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The Best Cell Phone Plans: Reviews by Wirecutter


Our pick

Verizon Wireless

Verizon is the nation’s largest carrier for good reason: It offers the best coverage in the most places in the US, so you’re more likely to have a signal no matter where you are. Its pricing is competitive with that of its three chief rivals for the amount of data that most people actually use. Don’t want to worry about if your phone connects? This is the carrier for you. It isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside the US or who want an unlimited plan, but it is the first carrier everyone else should look at. (Not sure Verizon’s the right network for you? Want to know when to consider prepaid plans? Check out “How to determine which network has the best coverage for you,” and “Postpaid or prepaid?” below.)

The Verizon price-plan menu currently leads off with the $75 Go Unlimited plan—which most people don’t actually need, and in some ways is Verizon’s weakest offering—and the $85 Beyond Unlimited plan, which will push your posttax total to near $100. You should ignore those and the limited-data options listed below them on Verizon’s site, and check out its 5 GB for $55 deal. It’s difficult to navigate to this from Verizon’s home page, but you should see this option if you select a phone. That advertised rate requires Verizon’s auto-pay discount—however, like the two “unlimited” offerings, it requires making payments from a checking account or debit card, so you can forget about running up points on a travel-rewards credit card.

The other catch: That $55 plan, along with Verizon’s other limited-data postpaid plans, restricts the resolution of streaming video to 720p on phones and 1080p on tablets. As of February 6, 2018, the company had yet to document that fact outside a brief mention in the second-to-last paragraph of a press release.

That offering, however, beats T-Mobile and Sprint’s unlimited plans. And for the great many people who don’t exceed 5 GB in a month, the price should matter less than Verizon’s continued network advantage.

Prices and plans are current as of February 6, 2018. For T-Mobile One, HD video and LTE hotspot cost $10 extra. T-Mobile One’s 1 GB option has a $10 credit for not exceeding 2 GB.

This 5 GB plan won’t help you if you need multiple lines, but we have separate advice for multiple-line scenarios.

We are not very fond of either of Verizon’s unlimited plans. Beyond banning HD streaming video and knee-capping mobile-hotspot speeds, the $75 Go Unlimited plan reserves the possibility of “deprioritizing” your data if you enter an area with network congestion—even at the start of a billing cycle, before you’ve burned up any data yourself. And as with the 5 GB plan, that price requires enabling automatic payments from a checking account or debit card. Unlike Verizon’s capped plans, it offers only 2G domestic data roaming, which one reader complained about while noting his experience roaming in Alaska and Puerto Rico. And it excludes all of Verizon’s discounts except for its military and veterans offer. We’re tempted to call this plan “Basic Economy Unlimited.”

Verizon’s $85 Beyond Unlimited plan allows higher-definition video—720p resolution on phones, 1080p on tablets—and 15 GB of LTE tethering. But it imposes the same auto-pay requirements.

Because everyone on a Verizon multiple-line plan has to share the same data bucket, Verizon’s multiple-line rates have become less competitive now that the next step up after an 8 GB plan is the unlimited tier. Covering 5 GB each for four lines once cost $160 a month, but if you want unlimited data that Verizon doesn’t shackle with constraints, you’ll have to pay $200 a month for four lines of Beyond Unlimited or pay the same $160 as before for four lines of considerably less-versatile Go Unlimited. That same change has raised the cost of 5 GB of use on two lines from $100 to $160, or $130 with Go Unlimited.

Verizon’s CDMA-based network isn’t capable of simultaneous voice and data use (this means, for instance, that if you’re using your phone to navigate while you’re driving and you get a voice call where you don’t have 4G service, you may lose the call), but the company’s far-flung LTE deployment has addressed that problem in many areas.

If you use Verizon Wireless for your cell phone and Verizon Fios for your home Internet and TV, you can stream live and recorded Fios shows without it counting toward your data allotment. This is the same kind of zero-rating AT&T does for its DirecTV subscribers, and it could be a factor for you if you already have Fios at home.

Verizon’s history of taking its time with software updates for its phones (going back to Palm OS updates) should worry Android-device owners, even if it’s picked up the pace in the last year or so. But that isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, because you don’t have to buy your phone from Verizon as long as the model you get supports its network. More and more unlocked phones are compatible with Verizon nowadays, including iPhones, Google’s Pixel handsets, most Motorola models, and some Samsung phones, though as you can see at Will My Phone Work, this group excludes GSM-only phones like the Blu models popular on Amazon and some LTE models with limited frequency support, such as OnePlus’s Android-based phones.

If you travel internationally, Verizon’s TravelPass can seem tempting. But although that option adds a reasonable $5 a day in Canada and Mexico to use voice, text, and data drawn from your domestic allowance, in much of the rest of the world (with a few exceptions, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar) you pay $10 a day. But Verizon phones are all sold unlocked, so you can (and should) use a local prepaid SIM when traveling internationally.

Verizon offers discounts to employees and members of designated companies and organizations—but aside from its military and veterans discount, none of them apply to the unlimited plans.



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