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Unlike postpaid services, many prepaid and resold services still limit your text messages and phone calls, so the actual cost of a particular carrier may be slightly more or less if you use more or fewer minutes and texts, respectively.
We also crunched these same numbers for shared-use plans for two and four lines.
Verizon offers the best coverage in the most places in the US, so you’re more likely to have a signal wherever you are—the most important thing for a smartphone to have.
And although Verizon isn’t the least expensive carrier for unlimited-data plans, the company’s under-promoted single-line 5 GB plan (just $55 after an autopay discount) includes more data than most people require and saves you money compared with an unlimited plan.
But wherever you live, taxes and fees should hit you equally across all of your options—except for T-Mobile’s Magenta offering, which sweeps them into the advertised cost.
Verizon is the nation’s largest carrier by subscribers for good reason: It offers the best coverage in the most places in the US according to third-party tests and surveys (including those of Opensignal and Root Metrics), so you’re more likely to have a signal no matter where you are.
T-Mobile’s network isn’t quite as widespread as Verizon’s (or, in some studies, AT&T’s), but it easily beats those two in its pricing for unlimited data, while its coverage outpaces that of its cheaper rival Sprint.
T-Mobile also bests Verizon in terms of international-roaming plans, and a slightly wider variety of phones work on T-Mobile’s GSM network (that’s the standard most of the rest of the world uses) than on Verizon’s CDMA network, though the best phones are available for both.
And its pricing is competitive with that of AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for the amount of data that most people actually use.
It isn’t the best choice for people who frequently travel outside of the US or who want unlimited data, but it is the first carrier everyone else should look at.