Comparing AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile & Verizon's 'unlimited' wireless plans for iPhone in 2018...

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in iPhone
If you consider unlimited data practically mandatory for your iPhone, you've got a few options from the major U.S. carriers. Cutting through some of the marketing, here's what's on tap and how it compares.

Apple iPhoneX

AT&T

AT&T


AT&T currently has two tiers, confusingly named Unlimited Choice Enhanced and Unlimited Plus Enhanced. Both offer perks like unlimited roaming in Canada and Mexico, and -- if media hegemonies don't bother you -- free HBO. With autopay and paperless billing on, Unlimited Choice Enhanced plans start at $65 per month plus taxes and fees for a single line, while Unlimited Plus Enhanced costs at least $80.

The difference between the two is that Choice Enhanced is deliberately crippled. Video streaming quality is limited to about 480p, regardless of your device, and there's no bundled tethering data at all, whereas Plus Enhanced customers get 15 gigabytes. Most importantly, Choice Enhanced customers are throttled during peak traffic.

Even Plus Enhanced customers may sometimes find themselves throttled, however, once they cross 22 gigabytes in a month.

AT&T is preparing two "&More" plans bundling its WatchTV service, but as of this writing they have yet to be launched.

Sprint

Sprint


Sprint has just one tier, starting at $60 with autopay and before taxes and fees. This includes 23 gigabytes of full-speed data, with video quality up to 1080p. Gaming is limited to 8 megabits per second, while music is capped at 1.5 megabits. That should probably be enough unless you're into lossless audio or a you're a diehard "PUBG" or "Fortnite" player.

The carrier also promises roaming "in over 185 worldwide destinations," and 10 gigabytes of tethered data. Exceed that limit and you're automatically charged $10 for another 10 gigs.

Sprint offers one of the more unusual media bundles, including Hulu's "Limited Commercials" video streaming and -- of all things -- a six-month trial of Tidal's on-demand music. Tidal is fairly well-supported on Apple platforms, even having a presence on CarPlay, but it's often considered a bit player next to Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music.

Verizon

Verizon Wireless


Verizon's plans are easily the most expensive for individuals. A basic Go Unlimited plan is $75 before taxes and fees, and still throttles bandwidth during peak traffic, while capping video at 480p. Tethering is unlimited -- at least until you reach 22 gigabytes, at which point all of your traffic may be subject to congestion throttling -- but can't go any faster than 600 kilobytes per second.

Realistically you'll want to pay $85 for Beyond Unlimited, which promises 22 gigabytes of full-speed data, including up to 15 gigabytes of full-speed tethering. Video quality is limited to 720p.

The carrier's $95 Cadillac plan is Above Unlimited, which raises the data ceiling to 75 gigabytes, with up to 20 gigabytes of 4G tethering. It also incorporates 500 gigabytes of Verizon Cloud storage, and five "TravelPasses" per month. These offer up to 512 megabytes of 4G data per day in most countries.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile


Prices for the carrier's One plans start at $70 with taxes and fees included and autopay on. This gets you 50 gigabytes of 4G data before any throttling, and some other bonuses such as 5 gigabytes of 4G when in Canada and Mexico, and in-flight texting plus 1 hour of data when on planes with Gogo Wi-Fi.

There are some catches. Unless you pay $10 per month extra for One Plus, video is capped at 480p, and tethering is limited to 3G speeds. Even if you upgrade, you only get 10 gigabytes of 4G tethering. This does however get you faster international data and unlimited Gogo. Unlimited tethering is restricted to a $25 One Plus International add-on, as is unlimited 4G in Canada and Mexico.

You can get Netflix bundled with a subscription, but only in households with at least two lines.

Which one should you choose?




The first thing to consider is coverage. Sprint and T-Mobile may offer a better deal for the money on paper, but can sometimes have weaker coverage outside of major urban corridors. T-Mobile, for example, simply won't work in some parts of rural Texas. If you travel constantly and wide coverage is non-negotiable, you're probably stuck with AT&T or Verizon.

If you rarely step outside of U.S. cities, your options are a bit more open. T-Mobile becomes the best option for data hogs unless you can justify Verizon's $95 monster plan. Sprint, though, may be better if you want tethering or insist on HD video.




AT&T could be appealing because of its inclusion of HBO. The carrier also offers $15 in credit towards DirecTV Now (and/or regular DirectTV, in the case of Unlimited Plus Enhanced), but don't feel compelled to go that route unless you're already convinced you want that as a live TV package.

As a final note, you may want to do homework on customer service. Frankly we've heard complaints about all the carriers' customer support, and quality can vary not just over time but from representative to representative.
ronn
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 637member
    I'm paying about $120/ 4 lines with T-Mobile. The data is 6gb each of LTE, and then unlimited at 3g or 4g (idk). Plus unlimited text and data overseas, etc. One of my daughters has been in the UK for most of the last 9 months and traveled to France, Switzerland, Germany, Spain - free texting and data.  Previously we paid about $200/month to AT&T without all the additional perks of T-Mobile.
    cecil4444lordjohnwhorfin
  • Reply 2 of 32
    Hey AI, can you add Virgin Mobile to this mix? I’m curious how their offers size up with these usual suspects...
  • Reply 3 of 32
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,246member
    A nice summary. Good work, AI.

    My t-Mobile 55+ plan is a major score. 2 lines, $60, all taxes fees included. Coverage is good for my needs. YMMV. 

    NB: even though the 55+ plan is "unlimited" it isn't an unlimited plan wrt the free netflix offering. And that's not a deal breaker because...well...I don't use netflix. 
    GeorgeBMacLukeCage
  • Reply 4 of 32
    SezwhutSezwhut Posts: 7member
    We got pretty lucky when we moved from ATT to T-Mobile last year. Because of specials, etc, we ended up with three lines (unlimited data / text / etc) for 100$. We had to ask for our video to be delivered in HD (weird), were given devices for our cars for car wifi (2gb per month)... These devices send a notice to your phone if your cars been bumped or if someone's trying to break in... It will alert you if your car battery is on its way out as well. The offer was initially two phones for 100$, but while we were trying to transfer pout of ATT (a MASSIVE pain) T-Mobile had a one-day special of adding a line for free if you had two or more to begin with. Our daughter is only 8 (no phone for her) but when she's ready, she'll have unlimited everything and we won't have to add a line. Also happy with being able to tether - had to pay for that with ATT. I couldn't be more done with them. The note about coverage is true; we're in North San Diego county, took a day trip to Julian (inland, away from civilization) and had no bars for part of the trip. GPS / Pandora was useless.
  • Reply 5 of 32
    65026502 Posts: 148member
    To me, Cricket is the best deal, especially for multiple lines.
  • Reply 6 of 32
    dbdukesdbdukes Posts: 12member
    Add me to the list that appreciates the legwork you've done in sorting out all the plans. Thank you.
    GeorgeBMactoysandmechristopher126
  • Reply 7 of 32
    Of course if you are part of a couple where at least one is over 55 then it's no contest in terms of price. I am paying $60 for two lines of T-Mobile One service. An added bonus is T-Mobile Tuesdays including periodic Dunkin Donuts gift cards, 25 cent off each gallon of gas and the big one for me: a free 2018 MLB Premium subscription ($155?). I had one small problem porting my number and the rep have me a nice credit because I "shouldn't have been kept in the phone so long".
    edited June 2018 JaiOh81
  • Reply 8 of 32
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 221member
    The latest OpenSignal report says real world coverage of T-Mobile is overall equal to Verizon. Is the article referencing outdated data?
  • Reply 9 of 32
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,167member
    Great, informative article. Now for an encore ... go look up how much the best plans from the Euro carriers cost, and what's included ...
  • Reply 10 of 32
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 3,889member
    I just got my Consumer Cellular bill:   The bottom line with tax &stuff was $46.16.  It's only 3Gb but they increase it to 5Gb (for $10) if I need it.   I use Apple Music a good bit, but rarely watch video and, when I do, I'm usually home under WiFi.  For a single user who doesn't game or watch video on cellular it's a good deal.


  • Reply 11 of 32
    I scored a great deal with T-Mobile. I have 3 lines with the one plus for $100 all in.
  • Reply 12 of 32
    65026502 Posts: 148member
    I just got my Consumer Cellular bill:   The bottom line with tax &stuff was $46.16.  It's only 3Gb but they increase it to 5Gb (for $10) if I need it.   I use Apple Music a good bit, but rarely watch video and, when I do, I'm usually home under WiFi.  For a single user who doesn't game or watch video on cellular it's a good deal.


    Cricket, on ATT's network (owned by ATT) is $35/mo taxes included for 5 Gbs LTE.
  • Reply 13 of 32
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,423member
    Got in on a switcher promo to go from AT&T to T-Mobile and will never look back. I have slightly reduced coverage, especially inside buildings, but it's still a massive improvement in every other way. Tethering, a 40% reduction on my bill in general, free roaming abroad in most places when traveling, and 10000x better customer service all makes it one of the best service changes I've ever made. It was like when I escaped Bank of America's clutches for a local credit union; it felt like getting out of dealing with the mob.
    edited June 2018 toysandme
  • Reply 14 of 32
    sayangsayang Posts: 1member
    georgie01 said:
    The latest OpenSignal report says real world coverage of T-Mobile is overall equal to Verizon. Is the article referencing outdated data?
    It's great that a report says they're equal, but real-world experience tells me that's not the case.  I had T-Mobile for many years when I was given a Verizon phone with my previous employer. While traveling, I always had a signal with Verizon and the call quality was better than with T-Mobile.  When I quit a few months ago, I made the switch to Verizon and haven't looked back. 
  • Reply 15 of 32
    I would like to see the taxes and fees added to the "Carrier Cost Per Month" chart. I know it might be difficult or impractical, but the price advantage of T-Mobile is misleadingly smaller without it. Maybe you could add a "fees in New York City" or "possible fees" length to the bars.
    jtrico
  • Reply 16 of 32
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 2,423member
    dmskalnm said:
    I would like to see the taxes and fees added to the "Carrier Cost Per Month" chart. I know it might be difficult or impractical, but the price advantage of T-Mobile is misleadingly smaller without it. Maybe you could add a "fees in New York City" or "possible fees" length to the bars.
    T-Mobile includes all fees and taxes in their prices. The deal I got originally was $60/mo for One Plus and it's always exactly that amount (plus my interest-free $30 payments on my iPhone X).
  • Reply 17 of 32
    ktappektappe Posts: 759member
    I'm a legacy AT&T user, by which I mean I signed on with AT&T when I got my iPhone 3G 'cos they were literally the only carrier supporting the iPhone at that time. To date I'm grandfathered into unlimited data, but I received an email from AT&T last month saying they were increasing the cost for all legacy unlimited users by $5. Not cool. As I'm not a heavy data user, I'm going to call and ask them to confirm that then see if they'll waive the fee. If not, I'll take my AT&T bill to T-Mobile and ask them to beat it, which I bet they can & will. I have T-Mobile for my iPad and their customer service has been outstanding; I won't hesitate to tell AT&T goodbye after a dozen years if I have to. I'm not happy with AT&T's recent anti net neutrality lobbying efforts, so it will be refreshing to tell them to pound sand for that reason alone.
  • Reply 18 of 32
    jtricojtrico Posts: 1member
    Switched from Verizon to tmobile 2 years ago and have never been happier. Got in with a 20% off per month forever on up to 12 lines. Right now for unlimited it's $160 for 6 lines and with kickback I'm paying $120/mo. Still get offers for bogos and other deals. That Never happened at Verizon or aTT, their deals were only ever for new subs. I Never feel like I'm not getting my money's worth. Taxes and fees included, free netflix. Tmobile Tuesdays is a bit of hype but they've had some decent stuff, I've gotten years worth of subs to magazines, got 2 years worth of mlb.tv, countless small gift cards to dunk in donuts, Redbox, gas etc. Service is at about 95% of Verizon but considering the discount and the fact that they're committed to building the network, I'm completely satisfied. 
  • Reply 19 of 32
    MN travelerMN traveler Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    T-Mobile here.  Travel quite a bit and T-Mobile is the best.  We got 7 lines on a great plan 6 years ago, with 3gb (ea. Line) but comes with unlimited video and audio streaming.  We pay $160/month.  Service is typically good.

    Only concern is with sprint merger.  Sprint has been awful for busines and even worse tech support.  We just spent years migrating 100s of lines from sprint.  If T-Mobile absorbes any sprint's business or tech processes, maybe even staff, I think T-Mobile is doomed.  Yes, sprint was that bad...  It would take hours on the phone to do something that would take 30 seconds on T-Mobile or Verizon.
  • Reply 20 of 32
    mbenz1962mbenz1962 Posts: 118member
    I wish these carrieres had better pricing at the lower end of the data usage spectrum. Plans here in Europe are not much cheaper for unlimited, but they are for limited.  I pay 25 Euro ($30) for 2.5GB a month for two lines with the market leading coverage (comperable to Verizon) all taxes and fees included.  On AT&T the closest comperable is $20 per device (so $40 for two lines) and $50 for 5 GB to share.  That is $90 plus taxes and fees for two lines.  If I up my data another 2.5 GB to compare, it would cost another 20 Euro ($25).  So the same 5 GB service that AT&T charges $90+, I can get for ~$55 all fees included. This can be even cheaper if I choose other carriers with less robust coverage.
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