fi.

The Pixel 5a is out – as well as Google Fi is the only carrier that is offering it — you’ve got another reason to think about Google’s wireless services. We’d anticipate seeing the Pixel 6 to be available via Google Fi as well.

Google Fi’s pricing is appealing if you don’t require lots of data. Google costs you $20 for unlimited text and talk and only $10 per gigabyte of data that you use. However, this is adjusted according to reflect the amount of data you use If you’re using 2.5GB for example that you’ll pay just $20 instead of Google rounding it up to $30. You can choose unlimited data if you want and at $70 per month, their pricing is similar to what T-Mobile charges for its most affordable unlimited plan. There’s an unlimited data plan for $60 option available at Google Fi, but it doesn’t allow you to access your data from abroad which is what makes Google Fi so appealing.

The feature lets you access your text and data when you’re traveling in over 200 countries. The data is also available at reasonable speeds in other countries. It’s accessible in Google Fi’s unlimited plan for $70 and also in its per-gig pricing, however not in the $60 plan.

Consumer Cellular

The most reliable phone carrier for seniors.

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan: $60/month Unlimited Shared Data

Best Tiered Data Plan: $30/month 3GB plan

Best Prepaid Plan: N/A

5G Coverage: Yes

Parent Network: AT&T, T-Mobile

Reasons to buy

Discounts for members of AARP and low rates for those who don’t require lots of data

The reasons to stay clear of

There are cheaper plans available elsewhere if make use of a lot of data. Some criticism of customer service

Consumer Cellular is a good alternative for your cell phone service if your needs aren’t an excessive amount of data every month or you don’t require unlimited minutes of talk. (Or both!) (Or both!) plans at affordable prices and you can move between your data allowance each month in case you think you will require more data.

You could also cut costs on your monthly bill by limiting the amount of talk time you use to 250 minutes per month. This reduces the price for a 3GB plan by $5 to $25 per month. 3GB plan by $5-$25 per month.

Since Consumer Cellular offers a 5 percent discount on monthly charges to members of AARP It’s a huge hit with older adults. Consumer Cellular uses AT&T and T-Mobile to provide coverage, which means that you’ll enjoy a good network no matter where you’re. (And when you buy one of the iPhone 13 or a 5G-ready Android phone from the carrier, you’ll benefit from the 5G network.) Consumer Cellular does take some criticisms for its customer care, yet it’s considered to be a simple service to manage the plan you have and keep mobile phone’s costs down.

Boost Mobile

A new era for the discount carrier

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan: $50/month Unlimited Gigs

Best Tiered Data Plan: N/A

Most Prepaid Prepaid Plan: $35/month for a 5GB plan

5G Coverage: 300 million people (nationwide)

Parent Network: T-Mobile

Reasons to buy

Unlimited plans and plans with unlimited plans contrast well with Metro’s+ Good selection of low-cost phones

There are reasons to avoid

The Unlimited Plan isn’t really unlimited. It’s limited in advantages

Once operated and owned under the control of Sprint, Boost Mobile is now owned by Dish as part of the $1.4 billion acquisition triggered by the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. Boost has decided to keep its name and operate on that network until the end of the seven-year period in the meantime, Dish is looking to expand its own networks.

Boost offers the same plans that it did before and your best option is one of the company’s Two unlimited plans. The $50 plan includes 12GB of hotspot data as well as the six-month service with Tidal’s stream service. For $65 per month, you can enjoy HD live streaming of videos and 30GB of data for hotspots. The unlimited plans reduce your speed when you’ve used 35GB of data within a month.

The unlimited pricing of Boost is comparable with the ones you can receive at Metro by T-Mobile but T-Mobile’s prepaid plan doesn’t place limits on game and music streaming as Boost does. The most popular tiered plan offered by Boost offers 5GB of data at $25 per month and includes two GB ($15) as well as 10GB ($35) options too.

The Boost service is expected to perform well on the network of T-Mobile but, like any other service that is prepaid, it could be affected if the network becomes overloaded. We believe that Boost is going to continue to provide the best of iPhones and Android phones, with an emphasis on low-cost phones.

Xfinity Mobile

An excellent option if like bundles

Specifications

Best Unlimited Plan Unlimited Plan: $45/month

Best Tiered Data Plan: $30/month 3GB plan

Best Prepaid Plan: N/A

5G Coverage: 230 million people (nationwide); 82 cities (mmWave)

Parent Network: Verizon

Reasons to buy

Low unlimited rate and 5G coverage on Verizon’s network. Discounts on several lines of data with unlimited

The reasons to stay clear of

-Requires Xfinity Internet service

If you already have your internet service through Comcast and, because it’s the country’s largest broadband provider chances are you already have it — Xfinity Mobile offers you the chance to cut down on your telephone bill. The phone provider that’s owned by Comcast makes use of the Verizon mobile towers and Xfinity hotspots to provide nationwide coverage for phones.

The best Xfinity plan for individual customers is its unlimited plan for $45. It’s not just less expensive than the price you’d be charged for unlimited coverage with the big phone providers and also gives you connectivity to the 5G Verizon network when you own a phone that supports 5G. You can avail of 5G at a fraction of the price you’d spend on a Verizon unlimited-data plan.

Xfinity Mobile has added discounts on additional lines, removing one of the major drawbacks against this phone service’s best choice. Although a one-line of unlimited service costs $45 per month, adding a two-line data plan can bring the cost per line down to just $40. Four people in a family will pay $120 per month, which is $30 for each line.

There’s a great variety of phones at Xfinity which includes the latest iPhone as well as Android flagships, like Samsung Galaxy S21, iPhone 13, and Galaxy S21. Xfinity has begun to extend support for your device to include more than just the iPhone as the recent Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel phones are supported too for those who already have those phones.

What are the things to look out for when selecting the phone provider

The first thing you should consider in determining the most suitable phone service for your requirements is to determine who offers the most coverage in your region. Focus on areas where you are spending a lot of time and require mobile phone service, for example, your workplace, home, and frequent calls. The tests for network performance look at the speed of downloads in selected cities and third-party tests can provide an insight into the performance of networks on an average. To get the most accurate view of coverage in your area it is best to talk to your family and friends about their experiences.

If you’re comfortable looking outside one of the top mobile phone companies You can always look into an alternative carrier. These MVNOs use larger networks for mobile service, so make sure to research the discount carrier’s network employs to ensure that they offer good service in the area you reside and work.

After you’ve determined which carriers provide the most coverage in your area you can look into plans and prices. You’ll have to determine the amount of data you require and whether an unlimited plan is necessary or if you’re able to choose a lower-cost plan that has limited data. We’ve looked at the top plans for cell phones, in general, to help you select the one that meets your requirements.

Another aspect to think about when choosing a carrier is the perks that are offered with an annual subscription. There are more of them when you choose larger carriers, whereas the prepaid and discount mobile services often cut down on the additional features. Some of the most sought-after benefits include streaming services, high-speed hotspot data, and the possibility to use the plan while traveling abroad. (Speaking of travel abroad We’ve also taken an overview of the top international phone plans offered by the biggest carriers.)

How do we test phone carriers?

We assess the network’s performance by traveling to 8 US cities and using the Ookla Speedtest application to gauge the speed of download. To test in real-world conditions we download a substantial app from Google Play and time how quick it is to download the app downloaded on mobile. We complement our own testing by looking at performance reports of third-party companies like RootMetrics, OpenSignal, and Ookla. All of this data aids us to analyze the network performance of a particular carrier.

We constantly examine cell phone plans to examine the amount of data each provider provides and how the plans for unlimited differ for each carrier. We also examine the most affordable prepaid plans with extra features that you must give up in exchange for a lower cost to see if they’re worth the money or not.

We’ve conducted customer support testing in the past. We make contact with carriers without revealing our identities to ask them questions regarding their services and the phones they provide. We conduct this testing undercover via phone as well as via social media support accounts via Twitter as well as Facebook.

Verizon 5G rollout What’s going on

The rollout of 5G by T-Mobile: how does it compare to

AT&T 5G rolling out: where are we?

Philip Michaels is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide. Philip Michaels has strong opinions about Apple and the Oakland Athletics and old movies. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.

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