Top 5 Cell Phone Providers For General Use

There are a lot of quality cell phone providers in modern times. Advances in technology and changing customer demands helped create a market where multiple choices for similar services are now available. The selection is great for customers looking for bargains. 

Many smaller providers piggyback off of major cell phone company networks for their services, however. While prices can be lower, so can quality of reception or customer service. There are a handful of quality, piggyback cell phone providers but knowing which ones have the best plans and coverage is a challenge. In a market saturated with newer choices, five well-known cell phone providers still rise to the top of the list for service plans, pricing and quality.

1. Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless sits atop many lists due to overall coverage and service in the business. Verizon Communications Inc. as it is known today was officially founded in June of 2000. Since that time the popular company increased its market share, expanded its service plans and has won the J.D. Power Wireless Network Quality Study twenty-five times in a row. What types of plans, phones and prices does Verizon offer its customers?

Many plans include unlimited talk and text in 2020, but data freedom is frequently what customers consider the most important factor when choosing cell phone providers. Verizon offers multiple unlimited plan options for high data users and customers who simply do not want to think about  overages. Their four unlimited plans start at $70, with an additional Just Kids plan, priced at $50/month for 4GB of LTE hotspot and more. Of the four main Verizon unlimited plans available, the Do More and Play More plans do not throttle data speeds when going above the monthly limits.

Verizon also offers a Shared 5GB plan, which is perfect for couples, two family members or roommates looking to save money each month. The plan is priced at $55 per month per line. For minimal data users this plan is also cost-effective as a single-line plan because sharing the 5GB of data and having multiple lines is not required. Verizon also participates in the Lifeline Program, which helps lower monthly rates for qualifying seniors and low-income customers. There are also options to bundle Verizon Wireless plans with FIOS internet packages for even more savings.

2. T-Mobile

T-Mobile markets itself as a fun, energetic company with plans available for all ages and needs. The marketing is working because T-Mobile is a popular cell phone provider with prices generally lower than those offered by Verizon. T-Mobile has not faired equally to Verizon in coverage quality reviews. Its recent merger with Sprint bolstered is network strength and reliability, however, making it a top market share competitor with Verizon.

T-Mobile offers three main plans, which include the Essentials, Magenta and Magenta Plus plans. All three plans included unlimited talk and text. All three plans also include unlimited 4G LTE data, albeit with different GB and throttling restrictions. The Essentials plan includes unlimited 3GB of data before throttling kicks in and data speeds are reduced. The Magenta plan includes 3GB of 4G LTE data, then unlimited usage at 3G speeds. Magenta Plus, priced at $43 per month per line, includes 20GB of 4G LTE data then unlimited usage at 3G speeds. Both Magenta plans include Netflix, taxes and fees in the monthly prices as listed.

There are also unlimited plans for people ages 55+. The T-Mobile Unlimited 55 plans range in price from $27.50 to $45 per month. As with the regular unlimited packages, the Magenta Unlimited 55 and Magenta Plus Unlimited 55 prices include taxes and fees. T-Mobile also provides additional perks in the forms of third-party offers and discounts through their T-Mobile Tuesdays promotions.

3. AT&T Wireless

AT&T has a company history dating back to the invention of the telephone, according to its website. Perhaps that is why AT&T can offer highly rated unlimited plan options at affordable prices with reliable coverage. There are three AT&T Wireless plan options, including Starter, Extra and Elite. Each plan can host up to five lines. The more lines added per plan, the less each line costs per month. The AT&T Unlimited Starter plan is $65 per month for one line, which is just slightly less than Verizon but still considerably more expensive than T-Mobile. That same Starter plan is only $30 per line when five lines are activated, however, making AT&T unlimited plans great for famines and larger households.

AT&T does offer discounted plan rates for seniors, but only in Florida. All unlimited plans do include 5G access, however. Additional discounts can also be attained when bundling AT&T wireless plans with Direct TV services.

4. Boost Mobile

Boost Mobile has not been one of the better-known cell phone providers in the market until recently. Boost provides reliable service at affordable prices, but was previously piggybacking its network off of Sprint resources. When Sprint merged with T-Mobile, Boost was acquired by Dish. This acquisition helped launched Boost up the market ladder. Great prices for unlimited plans and cheap phones are also a factor.

The Boost Mobile Unlimited plans range from $35-$60/month, with their $50 plan being the most commonly purchased. These plans include 4G LTE up to 35GB, after which point speeds are throttled. Plans include standard unlimited talk, text and data. They also include a 12GB mobile hotspot feature and can hold up to five activated lines per account. Additional savings are offered through the Walmart Customer Exclusive plan. This doubles how much 4G LTE data is available per month without raising the monthly bill.

5. Consumer Cellular

Consumer Cellular was founded in 1995 with a focus on affordable cell phone plans for senior citizens. The company provides admirable customer service and makes all pricing and terms readily available and easy to comprehend. This type of reliability and transparency gained Consumer Cellular a lot of trust in the market, even if they were unable to compete with larger companies for a younger market demographic. Earlier in 2020, however, the company unveiled its first unlimited plan options.

Consumer Cellular unlimited plans start at $37.50 for unlimited talk, text and data. There are no age requirements to receive these prices although additional discounts are given to AARP members. This company also sells cell phones at significantly discounted rates, and on affordable monthly payment plans with zero interest. While Consumer Cellular is a great company for the 55+ demographic, it also serves well for any customer on a budget.

Honorable Mention: Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile is a new player in the realm of wireless mobile carriers. You may have seen Ryan Reynolds in the commercials for the company, but you may not know that Mint Mobile is one of the best options for affordable wireless service. They offer great plans at low costs, and the quality of their service is comparable to more established carriers like Verizon or T-Mobile.

With plans starting as low as $15 a month for 4 GB of data, Mint Mobile is an incredible option for those looking for an affordable option. Even their more expensive unlimited option comes in at $30 a month, well bellow the prices of the bigger wireless carriers. They also have great perks, like "bring your own phone" options, allowing you to get their service without needing to change your phone, saving you money. And if you do want to purchase a new phone with Mint, they also have great deals on the latest smart phones.