What to look for in a cell phone plan in 2022
Cell phone plans have seen tremendous growth in recent years. In fact, now that the market is bursting 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 source of entertainment for people all over the world, and streaming movies or downloading games requires a lot of data. Unlimited plans ensure you’re never without access to the content you love, though they tend to be a bit more expensive than their data-restricted counterparts.
Prepaid plans have also come a long way in the last decade, shedding their low-quality persona and becoming services that rival monthly subscriptions. These plans have you pay money 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 are spoiled for choice. Verizon and AT&T continue to offer some of the best coverage maps in the country, though T-Mobile is a solid competitor that’s generally a bit less expensive than the competition.
Meanwhile, newcomers like Mint Mobile and Visible offer slightly smaller coverage maps but feature radically reduced prices to compensate. However, 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 out there, ranging from unlimited prepaid plans to low-cost family options.
- ✓ Unlimited access to premium networks
- ✓ 50 GB hotspot data
- ✓ Impressive nationwide coverage
- ✗ The cost increases with fewer lines
Verizon not only offers one of the best coverage maps in the country, but its 5G Get More plan offers more features and access than anything else on the market. You’ll get access to its 5G network, unlimited regardless of data usage, and a staggering 50GB of premium hotspot data.
Beyond its basic features, the 5G Get More plan includes a host of benefits, 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 you buy a new smartwatch, tablet, or hotspot, along with free access to the Verizon Cloud (which gives you 600GB of cloud storage). All told, that’s well over $60 worth each month, recouping much of its costs if used to the fullest.
The plan price scales based on how many lines are activated, 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 individual power users will get more than their money’s worth with Verizon’s 5G Get More plan.
- ✓ price payable
- ✓ Unlimited calls and texts
- ✓ unlimited data
- ✗ 5GB hotspot
- ✗ Limited coverage
Cheap cell phone plans have come a long way over the past decade. Nowhere is that more apparent than with Mint Mobile, which offers a surprisingly solid 12-month unlimited plan for just $30/month.
You won’t get any extra features, but you’ll get unlimited talk, text, and data, though speeds throttle after using more than 35GB each month. It’s also limited to just 5GB of mobile hotspot data, so you won’t be using it for backup when your home internet goes out or you’re on the road.
Coverage is also a bit more limited than the competition, with a noticeable blind spot in most of central Nebraska, as well as other parts of the central and western areas of the country.
Those are minor quibbles, though, and for just $30/month, there isn’t a better plan on the market. Coverage is excellent in almost every major city, and unlimited data access at this price is impressive.
If you can live with a few minor inconveniences, Mint Mobile is a great option for shoppers on a budget.
- ✓ Multiple levels offered
- ✓ Works on T-Mobile Nationwide Network
- ✓ No annual contract
- ✗ Barebones plan without frills
T-Mobile Connect launched in 2020 and has been one of the most popular prepaid plans on the market ever since. Connect works over 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 is $35/month, with unlimited talk and text and 12GB of data.
The worst part of T-Mobile Connect? Once you’ve reached your data limit, any services that require data will be turned off until the start of your next billing cycle. You can connect to Wi-Fi to access select 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 among the best prepaid options on the market.
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 Verizon plan. This time it’s the 5G Start plan that comes out on top, as its great price and impressive bonuses make it the perfect option 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 question that you get what you pay for. Verizon’s network is arguably the best in the country, with an expanding 5G map that should only continue to get bigger and more reliable through the rest of the year.
You’ll have unlimited data access with this plan, though you may experience some throttling during peak hours.
Other than that drawback, there’s little to dislike about Verizon’s entry-level unlimited offering. The additional content for this package isn’t as robust as the 5G Get More plan, though you’ll still benefit from six-month subscriptions to Disney+, Apple Music, and Apple Arcade.
- ✓ Unlimited talk, text and data
- ✓ unlimited hotspot
- ✓ Great discounts for adding more payers
- ✗ Not a “true” family plan
Visible offers a different 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 going as low as $25/month when you group with a group of at least four people.
The great thing about 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, along with unlimited talk and text. There’s also no data cap on your hotspot, and you can even make calls to Canada and Mexico.
Party Pay isn’t a true family plan like you see at other carriers, so if you’re looking for something that lets you bundle a bunch of lines onto a single credit card without jumping through a few hoops, you’re better off looking elsewhere. .
But if you don’t mind or even prefer your individualistic nature, Visible Party Pay offers great value for families and large groups of friends.
- ✓ Unlimited talk, text and data
- ✓ 5G support
- ✓ 4K streaming
- ✗ A little more expensive than other plans
While 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 depending on the lines activated (ranging from $45/mo to $85/mo), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more comprehensive service.
Not only do you get unlimited talk, text, and data, but you won’t be throttled by usage. You also get access to AT&T’s growing 5G network and exclusive Active Armor security system, which filters out scam calls and blocks them before they reach your phone.
Throw in 40GB of hotspot data per line, 4K video streaming, and free access to HBO Max, and you have an unlimited plan worth talking about.
It’s a bit pricey (and Verizon’s coverage could be better depending on your location), but the Unlimited Elite plan is certainly worth a closer look if you’re looking for a comprehensive cellular plan.