Last week was a bit of a crazy one in carrier news. T-Mobile has long been offering unlimited plans but Verizon shook up the world by beginning to offer unlimited data plans again after a years-long hiatus. Sprint and AT&T tried to make their own waves as well with tweaks to their unlimited plans in response to Verizon. If you’re in the market for an unlimited plan, now is a really good time to be a customer. But, which one is the best for you? Let’s take a look at the options.
While T-Mobile has recently changed its strategy, it has been offering unlimited data for a while. Old plans, like mine, offered little to no tethering and may have left out perks like T-Mobile’s Mobile Without Borders which allow you to use LTE in Mexico and Canada. The newer T-Mobile One plan was a bit controversial when it first came out but the company has been pushing it hard.
Up until last week, T-Mobile One offered a flat fee (plus tax) for unlimited calls, text and LTE data. The caveat was that you still had to pay tax on top of the base price and your streaming video was limited to 480p (T-Mobile is quick to point out this is DVD quality). The big change for T-Mobile in the past week is that it’s now including taxes and fees into the base price of T-Mobile One and streaming video quality will now be upgraded to HD.
If you care about streaming in HD while using your data connection, this is a pretty great improvement. Everyone has 1080p or 2560p displays on their phones these days and the more pixels you can display, the better the video will look. If you don’t care as much about video streaming, you’ll still save on the taxes and fees that are now included in the base price of T-Mobile One.
At the time of writing T-Mobile is offering 2 unlimited lines for $100 a month all-in. This includes HD video and 10GB of tethering. If you only want one line you’re going to shell out $70 a month for the same service. Three lines will run you $140 a month and four lines are $160 a month. All of these offers require auto-pay and if you exceed 28GB of data per month T-Mobile reserves the right to slow down your data speed to 2G speed.
Verizon’s unlimited plan, in contrast to T-Mobile’s, is brand new. Verizon had previously unveiled a new 5GB for $55 plan stating that most users don’t need any more than 5GB of data a month. They might be right but Verizon is missing out on the hardcore users out there that refuse to have limits on their data.
Under the new unlimited plan Verizon is now offering customers one line of unlimited data with HD (1080p) streaming, mobile hotspot, texting and calling to Canada and Mexico, and 500mb of data roaming a day in Mexico and Canada for $80 a month. If you happen to be part of a family plan, you can grab this same unlimited deal for $45 per line per month which comes out to $180 for four unlimited lines. Both of these options require that you use auto-pay.
Verizon is more expensive but Big Red expects that the extra $20 per month is worth it due to its superior network.
AT&T has also been offering an unlimited plan for some time now but its only been offered to those customers who also have U-Verse or DirecTV, which is owned by AT&T. That is now changing as AT&T tries to keep up with Verizon and T-Mobile.
AT&T’s plan is a little confusing. The first line is $100 a month for unlimited everything. After that, you can add additional lines for $40 a month which equals out to $220 a month, but that’s only for the first two months. Starting in your third month your fourth line becomes free and drops your overall bill to $180 a month, which equals Verizon.
With its new unlimited plan, AT&T will allow you to call Canada and Mexico for free and send text messages to over 120 countries at no charge. After 22GB AT&T reserves the right to throttle down your data speeds, which sits at 6GB less than T-Mobile’s data cap.
We’re glad to see AT&T unlock the DirecTV and U-Verse restrictions on this plan, but it doesn’t seem to be as competitive as Verizon or T-Mobile’s. If you’re a loyal AT&T customer and you don’t want to switch to get unlimited data, this could be the right fit for you, but I don’t see many customers being swayed to leave their current carrier for this deal.
Sprint’s new plan, like its network, is a bit of a mess. There are a couple of fairly large catches that come with the nation’s fourth-placed carrier’s plan including the requirement to port at least one line to Sprint. Here’s how it works.
When you sign up right now, your first unlimited line is $50 a month, which is significantly cheaper than the other three carriers. When you add a second line your bill jumps to $90 a month, $10 less than T-Mobile One’s two-line option. Lines three and four are both FREE which means you can get four lines of unlimited talk, text, and data for only $90. This includes HD-quality video streaming and 10GB of tethering.
But, here’s the catch. This price only lasts until March of 2018. At that point your price jumps to $60 a month for the first line, $40 for your second line, and $30 for lines three and four putting your bill at $160 for four lines. On top of that bill jump, this plan is only available to new customers who are required to sign up for Sprint’s auto-pay service.
The price jump may not sound like a huge deal but if you’re still paying off a phone you financed through Sprint or are locked into a leasing agreement you’ll have no choice but to pay the increase in line fees or pay off your phone and find a different carrier. It’s a gigantic pain.
Sprint’s plan will certainly save you some money in the short term, but you’re going to have to put up with a network that is subpar, no matter what its advertising says.
Who is the best?
So, who has the best plan? Well, that answer will change for everyone really. If you need the best network and you’re not worried about the absolute cheapest price it looks like Verizon might be your Huckleberry. If you want the absolute cheapest option, Sprint is where you should head. T-Mobile offers a better price than Verizon and a significantly better network than Sprint while AT&T has a strong network and is no more expensive than Verizon.
Are any of these plans good enough to get you to switch your current carrier? Will you be sticking with your carrier and changing to an unlimited plan? Let us know down in the comments!