Comparing Unlimited Phone Plans

Category: Mobile

Sprint has launched a new “unlimited” voice/text/data plan called “All-In.” The fourth-largest mobile carrier says that “All-In” means all the charges are in one advertised price, eliminating unpleasant surprises. Let’s see how true that is…

Some Unlimited Plans are More Unlimited than Others

Sprint's $80/month All-In plan includes $60/month for “unlimited” service plus $20/month to lease one of three eligible handsets: the Apple iPhone 6 (16GB), Samsung Galaxy S6 (32GB) and HTC One M9 (32GB). No down payment is required on the hardware, but there is a $35 activation fee. Taxes and government fees are variable. That’s nice and simple.

But then it gets complicated. There’s an optional “Early Upgrade” fee of $10/month that you can tack onto your bill. After paying it for 12 consecutive months, you can upgrade to a new phone instead of waiting another 12 months. So, impatience costs $120. Oh, and if you’re on a standard two-year service contract, Early Upgrade is unavailable; it’s only offered to customers who are buying phones via the Easy Pay installment plan or who lease their phones from Sprint.

Unlimited Data Plans Compared

The $60/month service charge is actually $10 more than existing customers pay under Sprint’s “iPhone for Life” plan, which All-In replaces for new customers. Existing iPhone for Life customers are grandfathered in, until the end of their contract (or their life, one assumes).

How unlimited is Sprint’s “unlimited” 4G service? Sprint stopped throttling heavy data users shortly after the FCC slapped AT&T with a $100 million fine for throttling data speeds by up to 95 percent. Initially, the All-In service announcement included a speed limit of 600 Kbps (3G) on video streaming. But the backlash was so immediate and intense that Sprint lifted that speed limit the very next day (July 1), promising not to throttle video unless Sprint’s network gets congested. (Prediction: It will get congested.)

T-mobile also offers “unlimited” data at 4G speeds, coincidentally for $80/month ($50 base price with a 1 GB cap, plus $30 for truly unlimited data and speed). But on top of that $80 you’ll pay $27.08 per month for a supported phone. Another $10/month gives you the option to upgrade early. You’re allowed up to three upgrades per year, but after the first one your monthly bill jumps $12, to $107.08.

What About AT&T and Verizon?

No, there’s nothing simple or cheap about unlimited phone service. AT&T and Verizon don't even offer unlimited data in their plans. Perhaps with their market dominance they feel they don't need to do so. So let's compare pricing based on their 10GB offerings.

AT&T charges $100/month for service with 10 GB, $27.08 for the phone, and $15 per line. That’s $142.08 per month, per line. Verizon charges $80/month for up to 10 GB of data, plus $27.08 for a phone; plus $15/month line charge. That’s $122.08 per month, per line.

Both AT&T and Verizon assess overage fees if you exceed your monthly data allowance. Sprint and T-Mobile offer "unlimited" data in their plans.

Incidentally, those Verizon figures are for new customers only. I have had five lines with Verizon for a long time, and pay $40/month line charges. When I saw the offer with the $15/month line charge, I called right away, because that would save me $125 per month. No dice, they said. That's the price you pay for loyalty.

The bottom line is that Sprint’s All-In beats the other three carriers. Its closest competition is T-mobile, which costs $27.08 more per month. That's a good deal, if you live in an area with a decent Sprint signal, and you're okay with just three phones to choose from from.

Now, if only Sprint can beef up its network, widely considered the weakest of the Big Four carriers, the All-In deal would make Sprint an obvious choice.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Comparing Unlimited Phone Plans"

(See all 24 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Scott
03 Jul 2015

Aside from coverage area, it really doesn't matter which one you buy; I feel they are all in collusion with the FCC/PUC. They ALL gouge customers with extra charges and fees on top of their already sky-high costs.
As with the latest push in the cable TV realm, a la carte equipment and services should be made available, and AFFORDABLE, for all.


Posted by:

PDSterling
03 Jul 2015

I would like to pass a law forbidding the use of the word "only" preceding any price over $9.99. $60/mo is disgraceful for anyone on a fixed income. I pay $15 for phone, $7 for cell phone, $20 for internet, and $0 for TV because I have an antenna.

I disapprove of using telephones as computers, and so can't think in terms of gigabytes of bandwith, and I refuse to tell anyone my cell phone number.


Posted by:

Linda
03 Jul 2015

All of that is too confusing and too expensive. I had Straight Talk for several years (At&T network). Worked great. Now I have Cricket: with autopay, $35/month, all text and talk plus 2.5 GB of data. I usually use less than 1 GB per month. Best deal around, and it is the AT&T network. Oh, and I also bought a great used Galaxy S4 for less than $200 a few months ago. Great phone; I can change the battery.


Posted by:

Genise
03 Jul 2015

I went to Wal-Mart and got a phone and pay $43 a month for all the talk and text I want. Not another penny. You can also get straight talk, however I did not, because I have a computer and I still can use up to 500 MG of e-mail and such and if I go over there is no charge they simply shut that part off so there is no charge but I still have my phone and text for unlimited use and it is a Verizon and it is the best and I only paid $59 for it and it is awesome! I have a ton of apps on it. I cannot say enough about it! Thanks Verizon and Wal-Mart!!! Extra not and the Verizon (larger) store will help you free of charge if there is a problem if Wal-Mart is not able to handle the problem.


Posted by:

Jack Salemi
03 Jul 2015

1) This article does point out that we are constantly being duped by the major carriers.2) [not mentioned] That in the US we pay much higher rates than the rest of the world 3) [not mentioned] all service is not the same CDMA vs. GSM 4 [not mentioned] other Major Players... The MVNO's. I would like to see a more thorough article


Posted by:

Mark Hoffman
03 Jul 2015

I have unlimited service for $30 per month from Boost Mobile. I get throttled back to 3G from 4G after, I think, 2GB. The $30 includes a $5 savings for allowing Boost to automatically bill my credit card each month. Boost uses the Sprint network and is now owned by them. Since I was a Sprint customer, I was not entitled to a free phone, but I save the cost of my new phone in a few months.


Posted by:

JP
03 Jul 2015

A much less alternative to Sprint is TextNow Wireless. It uses the Sprint Network, but costs a lot less, plus all taxes and fees are included in the stated price and there's no contract.

If you want or need better coverage, there's PureTalk USA that uses AT&T's network. It's also a no-contract option that includes all taxes and fees in the stated prices. They don't even charge for their SIM card. Data is a bit pricey, though, and is separate from talk and text.


Posted by:

HA
03 Jul 2015

I'm happy with Republic Wireless.
$150 for the phone.
$10 per month unlimited text and voice, data only where you have wifi.


Posted by:

Roy
03 Jul 2015

Thanks for your emails, Bob. I enjoy reading them and take your advice on most things electronic. :)

Regarding Verizon, I have a family plan (3 phones) which has one smart phone. Not too long ago, I upgraded the basic plan to the "More Everything" plan. While talking with a rep on the phone, I was offered a discount of $10/month for each of the phones. I was also offered a free gigabyte of data per month for a year! My current plan dropped about $50/month by just a phone call. I now pay $117.xx / month for 3 phones, one of which is a smart phone, with 1.5 Gigs of data and unlimited talk and text for all three phones. I am pleased.


Posted by:

Doc
03 Jul 2015

I live and travel in rural areas (think mostly Eastern Sierra and the Great Basins and Ranges but have the family home on the Western Slopes, about 60 miles or so from Sacramento). At home my roommates get, at best, phone service that approaches, but does not surpass, 1950 Italy. They have tried multiple carries all with the same results. Every company they try is like Mr. McGoo looking for anything, and it is nearly a county wide problem. If they walk up to the top of the driveway, about 1/4 mile, they can get two and, if lucky, three bars. I am always amazed when they come in drenched from spending 1/2 hour talking to a friend in one of our very rare downpours. I prefer a hard line (Land line, or 'POT' lines in the telephone jargon "Plain Old Phone" line -- which ATT took away about a year ago leaving me U-verse). With 70+ year old roommates, if the power goes out, well, in abut an hour the battery goes dead and there IS no way to dial 911 if someone falls and breaks a hip, they can always craw up the 1/4 mile driveway and make their 911 call).

And we are really not ALL that rural. I sometimes carry a TracFone (pay as you go) but it's mostly for roadside problems on paved roads, once I turn onto the dirt, I'm on my own. Kinda like 1950 Italy. And the TracFhone is just that, a phone. If I need an 'app' I use my laptop, but you can only get what is there, and the Great Basins and Ranges it is exactly what you see: nothing. (yet, one of the most amazing bio- and geologic regions in the States.). So even on Land Lines, ATT falls flat on it's face, and here, there is no real competition. Their areas of coverage, as with most phone companies, are measured from mountain tops which face their transmitters in line of sight. And not from the roads which traverse below the summit line.


Posted by:

Julie
03 Jul 2015

I'm on Sprint. I'm not crazy about it. I had USCellular but had to change because they wouldn't support one of my numbers. My bill more than doubled with Sprint. I pay $166/mo for two phones, only one with unlimited date/text/calls, and for one tablet with 2gigs of usage a month. It's all a rip-off, I feel. AT&T is trying very hard to get my cell service, but after the "mess" (to be very kind) of getting my Uverse service and home service, there's no way I would switch to them! As I told them, my cell was my ONLY way to communicate for over a week while they straightened out the mess that they created!


Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
03 Jul 2015

All surveys and advertizing aside, I have found that I get better service and wider reception on AT&T. Starting decades ago when I kept hearing reviews of poor AT&T reception in big cities, I consistently found myself with coverage where Verizon, Sprint etal. customers were scratching their heads looking for "the right spot." I do admit that reception in my house in SF was crap, but no one else's phones worked there either. Now I live way out in the sticks of Washington state and I still have to lend my phone to friends who visit on other services. Even through the trees I get acceptable 4G service. What good is "cheap" if you don't have service. Besides that I can go anywhere in the world with my phone & as long as I turn off data it is relatively affordable. So I guess once again you get what you pay for.


Posted by:

Wayne Douglas
03 Jul 2015

Just a small point: Your math for T-Mobile is off a little. $80 + $27.08 = $107.08 + $12 = $119.08;)


Posted by:

penny
03 Jul 2015

you id not compare the T-Mobile plan. I was thinking that was good with the unlimited text and data in foreign countries. How does it stack up?


Posted by:

Denis Ferguson
04 Jul 2015

Just about worth cancelling your contract and rejoining the next day as a new customer!


Posted by:

Chuck
04 Jul 2015

These phone plans will never be simple or cheap. It's not in the interest of the phone companies to be easy to compare. I think my family plan is too high and it would save me $50 a month to change from ATT to T-Mobile. I just keep putting it off. They count on this. None of these companies are your friend. Loyalty? What is that?

On the other hand, I don't see where peoplel have the time to burn the amount of data that they go through. How do they have the time? Do they have a life? Just wondering.


Posted by:

Charmaine
05 Jul 2015

MetroPC: 29 bucks for phone/$30 mo flat fee for all. How could you miss all the cheapies and only discuss the ones that are expensive?


Posted by:

Mike
06 Jul 2015

I have had horrible times with tmobile and sprint coverage in my travels. AT&T has more than coverage by far. I will not leave them.


Posted by:

MmeMoxie
07 Jul 2015

Boy oh, boy ... Is any one mobile phone service, really better, than another one???

First of all, ALL mobile server companies, are trying to make a sizable profit, off of their customers.My AT&T Wireless account, is off the charts with their Family Share Plan. I have looked at Verizon and Sprint, in all honesty, their plans aren't much better ... So, I just stay with AT&T.


Posted by:

Jay R
26 Jul 2015

I pay $40.00/month for unlimited text and talk. The data is 2G/month which rolls over to the next; being capped at 4G/month. I am not under contract. C-Spire is a regional carrier, but I have not had trouble with service far west as Las Vegas and far north as somewhere in Iowa and far east as Georgia. I didn't even consider using it in South America. I would connect to the internet via local WiFi, though.


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