Every wireless network claims to be the fastest and most reliable. It can be tough to sort out the truth and make a decision about which network is right for you.
The good news is that these days cellphone service quality and coverage is very similar to the major mobile networks. Your biggest concerns are how strong the 4G LTE signal is where you live and how much the plan costs are going to be.
In this guide, we'll look at the rivalry between Sprint vs Verizon Wireless, plus I'll show you how to save up to 50% or more on your cell phone bill as well as your device. So stay tuned!
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How to Switch to a Big Network Without Paying Big Prices
I mentioned at the start of this guide that I'd tell you how to get cheaper cellphone service without leaving your favorite reliable network.
Remember when TracFone came into stores a few decades ago? Well, that was the beginning of a huge shift in the wireless industry. Wireless companies like TracFone are what's known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operators - or MVNOs, and now there are dozens of them in the United States alone.
MVNOs buy space on the big four networks and sell it to you cheaper. How? They don't have the high overhead and marketing costs of the major wireless carriers. This means more competition, which equals better prices for you on your cell service.
Benefits of MVNOs:
- They're cheaper.
- There's no contract, no commitment, and no early termination fees. If you're not happy, switch easily.
- They offer custom plans so you don't pay for anything you don't need.
- Keep your phone number and your device.
- Sign-up is simple - typically done by ordering a new SIM card online.
- MVNOs have some of the highest customer support ratings of all carriers.
Best of all, these mobile carriers provide the same Verizon and Sprint LTE coverage as the big guys. That means you'll enjoy the same activities as always - texting, talking, HD video streaming and more.
Next, let's look at some of the best cell phone plans from alternative carriers and how much they'll save you.
Related: You can read more about switching to Sprint here.
MVNOs have made an art form out of catering to customers who know exactly what they want and need in a plan.
Here are just a few of the many examples of custom plans available from these affordable mobile providers.
Best Cheap Plans
If you're in the market for a dirt cheap phone plan on either the Sprint or Verizon network, there are very affordable plans that come with calling, texting, and data.
Best Unlimited Data Plans
The amount of data you need may not be as high as you think. The average smartphone user goes through less than 3 GB of data per month. Unlimited data plans can be useful for people who do a lot of streaming away from Wi-Fi, however.
US Mobile (Verizon):
COMPARE NOW: Find the best unlimited data plans.
Best Prepaid plans
Prepaid phone plans, as opposed to postpaid plans, mean no surprise charges or overage fees at the end of the billing cycle. That's a win all around.
Best Family Plans
In most cases, it's up to you to put together your family plan on an alternative carrier. You do so simply by signing up for a single line then purchasing as many additional lines as you need.
The good news about this method is that you can still save tons over the costs of traditional Verizon or Sprint family plans. Plus, no one has to share data (a big advantage with teenagers!).
Don't forget to shop around to be sure your plan includes any extras you want like mobile hotspot data, service in Canada and Mexico, or add-on high-speed data. And of course, always read the fine print.
Verizon vs Sprint Network Coverage
Coverage is important, to say the least. You need to make sure that your call is reliable in most, if not all, areas. You don't want to have a situation where your call with a potential employer or your family drops. So when it comes to Sprint vs Verizon coverage, which earns the gold star?
Read More: Compare coverage between the big four networks.
The Verizon LTE network has enjoyed the top spot for coverage and reliability for many years. Verizon offers over 98 percent coverage across the nation, including many rural communities through its LTE in Rural America Program.
Weak/No Coverage Areas:
- Most of Alaska
- Spotty areas throughout the South and Northeast
- Large spotty areas throughout the western US and along the west coast
What's important to understand is that many areas without Verizon coverage - or dead zones - are largely unpopulated. All four major carrier networks provide coverage that is within a few percentage points of each other.
While the Sprint network is number four among the big guys in terms of reliability and speed, it has made big progress lately. OpenSignal found in their State of the Mobile Network report that Sprint's 4G LTE availability jumped 9% in 2017 and its data speeds rose by 3 Mbps.
All this means is that - thanks to Sprint Spark - network coverage and reliability as well as upload and download speeds are better. And that's a good thing, right? You don't want lagging when you're on the road trying to stream video or listen to music while away from WiFi.
Furthermore, this provider has since gone beyond metro areas and has been heading into smaller, more remote areas, as you can see from the Sprint coverage map.
Weak/No Coverage Areas:
- Spotty areas from the western Dakotas to Nevada
- Rural areas of California
- Small spotty areas throughout the mid-South and New England
Sprint offers solid service throughout densely populated metropolitan areas while it struggles throughout the West.
Lastly, let's look at the numbers.
The proportion of time with 4G LTE availability:
- Verizon - 92.7%
- Sprint - 85.7%
Average 4G download speeds:
- Verizon - 17.77 Mbps
- Sprint - 12.02 Mbps
You may have concerns about the kind of customer service you'll get from a smaller carrier. We've all had the unpleasant experience of being on hold for a half hour and then not getting the right person when we finally get through!
You'll be happy to hear that MVNOs get high marks for customer support. In fact, in the Consumer Reports 2017 Cell-Phone Service Survey, MVNOs took the top three spots for overall customer satisfaction. That's pretty remarkable when you consider the large carriers' budgets and industry clout.
Another bonus is that many MVNOs have extensive customer support hours. For example, TPO Mobile is available 24 hours a day, and Tello and US Mobile both have 24-hour support.
There's no reason to spend up to $30 per month in device installment payments when you can put that money in your pocket with these two other options.
Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP)
Bringing your current device to your new provider just makes sense. Upgrading every year or two costs you between $400 and $1,000 a pop. That's a lot of money that you could invest elsewhere.
Bringing your phone and your number to your new carrier is simple:
- Make sure your phone is paid off and unlocked. Check out our guide on how to unlock your device.
- Pick a provider and cheap cell phone plan.
- Check your phone's compatibility on the carrier's website.
- Order a SIM card kit and swap them out.
- Follow the carrier's activation instructions.
If your phone is past its prime or you just want a newer model, use a site like Decluttr and Swappa to save a ton of money on recent model smartphones. These sites often even provide a warranty on the most popular phones, like a used iPhone or a used Samsung Galaxy.
Need extra money to put towards that new phone? Sell your old phone for cash. You'll get considerably more money than you will if you trade it in at a store.
COMPARE PHONE PRICES: Check out our comparison tool to ensure you get the best price on a used phone.
The skyrocketing MVNO industry means you can get great coverage on the Sprint and Verizon networks without the brand-name prices.
Decided to give it a go? Check out our comparison tool to find a cheap cell phone plan.
Happy shopping and enjoy your savings!