What to look for in a cell phone plan in 2022
Mobile phone plans have grown tremendously over the past few years. In fact, now that the market is teeming with new carriers and plans, it’s easier than ever to find a service that fits your budget and usage needs, if you know what to look for.
Unlimited data plans continue to be one of the most popular options and it’s easy to see why. Smartphones have quickly become a go-to source of entertainment for people all over the world, and streaming movies or downloading games requires large amounts of data. Unlimited plans ensure you’re never locked out of the content you love, although they tend to be a bit more expensive than their data-limited counterparts.
Prepaid plans have also come a long way in the past decade, shedding their shoddy persona and blossoming into services that rival monthly subscriptions. These plans let you pay up front for a service and typically don’t require credit checks or lengthy contracts. They also tend to be more affordable than their monthly counterparts, making them a great way to save money on your bills.
When it comes to carriers, you’re spoiled for choice. Verizon and AT&T continue to offer some of the best coverage maps in the country, though T-Mobile is a strong contender that’s generally a bit cheaper than the competition.
Meanwhile, newcomers such as Mint Mobile and Visible offer slightly smaller coverage maps but offer drastically reduced prices to compensate. Be sure to check each carrier’s coverage map before signing up for their service, especially if you live in a rural area.
It’s hard to go wrong with most plans from today’s biggest carriers, but there are a few that stand out above the rest. Here are six of the best cell phone plans, ranging from unlimited prepaid plans to low-cost family options.
- ✓ Unlimited access to premium networks
- ✓ 50 GB of hotspot data
- ✓ Impressive national coverage
- ✗ Costs increase with fewer lines
Not only does Verizon offer one of the best coverage maps in the country, but its 5G Get More plan offers more features and access than anything on the market. You will have access to its 5G network, without limitation regardless of data usage, and 50 GB of premium hotspot data.
Beyond its basic features, a bunch of goodies are bundled into the 5G Get More plan, including Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ streaming services, Google Play Pass or Apple Arcade, and an Apple Music plan.
There’s even a 50% discount when buying a new smartwatch, tablet or hotspot, plus free access to the Verizon Cloud (giving you 600GB of cloud storage). In total, this is worth over $60 per month, recouping much of your cost if used to the max.
The price of the plan varies depending on the number of lines activated, ranging from $90 for a single line to $50 per line for five or more. It’s clearly a better deal for larger groups, but even experienced solo users will get more than their money’s worth with Verizon’s 5G Get More plan.
- ✓ Affordable price
- ✓ Unlimited calls and texts
- ✓ Unlimited data
- ✗ 5 GB access point
- ✗ Limited coverage
Budget cell phone plans have come a long way in the past decade. Nowhere is this more evident than with Mint Mobile, which offers a surprisingly robust 12-month unlimited plan for just $30/month.
You won’t get any bonus features, but you’ll get unlimited calls, texts, and data, though speeds are throttled after you’ve used more than 35GB each month. It’s also limited to just 5GB of mobile hotspot data, so you won’t be using it as a backup when your home internet connection drops or you’re on the go.
Coverage is also a little more limited than the competition, with a noticeable blind spot over most of central Nebraska, as well as other parts of the central and western regions of the country.
These are minor quibbles, though, and for just $30/month, there’s no better plan out there. Coverage is excellent in almost all major cities and access to unlimited data at this price is impressive.
If you can live with a few minor drawbacks, Mint Mobile is a great option for budget shoppers.
- ✓ Several levels offered
- ✓ Works on T-Mobile’s nationwide network
- ✓ No annual contract
- ✗ Barebones no-frills plan
T-Mobile Connect was launched in 2020 and since then it has been one of the most popular prepaid plans in the market. Connect is operated through T-Mobile’s nationwide network, which means you’ll get great coverage just about anywhere you travel.
The best part of T-Mobile Connect is the variety of plans. In fact, you can find a prepaid option for just $10/month, offering just 1GB of domestic data and 1,000 talk minutes and 1,000 texts. The most expensive option costs $35/month, with unlimited calls and texts and 12 GB of data.
The worst part about T-Mobile Connect? Once you reach your data cap, all services that require data will be disabled until the start of your next billing cycle. You can connect to Wi-Fi to access certain features, or you can purchase additional data to continue using your services without interruption.
But if you’re a frugal data user (or spend most of your day connected to Wi-Fi), T-Mobile Connect is one of the best prepaid options out there.
Best cell phone plan for two lines: Verizon 5G Start
- ✓ Unlimited data
- ✓ 5G access
- ✓ Reasonable price
- ✗ Data limitation during peak hours
Another entry on our list, another plan from Verizon. This time it’s the 5G Start plan that wins, as its great price and awesome bonuses make it the perfect choice for couples or two friends sharing a plan.
At $60/month per line, the 5G Start plan is a bit pricey, but there’s no doubt that you get what you pay for. Verizon’s network is arguably the best in the country, with a sprawling 5G map that’s only expected to keep getting bigger and more reliable throughout the year.
You will have unlimited data access with this plan, although you may experience limitations during peak hours.
That downside aside, there’s little not to like about Verizon’s entry-level unlimited offering. The bonus content in this package isn’t quite as robust as the 5G Get More plan, though you’ll still get six-month Disney+, Apple Music, and Apple Arcade subscriptions.
- ✓ Unlimited calls, texts and data
- ✓ Unlimited hotspot
- ✓ Big discounts to add more payers
- ✗ Not a “real” family plan
Visible offers another type of family plan that gives each line its own account. Dubbed Party Pay, friends, family or even strangers are free to join your “Party”. The more people in your group, the lower your costs, with prices reaching $25/month when bundled with a group of at least four people.
The advantage of Visible Party Pay is that each line is connected to its own account, which means it’s easy to split bills or track your own data usage. Of course, you won’t have to track your data often, as you’ll get unlimited access to Visible’s network, as well as unlimited calls and texts. There’s no data cap on your hotspot either, and you can even make calls to Canada and Mexico.
Party Pay isn’t a true family plan like seen on other carriers, so if you’re looking for something that lets you bundle a bunch of lines on one credit card without jumping through a few hoops, you might be better served by looking elsewhere.
But if you don’t mind that or even prefer its individualistic nature, Visible Party Pay offers great value for families and large groups of friends.
- ✓ Unlimited calls, texts and data
- ✓ 5G support
- ✓ 4K streaming
- ✗ A bit more expensive than other plans
Although most of the plans on this list are unlimited data plans, few can compete with AT&T Unlimited Elite. As usual, pricing works on a sliding scale based on lines activated (ranging from $45/month to $85/month), but you’d be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive service.
Not only do you get unlimited calls, texts and data, but you won’t be limited based on usage. You also have access to AT&T’s growing 5G network and unique ActiveArmor security system, which filters scam calls and blocks them before they reach your phone.
Add in 40GB of hotspot data per line, 4K video streaming, and free access to HBO Max, and you’ve got an unlimited plan worth talking about.
It’s a little pricey (and Verizon’s coverage might be better depending on your location), but the Unlimited Elite plan is definitely worth a closer look if you’re looking for a well-rounded cellular plan.