What to Look For in a Cell Phone Plan in 2022
Cell phone plans have seen tremendous growth over the past few years. In fact, now that the market is teeming 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 around—and it’s easy to see why. Smartphones have quickly become a go-to source of entertainment for people around the world, and streaming movies or downloading games require significant chunks of data. Unlimited plans ensure that you’re never locked out of the content you love, although they tend to be a bit pricier than their data-restricted counterparts.
Prepaid plans have also come a long way in the past decade, shedding their low-quality persona and blossoming into services that rival monthly subscriptions. These plans see you paying money upfront 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’ve got plenty of choices. Verizon and AT&T continue to offer some of the best coverage maps in the country, although T-Mobile is a solid contender that’s typically a bit less expensive than the competition.
Meanwhile, newcomers such as Mint Mobile and Visible offer slightly smaller coverage maps but feature radically reduced prices to compensate. Be sure to check out each carrier’s coverage map before signing up for their service, though, 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 above the rest. Here are six of the best cell phone plans around, ranging from unlimited prepaid plans to low-cost family options.
- ✓ Unlimited access to premium networks
- ✓ 50GB data hotspot
- ✓ Impressive national coverage
- ✗ Cost increases with fewer lines
Not only does Verizon offer one of the best coverage maps in the country, but its 5G Get More plan brings more features and access than anything else on the market. You’ll gain access to its 5G network, no throttling regardless of data usage, and a staggering 50GB of premium hotspot data.
Beyond its basic features, a bunch of goodies are bundled into the 5G Get More plan—including Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ streaming services, Google Play Pass or Apple Arcade, and an Apple Music plan.
There’s even a 50% off discount when purchasing a new smartwatch, tablet, or hotspot, along with free access to the Verizon Cloud (giving you 600GB of cloud storage). All told, that’s a value of over $60 every month, which recoups much of your costs if used to their fullest.
The price of the plan scales based on how many lines are activated, ranging from $90 for a single line to $50 a line for five or more. It’s clearly a better deal for larger groups, but even solo power-users will get more than their money’s worth with Verizon’s 5G Get More plan.
- ✓ Affordable price
- ✓ Unlimited talk and text
- ✓ Unlimited data
- ✗ 5GB hotspot
- ✗ Limited coverage
Budget cell phone plans have come a long way over the past decade. Nowhere is that more evident than with Mint Mobile, which is offering a surprisingly robust 12-Month Unlimited plan for just $30/month.
You won’t benefit from any bonus features, but you will get unlimited talk, text, and data—although speeds are throttled after using more than 35GB each month. It’s also limited to just 5GB mobile hotspot data, so you won’t be using it as a backup when your home internet goes down or you’re out on the road traveling.
Coverage is also a bit more limited than the competition, with a notable blind spot over most of central Nebraska, as well as other parts of the mid and western areas of the country.
Those are minor squabbles, however, and for just $30/month, there’s not a better plan on the market. Coverage is excellent in just about every major city, and access to unlimited data at this price point is impressive.
If you can live with a few small drawbacks, Mint Mobile is an excellent option for shoppers on a budget.
- ✓ Multiple tiers offered
- ✓ Runs on T-Mobile’s nationwide network
- ✓ No annual contract
- ✗ Barebones plan with no frills
T-Mobile Connect launched in 2020, and since then it’s been one of the most popular prepaid plans on the market. Connect is run through T-Mobile’s nationwide network, meaning you’ll get excellent coverage just about everywhere 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 minutes of talk and 1,000 texts. The most expensive option clocks in at $35/month, with unlimited talk and text and 12GB of data.
The worst part about T-Mobile Connect? Once you’ve hit your data cap, any services requiring 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 uninterrupted.
But if you’re a frugal data user (or spend most of your day hooked up 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 throttling during peak hours
Another entry on our list, another plan from Verizon. This time it’s the 5G Start plan that walks away victorious, as its great price point and impressive bonuses make it the perfect choice for couples or two friends sharing a plan.
Clocking in at $60/month per line, the 5G Start plan is a bit expensive—but there’s no doubt you’re getting what you pay for. Verizon’s network is arguably the best in the country, with a sprawling 5G map that should only continue to grow larger and more reliable through the rest of the year.
You’ll have unlimited data access with this plan, although you might experience some throttling during peak hours.
Aside from that drawback, there’s little to dislike about Verizon’s entry-level, unlimited offering. Bonus content for this package isn’t as robust as the 5G Get More plan, although you’ll still benefit from the six-month Disney+, Apple Music, and Apple Arcade subscriptions.
- ✓ Unlimited talk, text, and data
- ✓ Unlimited hotspot
- ✓ Big discounts for adding more payers
- ✗ Not a “true” family plan
Visible offers a different kind 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 party, the lower your costs, with prices bottoming out at $25/month when grouped with a party of at least four people.
The great thing about Visible Party Pay is that each line is hooked up 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 as seen on other carriers, so if you’re looking for something that lets you bundle a bunch of lines on a single credit card without jumping through a few hoops, you might be better served looking elsewhere .
But if you don’t mind or even prefer its 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 bit more expensive than other plans
While most plans on this list are unlimited data plans, few can compete with AT&T Unlimited Elite. As usual, pricing works on a sliding scale based on activated lines (ranging from $45/month to $85/month), but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more complete service.
Not only do you get unlimited talk, text, and data, but you won’t be throttled based on usage. You also gain access to AT&T’s growing 5G network and unique ActiveArmor security system, which screens fraud calls and blocks them before reaching your phone.
Throw in 40GB of hotspot data per line, 4K video streaming, and free access to HBO Max, and you’ve got an unlimited plan worth talking about.
It’s a bit pricey (and Verizon’s coverage might be better based on your location), but the Unlimited Elite plan is without a doubt worth a closer look if you’re in the market for a well-rounded cell plan.