CDMA vs GSM: Comparison

The best cheap GSM and CDMA phone plans

Best GSM Carrier
8GB LTE Data
$20 per month
Best CDMA Carrier
5GB LTE Data
$45 per month
Cheap GSM Carrier
1GB LTE Data
$20 per month
Cheap CDMA Carrier
1GB LTE Data
$10 per month
Cheap CDMA & GSM Plans Starting at $10/mo - Compare Now

GSM vs CDMA: What's the Difference?

Rob Webber

By Rob Webber

Founder

Last Updated:

Ever noticed how mysterious cell phone terminology is? We have!

Understanding the language of cell phone carriers can be downright confusing. It's necessary though, for figuring out things like whether your device uses a SIM card and which smartphones you can bring to another carrier.

Find Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Your Area

Two of the most important acronyms to understand are GSM and CDMA. Keep reading to learn the difference between GSM and CDMA and why it matters.

You'll also find out the best low-cost carriers for each type of network and how to save 50% on your cell phone plan and your smartphone!

The Best GSM & CDMA Phone Plans of February 2020

CDMA vs GSM
Switch Carriers & Save $600 per year - Calculate Your Savings

GSM vs CDMA Plan Comparison Chart

CarrierNationwide Coverage4G LTE DataPrice
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G LTE8GB$20
Reach MobileVerizon 4G LTE5GB$45
PureTalk USAAT&T 4G LTE1GB$20
TelloSprint 4G LTE1GB$10

Best T-Mobile GSM Carrier: Mint Mobile

Pros

  • Simple, affordable plans
  • Free text and talk with all plans
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Free SIM card kit

Cons

  • Only GSM or global phones compatible
  • Only sold in lots of 3, 6, or 12 months
  • No unlimited data plan

Best Value GSM Plan: Mint Mobile 8GB

Mint Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:8 GB4G data
Mint Mobile is powered by:T-Mobile
* $60 for 3 months service
Mint Mobile SIM Card
NetworkT-Mobile
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - 3 mths prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico & Canada
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 7 days

T-Mobile National 4G LTE Coverage Without T-Mobile Prices

T-Mobile Coverage Map

T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile Price Comparison

Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $600 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
T-MobileT-Mobile 4G LTEUnltd*$70/mo$840/yr
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G LTE8GB$20/mo$240/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$50/mo$600/yr

Best Verizon CDMA Carrier: Reach Mobile

Pros

  • Good pricing for lower data users
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • Unlimited data plan available
  • User-friendly website and app

Cons

  • No international service
  • Does not sell devices
  • Expensive for heavy data users

Best Value CDMA Plan: Reach Mobile 5GB

Reach Mobile - 5GB Data Plan$15 Discount with Code: MSP153
Reach Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:5 GB4G data
Reach Mobile is powered by:Verizon
* $15 discount for first 3 months with promo code: msp153
Reach Mobile SIM Card
NetworkAT&T, Verizon
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM & CDMA
Mobile Hotspotn/a
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International Callsn/a
Money Back Guaranteen/a

Verizon National 4G LTE Coverage Without Verizon Prices

Verizon Coverage Map

Verizon vs Reach Mobile Price Comparison

Keep your Verizon phone, number & coverage: Save $465 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
VerizonVerizon 4G LTEUnltd*$80/mo$960/yr
Reach MobileVerizon 4G LTE5GB$45/mo$495/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$35/mo$465/yr

Cheap AT&T GSM Carrier: PureTalk USA

Pros

  • Good plan selection
  • Unlimited talk and text with all plans
  • Unlimited 2G data
  • Clean, user-friendly website

Cons

  • No unlimited data plan
  • International calling requires add-on calling card

Best Cheap GSM Plan: PureTalk USA 1GB

PureTalk USA - 1GB Data PlanMSP Exclusive: 25% off the first 3 months
PureTalk USA
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:1 GB4G data
PureTalk USA is powered by:AT&T
* 25% off the first 3 months
PureTalk USA SIM Card
NetworkAT&T
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile Hotspotn/a
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International Callsn/a
Money Back Guaranteen/a

AT&T National 4G LTE Coverage Without AT&T Prices

AT&T Coverage Map

AT&T vs PureTalk USA Price Comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $675 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
AT&TAT&T 4G LTEUnltd*$75/mo$900/yr
PureTalk USAAT&T 4G LTE1GB$20/mo$225/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$55/mo$675/yr

Best Sprint CDMA Carrier: Tello

Pros

  • Flexible plans up to 10 GB of high-speed data
  • Free texting with all plans
  • Change your plan any time
  • Unlimited 2G data

Cons

  • Only CDMA or global phones compatible
  • No unlimited data plan

Best Cheap CDMA Plan: Tello 1GB

Tello
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:1 GB4G data
Tello is powered by:Sprint
Tello SIM Card
NetworkSprint
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkCDMA
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico, Canada & China
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 3 days

Sprint National 4G LTE Coverage Without Sprint Prices

Sprint Coverage Map

Sprint vs Tello Price Comparison

Keep your Sprint phone, number & coverage: Save $600 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
SprintSprint 4G LTEUnltd*$60/mo$720/yr
TelloSprint 4G LTE1GB$10/mo$120/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$50/mo$600/yr

Best Overall Carrier: Mint Mobile

Best Value Plan: Mint Mobile 8GB

Mint Mobile
Mins:Unlimitedminutes
Texts:Unlimitedtexts
Data:8 GB4G data
Mint Mobile is powered by:T-Mobile
* $60 for 3 months service
Mint Mobile SIM Card
NetworkT-Mobile
Data Speed4G LTE
3G NetworkGSM
Mobile HotspotYes
Bring Your PhoneYes
Keep Your NumberYes
ContractNo - 3 mths prepaid
Credit CheckNo
Customer Service24/7
International CallsYes - Includes Mexico & Canada
Money Back GuaranteeYes - 7 days

GSM and CDMA

GSM and CDMA are the two wireless protocols used to facilitate cell phone service.

What is GSM?

GSM stands for Global System for Mobile (communications), a radio system used in mobile devices. This is the most widely-used standard worldwide.

The appeal in GSM rests in its capability. Since it's a global network, its roaming capabilities are better. This means that GSM phones are the more flexible choice for international travel.

What is CDMA?

CDMA stands for Code Division Multiple Access. CDMA represents multiplexing between numerous signals for optimal bandwidth availability.

CDMA and GSM Differences

There are two major differences between the two protocols.

1. How calls are processed: GSM networks use a time division system. When you make a call, the network assigns a time slot and channel to your data.

Conversely, CDMA networks use code division (hence the term Code Division Multiple Access). With this method, data from a call comes with a specific key and transmits together, making this method more versatile.

2. How information is stored: GSM phones use SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards. Your SIM card represents your digital identity, holding all of your wireless account information.

The appeal of SIM cards is you can transition easily between GSM phones, especially if you choose a bring your own phone plan.

CDMA phones contain your information within the phone's physical memory.

Some CDMA phones have SIM cards, however, it serves a totally different purpose - or two purposes, as it were:

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Starting at:$10/mo
TelloSprint

Save Money on the Best GSM and CDMA Networks

Regardless of which kind of phone you have, you want great service at an affordable price. With the average cell phone bill reaching new heights, you're always looking for the best deal.

Luckily for you, we've got the answer to how to find cheap cell phone plans on any of the major GSM and CDMA networks.

Benefits of MVNOs

What is an MVNO? Mobile Virtual Network Operators are smaller wireless carriers that operate on the same networks as the big four - AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon Wireless. MVNOs rent space on the major networks and sell it to you at a better price.

Why should you go with an MVNO?

  • They're cheaper by 50% or more.
  • You get reliable nationwide service on the big four networks.
  • There are no contracts.
  • You can customize your plan so you pay only for what you actually need.
  • It's easy to bring your own phone and keep your number.
  • MVNOs get high customer service ratings.
  • It's easy to switch - signup is usually done online.

The Best GSM Carriers

AT&T and T-Mobile are the main GSM networks in the US. Let's look at some GSM MVNOs that will save you hundreds of dollars per year over the big guys.

TextNow (T-Mobile)

TextNow is unique because it uses a technology that allows service to switch seamlessly between the cellular network and Wi-Fi as a way to save data.

Other benefits include:

  • Free ad-supported Wi-Fi only plan
  • Affordable unlimited plan
  • Unlimited calling and texting with all plans

US Mobile (T-Mobile)

Flexibility is what gives US Mobile plans its edge. There are hundreds of possible combinations, allowing you to design a custom plan that truly fits your needs.

Other US Mobile benefits include:

  • Unlimited plans available
  • 24/7 customer service
  • International service coming soon

Red Pocket Mobile (AT&T)

Red Pocket plans are a great alternative for average users, saving you at least 50% over comparable AT&T plans without giving up the AT&T wireless network.

Other Red Pocket features include;

  • Free calling to 70+ countries
  • Mobile hotspot and tethering permitted
  • Easy to bring your own GSM phone

Cricket Wireless (AT&T)

You may have heard of Cricket Wireless since it's one of the oldest prepaid cell phone providers and also one of the few MVNOs with brick-and-mortar retail stores. The carrier was purchased by AT&T in 2013.

Great things about Cricket:

  • Unlimited talk and text with all plans
  • Unlimited plan with two speed choices
  • Discount on family plan (Group Save)

The Best CDMA Carriers

The best CDMA carriers have plenty to offer as well. With CDMA you get coverage on the Sprint or Verizon Wireless networks.

TextNow (Sprint)

In addition to running on the T-Mobile network, TextNow plans are also available on the Sprint network.

Tello (Sprint)

Tello plans offer fantastic flexibility and pricing for light to medium data users.

Other features:

  • Unlimited talk and text messages with all plans
  • Data buckets from none to 10 GB
  • International pay-as-you-go calling

Twigby (Verizon)

With service on one of America's most reliable networks, Twigby plans are a super affordable alternative for Verizon Wireless fans.

  • Free global texting with all plans
  • 25% introductory discount for the first 6 months
  • Mobile hotspot use permitted

US Mobile (Verizon)

US Mobile also provides Verizon coverage. US Mobile unlimited data plans, in particular, run on this reliable network, with three different speed options available.

Save Even More: Buy a Refurbished Phone

There are two things you need to know about phone compatibility:

  1. You'll get the best service with a GSM phone on a GSM network and a CDMA phone on a CDMA network.
  2. Make sure you buy an unlocked phone or that you know how to unlock your phone for use on another carrier.

With that knowledge in hand, now you can save 50% or more on your smartphone when you buy used or refurbished.

Buying a used phone is a great choice for multiple reasons:

  • Price - get your favorite devices for less than half the cost of retail.
  • Freedom - take your phone to any carrier you wish.
  • Protection - you can buy cell phone insurance on used and refurbished devices just like with a new one.
  • Simple repair - cell phone repair shops are everywhere these days, making it cheap and easy to get your device fixed.

We make it easy and fast to compare the best cell phone deals on new and refurbished smartphones available from reputable sellers across the web.

Recap

The bottom line is that saving on either GSM or CDMA phones and service is simple:

Want to see just how much you can save over your current carrier? Use our cell phone savings calculator to find out in seconds!

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