What Is the Best Cell Phone Carrier in the U.S.?

Cell phones have become the primary telephone for 95 percent of Americans. With this in mind, it’s no wonder that the market is flooded with cell phone carrier options.

Having so many choices makes it easier to find an affordable plan, but it can also be very confusing for consumers. The carrier you choose is even more important than the type of phone or service plan you select. After all, if the carrier has patchy service in your area, you’re going to be extremely unhappy.

To help you weed through a crowded sea of options, we’ve looked at the nation’s major providers and compiled a list of the top five carriers that you should carefully consider.

T-Mobile

Between the numerous perks and inexpensive plans, T-Mobile has joined the elite list of the nation’s best cell phone carriers. Be sure to check their updated coverage map to ensure that T-Mobile has a strong enough presence where you live. If that looks good, there are some very compelling reasons to go with this carrier.

Price: Plans start as low as $40 per line when you activate four lines on the same account.

Coverage: Most areas have coverage now, but some of the western states are still at a disadvantage.

Perks: T-Mobile offers unlimited texting, calls, and data. They also have option for free Netflix, unlimited usage of the included mobile hotspot, and free international texting and data.

Phone Selection: You can get all the standard phones from Apple and Samsung, along with T-Mobile branded phones.

Customer Satisfaction: According to the YouGov Brand Index, T-Mobile was ranked number one for customer satisfaction in 2017.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon is one of the first carriers that come to mind when thinking about U.S. cell phone carriers, but many people also associate this provider with high prices. Although it’s true that Verizon does tend to have the highest plan prices, the company has recently been placing more of an emphasis on providing affordable options. TIME Magazine also pointed out that the trade-off for Verizon’s pricing is access to the network that’s “the most technologically advanced.”

Price: Just like T-Mobile, you can now get your plan for as little as $40 per month if you sign up at least four lines at the same time. Individual plans start at $30, but you’ll need to spend more for unlimited texting, talking, and data.

Coverage: Verizon claims to have coverage available for more than 98 percent of Americans. Despite this, they do have some notable coverage gaps, especially in the western states and in Maine.

Perks: Verizon has options for people who want a phone that’s connected to the Internet but have no interest in making or receiving calls. The company also offers daily and monthly TravelPass options for international travelers.

Phone Selection: There are many Google, Apple, Samsung, and LG devices available in Verizon’s phone store. You can also choose from a comprehensive list of budget phones.

Customer Satisfaction: The YouGov Brand Index has Verizon ranked as the second-best U.S. carrier for customer satisfaction.

Sprint

Sprint has an expanding network, and they offer fantastic rates for individuals and families. On the downside, Sprint is often the weakest service provider in terms of coverage, so you need to ensure you’ll receive a signal where you live. If signal strength isn’t an issue, you can get a good enough value with this carrier to excuse the occasional dropped call or dead zone.

Price: Sprint focuses primarily on offering unlimited plans. The starting price is $60, which may initially seem much higher than the competition. However, getting a truly unlimited plan from Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T typically costs at least $20 more.

Coverage: Sprint acknowledges that Verizon’s reliability is one percent higher, but that’s negligible, depending on where you live.

Perks: Sprint’s unlimited plans include free Hulu, streaming video quality up to 1080p, and a mobile hotspot.

Phone Selection: Sprint offers a wide variety of Apple and Android phones, along with some basic options. Phones are often free or discounted with a service contract.

Customer Satisfaction: Per YouGov’s Brand Index, Sprint ranks third nationwide for customer satisfaction.

AT&T

AT&T offers individual phone plans or bundle packages that include television and Internet access. If you’re looking for a deal on multiple forms of entertainment, AT&T may be your overall best bet. The carrier’s lack of individual budget phone plans may be an issue for some consumers.

Price: Basic plans start at $45 per month.

Coverage: AT&T may not be perfect for the western states, but it does have better overall coverage in the rest of the country.

Perks: AT&T includes free HBO with unlimited phone plans.

Phone Selection: You can easily get the latest Apple or Samsung product, and there are also other brands available such as Blackberry.

Customer Satisfaction: The YouGov Brand Index shows AT&T as fourth overall for customer satisfaction, although the carrier tied with Sprint during the second half of 2017.

MetroPCS

MetroPCS piggybacks off parent company T-Mobile’s cell phone towers. Rather than being a bad thing, this gives MetroPCS an advantage in terms of pricing. At the same time, this handicaps the carrier a bit in terms of coverage. Always check with any carrier’s coverage map before making a final decision. MetroPCS has great specials, so anyone on a budget will want to see if service is available in their town.

Price: MetroPCS rates start at only $25 each for four lines.

Coverage: MetroPCS offers the fewest coverage options on this list.

Perks: No annual contract is required to take advantage of the company’s lowest rates.

Phone Selection: MetroPCS customers can choose from many brands, including Apple, Samsung, LG, and Motorola.

Customer Satisfaction: J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Wireless Customer Care survey shows MetroPCS in the number one spot for all non-contract providers.

As you can see, there are many variables that go into deciding what cell phone carrier is best for you. If the price, coverage and phone options suit your needs, you really cannot go wrong with any of the carriers on this list.

11