How to choose a mobile plan in 2021



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You want to make sure you know the answers to these questions before you change your wireless service.

It is not easy to change mobile phone operator. Despite the fact that the United States has three main networks, the number of wireless providers and plans is considerably larger. Sifting through all of this is a confusing tangle that can easily overwhelm even the most experienced. We want to make it a bit easier for you. This is a guide to choosing a mobile plan in 2021.

Which network is right for you?

In the United States, there are three main networks: AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. All three offer direct services and have strong national networks offering 4G LTE and 5G.

As we’ve written before, the most important aspect of choosing a network is finding one that works in your area. This makes it very difficult for us to give a general recommendation from an operator. T-Mobile’s service in New York can be great, but if you’re in rural Iowa, Verizon is more reliable.

While your mileage may vary, the good news is that these networks are growing and improving all the time, especially as the top three players compete to cover the United States with 5G. It is quite possible that ten years ago he left a network complaining about his poor service, but now he has strengthened himself by this arms race to acquire customers.

If you know a friend or family member in your area who already uses the carrier you are considering, ask for their experience. You can also go to an operator store and see if they offer a free way to test the service before you switch, like T-Mobile’s Test Drive.

Meet the smaller, prepaid players

Although these three operators operate the major networks, there are several smaller wireless service providers that provide service over their radio waves. First, there are the prepaid brands that each operator owns. Verizon to Visible, AT&T to Cricket, and T-Mobile to Metro. They all use their parents’ respective networks for the service.

As for the smaller players, they also depend on the larger networks for the service. Mint Mobile and Google Fi, for example, use the T-Mobile network, while cable companies Comcast and Spectrum rely on Verizon for their respective brands Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile.

Boost Mobile, now owned by Dish, uses a combination of T-Mobile and AT&T, while Dish is building its own 5G network.

The advantage of these smaller operators, many of which are known as MVNOs (or Mobile Virtual Network Operators), is that you can access the service from the larger provider at a more affordable rate. If you’ve found that Verizon performs best where you live but your service is too expensive, switching to Visible, Spectrum Mobile, or Xfinity Mobile may allow you to keep similar coverage but pay a little less (although you may lose money. (other benefits like free streaming services).

We’ve broken down some of these providers, including who uses which network and some of the tradeoffs you’ll want to consider.

Know how much you owe in your payment plan

Fortunately, two-year contracts have largely disappeared from the US wireless market. Unfortunately, now it looks like they’re going to be replaced by increasingly long payment plans.

With the iPhone 13 deals, AT&T had to accept a 36-month fee as part of its terms to get a free device. T-Mobile has been asking for 30 months to get its offers, while Verizon is experimenting with the move from 24 to 30 months.

The advantage of these longer lead times is the possibility of getting a new expensive phone for a lot less. The downside is that you have to stick with this carrier (and potentially a more expensive unlimited plan) for two to three years. Get out before this time and you may have to pay the balance owed over the phone.

The good news is that the large operators often offer several hundred dollars to subsidize the switch. But you’ll want to log into your account online or head to your provider’s store to check how much you owe on your phone before you go.

One good thing that has changed: Modernization of phones and networks means that your current phone will likely perform well on a new carrier and all the major players are offering a similar range of newer devices, especially when it comes to the iPhone and Galaxy. telephone line.

To get the most out of any changes, you’ll probably want to take this time to update your device, but if not, you can rest easy knowing that your existing device will likely perform just fine.

Know your discounts

As we’ve written before, another thing you’ll want to consider is the discounts. All companies offer additional savings that you may be entitled to depending on your employer, military status, student status, or even your age. If you have a family plan, maybe a family member will qualify even if they don’t.

First responders, military personnel, veterans, nurses and teachers in particular can get discounts at all major companies. Verizon offers student discounts, while T-Mobile’s Business Benefit could cut $ 10 per month on a Magenta Max plan, and AT&T offers a similar program for its Unlimited Elite plan which it calls Signature.

If you’re 55 or older, you may also be eligible for a discount plan: T-Mobile offers discount plans nationwide for as little as $ 55 per month for two lines, while Verizon and AT&T offer similar options, but only for Florida residents. .

This could save you money if you switch providers, or potentially lower your current rate a bit more and save you the hassle of switching providers.

Understand the benefits

Many large operators offer benefits for using their premium unlimited plans, especially streaming services. Verizon offers the Disney package (Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus) to those who have its Unlimited Play More and Get More plans, AT&T offers HBO Max with its Unlimited Elite and T-Mobile offers Netflix and Apple TV Plus with its Magenta and Magenta Max Offerings.

Even smaller prepaid carriers like Cricket (HBO Max with ads), Metro by T-Mobile (Amazon Prime Video), and US Mobile (a variety of options) offer perks with their unlimited plans.

Beyond streaming, some Verizon plans (as a primary Get More option) include Apple Music, while T-Mobile’s Magenta and Magenta Max also offer GoGo Wi-Fi in-flight. T-Mobile Metro offers 100 GB of Google One storage, as well as an Amazon Prime subscription. AT&T offers six months of free games with Google’s Stadia Pro.

If you’re already paying for one or more of these subscriptions, switching to the right provider can be a way to help you save even more.

Final words: How to choose a mobile plan in 2021

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