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Best Cell Phone Carriers: T-Mobile vs Verizon vs AT&T vs Sprint, US Cellular, Google Fi & More

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Verizon logo
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T-mobile logo
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AT&T logo

Looking to save money on your cell phone plan? We know how you feel! It’s not fair that cellphone providers take advantage of us and sell us overpriced phones and plans. We’re all tired of it, but unfortunately, we live in an age where we must be available 24/7. Read our cell phone plan comparison to find out who has the best reputation and if they are good in your area.

We want to mention that just because one carrier is good in one area of the United States does not mean they will perform well in your area. We strongly suggest you ask around about the handset carrier you are considering to see how good they are in your neck of the woods. We’ve based the information in this article on overall performance in the U.S.

Please note that these are reviews of cell phone carriers. There are dozens of cell phone providers (resellers of cell phone carrier services) that may potentially offer more competitive plans, using the same networks. It all depends on your location, voice, text, and data needs. Checkout our article comparing the best cell phone plans for the scoop!

On this page: The 5 Essentials | Verizon | T-Mobile | AT&T | Sprint | US Cellular | Google Fi

What You Need From Your Cell Phone Carrier

There are five main things you’ll want to know before choosing your cell phone carrier:

  1. Coverage
  2. Data speeds
  3. Plans
  4. Phone models available
  5. Customer service

What you find out about the carriers involving these five items could make it or break it for you so be sure to keep them in mind while you compare cell phone plans.

1. Coverage Is of Paramount Importance

This is the most important consideration when it comes to choosing a carrier. Purchasing a phone and plan from a carrier that doesn’t have service in your area is worthless. Cellphone companies typically have those little coverage maps of the United States to show you the areas they cover. These are good places to start, but you should also do your own research. Just because they say they cover your area doesn’t mean the service is great. Places you travel to often is another thing to keep in mind. If you spend a lot of your time traveling, you’ll want to have good coverage in those locations as well. One tip is to ask your neighbor and coworkers who their phone providers are and if they are pleased with the service.

2. Data Speeds Need To Be Lightning Fast

Do you plan on using your smartphone to access the Internet, stream music and video, download apps and send emails? (Of course you are!) Then data speed will be important to you. Currently, the fastest data speed available is 4G LTE so find out if the carrier offers it and where it is available. No one wants their phone to load at the pace of dial-up Internet. Yikes, that dial-up sound still irritates me!

3. How To Choose A Plan?

Obviously you’re looking for the cheapest cell phone plans in your area with the best features. It’s important to find a plan that includes the functionality you want but doesn’t force you to eat Ramen Noodles for the rest of your life. Most carriers offer a plan with unlimited talk and text but how much extra do they charge for media usage? Make sure you know how much your plan will cost you a month and how long you’re tied into your contract.

4. What Phone Do You Want?

If you’ve had your heart set on a specific phone make sure the carrier has it. U.S. Cellular didn’t get the iPhone until 5 years after it was released! This bummed out quite a few customers and some switched carriers because of it. So, if a new phone is coming out, be sure to ask if the carrier will be offering this hardware.

5. Why Customer Service Matters

This is a huge determining factor when you’re choosing any company over another. In case there is a problem, you want to make sure your issue is solved in a friendly, timely manner. No one wants to deal with long wait times or a jerk on the phone who won’t listen to you. Ask around your neighborhood to see what others’ experiences have been.

Verizon Review

#1

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Verizon is the largest cell phone carrier in the U.S., but does that make them the best? Verizon has a great reputation and has coverage even in many remote areas where “No Service” is the prominent message from most carriers. Their performance is outstanding and they have tons of phones to choose from. Their customer support team is also impressive. However, Verizon does tend to be on the more expensive side. What you’re truly paying for is Verizon’s reliability. They know they’re the best so they charge an arm and a leg and do not offer to pay your early termination fees.

Pros

Cons

  • Reliable
  • Coverage in more remote areas where other services do not perform
  • Unlimited data plan
  • Diverse phone selection
  • Great customer support team
  • Offers 4G LTE
  • No annual cell phone contracts
  • Expensive
  • Does not pay early termination fees if switching from another carrier

What is Verizon’s Device Payment Program?

Verizon Device Payment, formerly called Verizon Edge, is a device payment program that spreads the cost of your device over a 24 month period. So if your device costs $599.99 it will cost you about $24.99/month for 24 months. This doesn’t mean you’re locked into a two-year contract with Verizon though, so there are no early termination fees. Other perks of Verizon Edge are no activation fees and no finance charges.

T-Mobile Review

#2

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It’s tough to beat T-Mobile’s price and performance; the trouble is they might not cover your area. T-Mobile got rid of their annual contracts so you can end your service whenever you want. They offer unlimited talk, text and data at a reasonable price. But, not so fast! Before going with T-Mobile, we suggest asking around to see how they perform in your local area.

Pros

Cons

  • Low prices
  • High speeds
  • Unlimited data plan
  • No contracts or termination fees
  • Offers 4G LTE (doubled their 4G LTE coverage in the last year)
  • Poor coverage in rural areas and sometimes in urban areas too (be sure to check their reputation in your area)

AT&T Review

#3

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AT&T is the second-largest cellphone provider in the United States and you may remember them as Cingular Wireless (the two companies merged a decade or so back). They have great coverage, but not quite as good as Verizon. From our research, it looks like they could also improve customer service. So if you have a problem with AT&T billing or coverage, you may be frustrated with the resolution of it.

Pros

Cons

  • Fast download speeds
  • Good coverage in the U.S.
  • Offers 4G LTE
  • AT&T Next lets you upgrade devices every 12 months
  • Contract is not required (changed in 2016)
  • Not as strong of a network as Verizon
  • More expensive than competitors, extra fees
  • From what we’ve heard from customers and read online, poor customer service

Some of the Other Best Cell Phone Plans

Just because these companies didn’t make our top 3 doesn’t mean they’re bad choices. These carriers may have great service in your area. Be sure to check them out and do the research before choosing your company.

Sprint | U.S. Cellular | Google Fi

Sprint Review

Sprint logo

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If price is the main concern for you then Sprint may be your solution. Sprint got rid of its popular Framily plan and now offers its Unlimited Freedom plan, which still offers unlimited talk, text and data. It’s only $40 per line per month for a family of four. After that, you can add up to ten lines for only $30 per line per month. Sprint gives you the best bang for your buck, but know that you’ll be sacrificing performance. So, if you’re okay with dropped calls now and then and a slower media network, then this may be the phone carrier for you.

Pros

Cons

  • Affordable unlimited talk, text and data plan
  • Contract buyout incentives and reduced rates
  • Offers 4G LTE
  • No 2-year contracts
  • We’ve received feedback on slower network and longer download times
  • Poor HD streaming according to customers
  • Coverage is not as robust as Verizon, especially in rural areas

US Cellular Review

US Cellular logo

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U.S. Cellular recently expanded its national coverage and availability of 4G, making it a national player in the industry. Their coverage is sometimes better than the big four (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile), depending on your location. US Cellular’s rewards system allows customers to redeem new devices at a lower price.

Pros

Cons

  • Great rewards system
  • Good variety of smartphone choices
  • I have personally experienced billing problems as well as many other customers
  • Expensive
  • No unlimited data plans
  • 4G LTE is not available in all areas

What Is Google Fi?

Google Fi may take the number one spot as best cell phone carrier, but not yet. As of now, it’s only available for the Nexus 6P, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6 smartphones. And the national coverage is spotty. They promise fast speeds, more coverage and better connections to wifi. The key difference between Google Fi and other phone carriers is that it changes between cellular networks, so depending on where you are you may be using a different network so you have the fastest 4G LTE at your location.

Who Is The Best Phone Carrier?

Finding the best phone carrier in your area doesn’t have to make you want to pull your hair out. Start your search by asking friends, family and neighbors how they like their service. Ask them how much they pay (if they don’t mind sharing) and what their plan includes as well as the performance. If you’re close to them, ask if you can take a couple minutes to surf the web on their phone or download an app. First-hand experience with the service will always beat out hearsay. Then, when you’ve narrowed down your search, come back here and check out the pros and cons for each company to see which is the best fit for you and your needs.

What do you love or hate about your cell phone plan?

Kimberly researches everything before she buys. She wants to make sure she is getting the best bang for her buck by purchasing the best product/service, which is why she loves her work. She has a degree in Multimedia Journalism and has been researching and writing professionally since 2013 to help consumers make more educated decisions.

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7 Comments on "Best Cell Phone Carriers: T-Mobile vs Verizon vs AT&T vs Sprint, US Cellular, Google Fi & More"

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kev

I have a T-Mobile personal phone, and my work phone is Verizon. so I have real time comparison of the coverage. It’s not even close. I always have 4G LTE with Verizon, and have a ton of no service areas with T-Mobile. I live in Tampa, and your location matters. But for where I live, there’s no comparison. Verizon smashes T-Mobile in this area.

Jackson
Jackson

I’ve priced out T-Mobile and Ting to make the switch from Verizon. For our data usage (whole family is on one plan, so usage for 6 lines), T-Mobile is going to be around $34/line, Ting would be around $58/line. We are currently paying around $59/line with Verizon. Looking forward to making the switch to T-Mobile!

Mike
Mike

Been with Verizon since the late 90’s and because I TRAVEL for my job, Verizon is the only carrier that I and between my friends and their carriers that has had service no matter where I have ever been. Yes, Verizon has always been higher than their so called competitors, but that’s priceless when you can total depend on your phone service when and wherever you need them! Now the key to this comment is TRAVELING! As far as I am concerned, no other carriers even come close to the coverage areas that Verizon has service in!

Guest
Guest

I have had AT&T since 2007 and no complaints as far as customer service and cell service! We have the unlimited data which is why we are pretty much “stuck” with them but we’re happy so not gonna change. Just sucks they don’t have the free phone upgrades anymore (unless you do Next and pay a monthly fee)

mcquainj
mcquainj

My family and I have had AT&T for the past few years. We live just below Seattle. The reception is terrible everywhere, and the customer service is worse than Comcast!

Luccas Zanetti
Luccas Zanetti

You say that because you’ve never came to Brazil and tested our cell phone carriers. Claro, Tim, Oi and Vivo are expensive and one of the worst services, no coverage, extra fees, poor customer service… You got luck.

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