The Best Cell Phone Plans for 2019

Prepaid, unlimited, family plans - which one is best for you? We’ve got the answer
BEST OVERALL
  • Great speed + coverage
  • Great customer service
Best Unlimited
  • 50GB data cap
  • Lots of perks included
  • International included
Best Coverage
  • #1 coverage
  • #1 speeds
Best international
  • Unlimited Talk, Text, and Data in 210+ countries
  • Included in unlimited plans
Best Prepaid
  • 40GB data cap
  • Affordable rates
Best Family
  • 50GB data cap
  • HD streaming
  • Great promos
Best low-cost
  • Great pricing
  • Global roaming

Overview

Shopping for the best cell phone plan, deal, and service provider for one person (or many) can quickly become overwhelming. There are a lot of moving parts when you compare phone plans: data caps, coverage, overages, line access charges and other hidden fees — the list goes on. If you’re ready to switch to a new carrier, but trying to compare all that information from each carrier yourself is making your head spin — this guide was made for you.

We did the work for you, digging through the mounds of providers and figuring out which ones are best for things like: best overall wireless carrier, best unlimited plans, which ones have the best cell phone coverage, family or prepaid plans, best budget options, and even which ones have the best international plans.

So let’s dive into our finds for the best mobile phone plans for 2019.  

Best cell phone plan overall: Verizon Beyond Unlimited

Plan Features Price View Plans
Beyond Unlimited
  • Unlimited data, talk, and text
  • Unlimited HD video (720p)
  • 15GB/line mobile hotspot data
  • Unlimited talk/text, 512MB/day in Mexico and Canada
  • Slowed down after 22GB/month
  • $85/mo. + phone price upfront
View plans

Verizon Beyond Unlimited, Verizon Wireless’s middle-tier option, takes the cake for us. With exceptional coverage and speeds thanks to the #1 network in the U.S., plus some extras, it was easy choice.

With Verizon it’s all about speed and performance — they’ve just about always been at or near the top for overall performance. Plus, you get 15GB of mobile hotspot data at 4G LTE speeds. And HD streaming. And a solid data threshold — at 22GB per month, that’s on par with competitors like AT&T.

Put all those things together, and the $85 per month price starts looking pretty reasonable.

Pros

  • Speed and coverage are #1
  • Awesome performance
  • HD streaming
  • 15GB extra 4G LTE for hotspot

Cons

  • On the more expensive side of things
  • Relatively low data cap compared to some competitors

Alternatives

That price tag a bit too high for you? Try T-Mobile One or Sprint’s Unlimited Basic plan on for size.

  • T-Mobile One gives you a 50GB data threshold versus Verizon’s 22GB, plus a free Netflix subscription and lots of other perks – and at just $70/month. They’re a little more spotty in non-metro areas, though.
  • Sprint’s Unlimited Plus is another solid contender. You get 1080p HD video streaming, a massive 50GB mobile hotspot, and extras like Hulu and Tidal – all for $70/month. 

Best unlimited plan: T-Mobile One

Plan Features Price View Plans
T-Mobile one
  • 4G LTE
  • 50GB data cap
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in 210+ countries
  • 480p video streaming
  • Lots of perks included
  • $70/mo.
View plans

T-Mobile comes in as our choice for best if you want unlimited data without every being throttled. With a 50GB data deprioritization threshold, you’re pretty unlikely to ever hit it in a month — which means high-speed internet everywhere you go, no slowing down.

Plus, that cap is the highest standard cap in the cell phone industry — you’d have to pay the $95/month rate for Verizon’s highest-tier plan to get anything better.

Pros

  • Huge standard soft data cap
  • Awesome perks included
  • Unlimited music + video streaming
  • T-Mobile Tuesdays – rewards like movie tickets, Lyft credits, Frostys at Wendy’s, etc.
  • Data + unlimited texting on Gogo-enabled flights
  • International is included

Cons

  • No HD streaming – SD definition (480p) only
  • Poor rural coverage

Alternatives

If you live in a more rural area, you just don’t get T-Mobile’s network where you live, or you really want that HD streaming quality, check out Verizon’s Beyond or Above Unlimited plans, or take a look at Sprint’s Unlimited Plus.

  • Verizon Beyond Unlimited gives you smaller data cap, but HD video and the best network performance money can currently buy. And if you need a bigger data cap than 22GB, upgrade to Above Unlimited to get a monster 75GB.
  • Sprint Unlimited Plus gives you the HD streaming, plus a 50GB hotspot, as well as some good perks for a similar price.

Best coverage: Verizon (any plan)

Plan Features Price (1 line) View Plans
Go Unlimited
  • Unlimited data, talk, and text
  • SD video (480p)
  • Unlimited mobile hotspot data at 600kbps
  • Unlimited talk/text, 512MB/day in Mexico and Canada
  • Can be slowed at any time
  • $75/mo. + phone price upfront
View plans
Beyond Unlimited
  • Unlimited data, talk, and text
  • Unlimited HD video (720p)
  • 15GB/line mobile hotspot data
  • Unlimited talk/text, 512MB/day in Mexico and Canada
  • Slowed down after 22GB/month
  • $85/mo. + phone price upfront
View plans
Above Unlimited
  • Unlimited data, talk, and text
  • Unlimited HD video (720p)
  • 20GB/line mobile hotspot data
  • Unlimited talk/text, 512MB/day in Mexico and Canada
  • Slowed down after 75GB/month
  • $95/mo. + phone price upfront
View plans

When it comes to coverage and overall performance, there can be no doubt about the winner: Verizon is king (or queen) here. When it comes to coverage, it matters less which plan you pick here, so long as it’s Verizon plan.

But, if we had to pick, we’d say go with at least the Beyond Unlimited plan, because you have a 22GB data threshold – so your data won’t face throttling until that point. Compare that with the first-tier Go Unlimited plan, which can be throttled whenever there’s congestion.

While Beyond Unlimited isn’t the cheapest, it does come with most features prominent in unlimited plans (HD video, mobile hotspot data, Mexico & Canada T&T&Data included, etc). And of course, most importantly it’s on the #1 network in the country, as ranked by sources like OpenSignal, Speedtest.net, and Rootmetrics.

Pros

  • Great performance ratings
  • 15GB hotspot
  • HD streaming

Cons

  • Pricier option
  • Relatively low data cap (for Go and Beyond Unlimited options)

Alternatives

Thinking cheaper? Try out AT&T’s Unlimited &More Premium. While Verizon has traditionally held the top rank for coverage (and in most studies, continues to do so), AT&T has consistently come up close behind, particularly in the category of latency.

And for a little cheaper, you get a lot of the same features as Verizon.

Best international plans: T-Mobile ONE

Plan Features Price View Plans
T-Mobile ONE
  • Unlimited texting + 2G data in 210+ countries
  • No extra cost
View plans

Currently, T-Mobile and Sprint are the only major carriers to include international services standard in their plans. Others typically rely on expensive add-ons. And of these two, T-Mobile is the better one, giving you unlimited texting and data (at 2G speeds) in 210 countries.

You can also upgrade pretty easily to faster speeds for an extra $15/month if you travel internationally often.

Pros

  • Unlimited talk & text + 2G data included in plans
  • Can double your speeds (128kbps to 256kbps) for extra $15/mo.
  • Cheaper plan overall with better international features than competition

Cons

  • “Iffy” customer service – poor answers to simple questions

Alternatives

If you can’t get T-Mobile, why not check out some other options?

  • All of Sprint’s plans included free text and basic data with Global roaming in 200 worldwide destinations. For just $60 or $70 bucks a month.
  • If you can afford them, Verizon’s international options included a $10/day International Travel Plan, including talk, text, and data in 100+ countries. They also offer monthly international coverage in 140+ countries, but prices vary from $15-$40 per device for a capped allowance.

Best prepaid plans: Simple Mobile Truly Unlimited

Plan Price Features View Plans
Truly Unlimited $50/mo.
  • 4G LTE speeds up to 40GB, throttling possible beyond
  • Mobile hotspot capable
  • Unlimited talk, text, and international text
  • International calling + roaming 480p video
View plans
Truly Unlimited $60/mo.
  • 4G LTE speeds up to 40GB, throttling possible beyond
  • Mobile hotspot capable
  • Unlimited talk, text, and international text
  • International calling + roaming
  • 480p video
  • +10GB for hotspot
View plans

There are a lot of great options when it comes to prepaid plans. That said, we decided that Simple Mobile is worthy of your consideration for the spot. At just $50 per month, it’s the cheapest plan available that still has a decent amount of data included – plus, it’s on T-Mobile’s solid network.

Upgrade to the $60 Truly Unlimited plan, and you even get a 10GB allowance of hotspot data.

Pros

  • Good money-for-value
  • 40GB 4G LTE data threshold
  • Great multi-line discounts

Cons

  • Feature-light
  • MVNO – so won’t necessarily get T-Mobile customers’ speeds all the time

Alternatives

The best alternative to Simple Mobile is T-Mobile’s Simply Prepaid plan. Why? Well, for one it’s directly on T-Mobile’s network, so you won’t face quite the same deprioritization issues as with Simple Mobile. The big downside is the 10GB LTE data cap. Beyond that — all bets are off and speeds will crawl. But at $40 a month, it’s not a bad option as prepaids go.

Best family plans: Sprint Unlimited Plus

Plan Features Price View Plans
Unlimited Plus
  • Unlimited, slows after 50GB
  • 1080p HD video streaming,
  • 50GB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot,
  • Unlimited T&T + 10GB data in Mexico + Canada, Hulu + TIDAL subscription
  • $60/mo. limited time, $70/mo. regular
View plans

When it comes to a family plan on one of the major networks — or any network, for that matter — you really can’t beat Sprint. With their family options, you get all the features of Sprint’s unlimited plans, like 1080p HD video streaming, 50GB of data for a hotspot, unlimited T&T, and all the extras — for strong discounts per line.

Even better, Sprint is currently running a promotion where you get your 3rd, 4th, and 5th lines free (until 6/30/2020) when you bring your own device or purchase a phone outright.

That’s not bad at all.

Pros

  • Affordable pricing for the whole family
    • Gets even better with autopay – take $5 off
    • 3rd, 4th, and 5th free for a year
  • 1080p HD streaming
  • Solid data threshold

Cons

  • 50GB doesn’t stretch far with multiple lines

Alternatives

For other options, check out the multi-line discounts available with Verizon Go Unlimited and AT&T Unlimited &More.

  • Verizon Go Unlimited gives you unlimited 4G LTE data, SD streaming, and a hotspot. With 4 lines, you get it for $40/line/month — $35/line in savings each and every month.
  • AT&T Unlimited &More gives pretty similar features for the same kinds of rates as Verizon Go Unlimited.

Best low-cost plan: Sprint Unlimited Kickstart

Plan Features Price View Plans
Unlimited Kickstart
  • Unlimited
  • 480p SD video streaming,
  • Global roaming at 2G speeds
  • $25/mo.*
View plans

*With AutoPay

$25 a month for unlimited data on one of the Big 4 carriers? Sign me up! Combine that price point, unlimited data, decent coverage for city folks, and this is the best value plan by far.

Pros

  • Unlimited data
  • Great pricing for a Big 4 carrier

Cons

  • Weak coverage in non-city areas
  • Data deprioritization at any point if network gets congested

Alternatives

There are some other cheap options available, as well, but be warned: there are tradeoffs.

  • FreedomPop offers a completely-free plan for the first year. But, data is ridiculously low at 200-500MB per month. It’s best for people who don’t use much data. Their best option is a 10GB plan for $19.99/mo — if you prepay for 12 months ahead of time.
  • Total Wireless offer better data, but plans start creeping up — $35/month for 5GB, $50/month for 25GB, etc.

How to pick a cell phone plan

So, now that you’ve skimmed through those, how do you actually pick the right one for you? With all those details, it’s pretty overwhelming — believe me, I’ve been there. That said, you can use a handful of things to help narrow down your list. In the end, you should be down to one or two options.

Rural vs. metro coverage

Finally, perhaps most importantly — what’s available in your area? It doesn’t matter a whit if your needs align with T-Mobile if you live in the middle of the desert in Utah — you probably won’t have any coverage.

To that end, Verizon and AT&T are pretty good for most rural areas — particularly Verizon. T-Mobile and Sprint are less good out there; but they are pretty strong in metro areas and surrounding suburbs.

Check your coverage for each of these providers with these links:

Data

How much data do you need? Consider two things: 1) the number of people on your plan, and 2) how much data you think each will use. It’s pretty simple when it’s just you — you can be pretty accurate. Multiple people makes things more complicated. Here’s a handy chart to help you out:

Lines 1 line 2 lines 3 lines 4 lines
Light data use 1GB 2GB 3GB 4GB
Moderate data use 2GB 4GB 6GB 8GB
Heavy data use 4GB 8GB 12GB 16GB

If you like to stream a lot of music or video, post to Instagram a lot, browser for hours — that’s a lot of data.

Unlocked or locked phone

Next, do you want a “locked” or “unlocked” phone? If you buy a phone from a carrier, that means it’s “locked” to that network. You’ll be locked into that carrier, and unable to just walk away at any time.

On the flip side, if you buy an unlocked phone, it’s 100% yours — you can take it to any carrier that has a BYO program and that it’s compatible with. So, if you want to be able to take your phone with you when you switch to another carrier, go unlocked.

If you decide to go with an unlocked phone, buy it direct from the company – i.e. Apple, Samsung, etc.

Switching carrier offers

Consider the different offers that major carriers give for switching to them. These often include paying off your phone payment balance and any early termination fees. Some even give you little extras.

Carrier Switching offers
T-Mobile Pay off phone payment balance Pay early termination fees (ETF) Can get a Visa prepaid card in the amount of your ETF Possible bill credit for market value of your trade-in device
Verizon Will pay up to $650 Must trade in, but you’ll receive credit toward your current carrier’s ETF
Sprint Up to $650 prepaid card with either Sprint Lease or 24-month phone installment
AT&T Up to $650 to switch, with new phone on AT&T NExt, then trade in old phone for credit

Recap

  • Best overall: Verizon Beyond Unlimited
  • Best unlimited: T-Mobile ONE
  • Best coverage: Verizon plans
  • Best international: T-Mobile ONE
  • Best prepaid: Simple Mobile Truly Unlimited
  • Best family: Sprint Unlimited Plus
  • Best low cost: Sprint Kickstart
Avatar Written by: Tung Tran

Joe Warnimont is a freelance tech writer who enjoys playing around with WordPress and his personal blog. When not testing new apps and gadgets, he’s brushing up on his German or riding his bike in Chicago.

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