Best Prepaid Cell Phone Plans: Boost Mobile vs Virgin Mobile vs TMobile vs Verizon vs AT&T vs Metro PCS vs SIMPLE Mobile
It's important to compare different options when shopping around for a prepaid cell phone. Minutes, text, data, coverage, and phones are all considered for prepaid cell phone buyers. Different people have different needs but let's say you're going to use your prepaid cell phone primarily for talking. Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Metro PCS all offer prepaid cell phones with unlimited talk service but which carrier is the best? All of these prepaid carriers also offer unlimited texting with their unlimited talk so if you are a heavy texter, this comparison is also relevant. Usually, prepaid cell phone carriers are able to offer a cheaper deal than contract carriers.
They can give you such a great deal on your monthly plan by having you pay full retail for their phones. These phones are also generally older than what national carriers offer.
Boost Mobile offers one of the most famous deals in the prepaid market. $50 for unlimited talk, sms text, mms, web, instant messaging, email, and 411. If you want to add BlackBerry BIS service and 3G, it's $10 extra. For the purpose of this comparison, we'll focus on their $50 plan. You pay $50 by the month and you don't have to sign any contracts. Boost Mobile uses Sprint's CDMA network which is very good. Also, if you buy iDen phones, you can use the Walkie-Talkie features for free which is covered by Sprint's Nextel iDen network. Not only does Boost have good coverage(CDMA), but they are also known to have some of best and newest phones compared to the rest of the prepaid carriers. Bottom line, Boost Mobile is one of the better prepaid cell phone carriers that are our there.
Virgin Mobile offers everything Boost mobile offers except PTT (walkie-talkie). For unlimited calling, web, email, and messaging, you have to pay $60 per month as advertised in their Beyond Talk Plan. You have to add $10 for their BlackBerry BIS service. Like Boost, Virgin Mobile also uses Sprint's nationwide network. If you are using your prepaid cell phone for just talking and texting, I see no real advantage in choosing Virgin Mobile over Boost Mobile. On a side note, Virgin Mobile has a more flexing BlackBerry prepaid plan. You can set up a BlackBerry plan for as little as $35 a month. This includes 300 minutes, unlimited text, data, 3G, and BlackBerry's BIS. With Boost, the minimum BlackBerry plan is $60.
Edit: This summer, Virgin Mobile changed their Beyond Talk plans. Instead of paying $60 for everything, you now pay $55. There is no more additional charge for BlackBerry Smartphones.
T-Mobile's prepaid plan is as basic as vanilla. Their unlimited talk plan includes unlimited talk, sms text, and mms. No word on data (i.e. web). You get all of this for $50 per month. I compare their prepaid service to vanilla because everything they offer is average. Their plan is average, their price is average, their phones are below average, and their coverage is average. They do offer a specialized texting plan for $15 a month for unlimited text and 10 cent/minute on voice. T-Mobile's prepaid service might be right for you if your name is "Joe" or "Jane". Otherwise, there are better options out there.
Verizon Wireless Prepaid
Verizon's prepaid service is very similar to their contract service. Overpriced. It's like going into a fancy French restaurant and paying $20 to eat canned escargot. For just their prepaid unlimited talk plan, you pay $74.99. This is without text. They don't even offer data on their monthly prepaid. If you want unlimited talk and text, it will cost you $94.99. Ahem. Who are you trying to fool Verizon? That is crazy expensive. One thing Verizon have going for them is the coverage. They have great nationwide coverage and they do a good job bragging about it on their commercials. Unfortunately, their prepaid service is expensive. For your money, you should look pass big red and look into other carriers.
AT&T markets their prepaid phones as "Go Phones", clearly named for people who love to get up and go. The only place your going to go is to the store to buy more phone cards. Having experienced Go Phones first hand, I find myself constantly buying minute with their pay as you go plan. But let's be fair, I didn't have their monthly unlimited plan and that's what we're looking at. AT&T offers unlimited talk and text for $60 per month. This does not include any data. So basically, they offer you the same plan as Verizon but cheaper. Unlike Verizon, you won't get good coverage. AT&T's coverage is widely known to be spotty and fair at best. When shopping for unlimited prepaid talk service, "go" to another carrier.
The last carrier we'll look at is MetroPCS. MetroPCS offers the lowest rate plan out of the carriers we've covered. For $40 a month, you get unlimited talk, text, and data. They also offer a BlackBerry plan which costs $60. What's not so good is the coverage. While they are the 5th largest network in the US, they only focus on large cities. Check their website to see if coverage is good in your area. If you want the best bang for your buck, consider MetroPCS.
SIMPLE Mobile offers 4 easy to understand plans starting at $25. For $25, you can get unlimited local/long distance(national) calling, unlimited texting, voicemail, caller id, and free 411 for 15 days. This plan only qualifies if you use a basic phone. $40 will get you the same thing, plus 3G speeds and basic web for a full month. This plan works for basic phones and smart phones. Add $10 for a total of $50 and you can get the previous plan with BlackBerry BIS/BBM/App World.
For those who don't want to settle for anything but the best, the $60 plan will get you everything from the $50 BlackBerry plan, plus the ability to support 4G(HSPA+) speeds. Note: You must have a 4G capable phone in order to get the most of the 4G service. You will also get a recurring $5 International Long Distance credit. A nice discount for those who talk overseas.
Currently, SIMPLE Mobile seems to be the best option for those who don't want to be locked into those generic(and sometimes bad) prepaid phone. With SIMPLE Mobile, you can buy a GSM phone unlocked and use the SIMPLE Mobile sim card. This is much more convenient than CDMA companies like Virgin Mobile where you are tied to buying their line of phones.
Prepaid cell phones are great for people that might not have stable jobs or for those that don't like contracts. They are also very convenient. Not having a bill at the end of the month is a cool thing. For those looking for the absolute lowest price, I suggest MetroPCS. For those looking for the absolute best coverage, I suggest Verizon. For those looking for the best of both world, I suggest Boost Mobile. Sprint's network is almost, if not, as good as Verizon's. For $10 more than MetroPCS and $45 less than Verizon, Boost Mobile is a solid choice for nearly everyone. I decided to buy my mom a MetroPCS phone since coverage was good in our area and she doesn't travel much. If MetroPCS wasn't covered here, Boost would've been my next choice.