You already chose between an iPhone and an Android phone, picked your favorite phone case, and downloaded your favorite apps. Unfortunately, choosing a cell phone provider can be a much more impactful—and difficult—choice.
There is a plethora of mobile plans to choose from. Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are known as the big three cell phone providers in the US. These brands have partnerships with some major streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, offering promising discounts on episodes of your favorite TV shows.
Brands that are not one of the big three are not to be overlooked, however. Brands like RedPocket and MetroPCS can be more cost-effective exactly because they don’t offer the bundles and added benefits of other providers. The best cell phone companies aren’t always about the newest features, discounts, and gadgets.
If you live in a unique geographic location, you may need to seek a cell phone provider that prioritizes clients who live in remote areas. Alternatively, if you’re living and working in a busy city, you might choose a provider that prioritizes quick Internet speeds and constant connectivity.
Before you start researching the best cell phone providers, take a minute to determine which aspects of your phone service are most important to you. Do you need constant high-speed Internet for members of your family who are working or learning from home?
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Do you want a company that simply provides great customer service and helps you solve connectivity problems as soon as they arise? Your answers to these questions will help you determine which cell phone provider is best for you.
1. Customer Service
When choosing a phone provider, it’s important to remember that you’re working with a company just like any other. Customer service is an often overlooked—and yet essential—part of the cell phone-buying process. Your cell phone is a key component of your work day and your after-work entertainment, so you want to make sure the cell phone company you choose is one that you trust to fix any potential errors.
User-friendly policies and enthusiastic customer service representatives are good indicators of good customer service. You may also feel more comfortable choosing a phone provider that has a good reputation and has been recommended by friends or family members.
2. Data Coverage
If you travel often, you will want to make sure that your data is still usable in those countries and states that you visit most. If you live in a remote area, it’s even more important that you have access to a provider with connectivity in more rural locations. If you do choose to purchase from a smaller carrier that isn’t one of the big three, it’s important to ensure that your provider of choice doesn’t just offer coverage in your local area.
3. Data Speed
In a world that’s constantly connected through social media and news apps, 5G Internet is a must for any phone carrier. If you don’t intend to use social media and strictly want to use your phone for work calls or texts, you may not need 5G Internet. But if you want to post to social media or have mobile access to news apps that update every few minutes, you’re going to want at least 4G Internet.
Some mobile plans only allow you to use 5G Internet for a certain amount of time per month and will reduce your speeds to 1G or 2G if you go over a certain limit. Ideally, you want a mobile plan that offers unlimited data usage as well as unlimited texts and calls, but this can quickly become pricey.
4. Family Usage
Do you intend to buy a phone for anyone else in your family besides yourself? If you have children or a spouse, you might want to look into a family plan. With Verizon’s Unlimited Plan, for instance, you can connect all of your devices, including tablets and smartwatches. If you have younger family members who do not yet own their own phones, you might consider investing in a mobile plan for a tablet.
Cost is one of the most important factors for most families and individuals who are choosing between mobile plans and phone providers. You can choose to buy a phone up-front with a one-time installment or pay for it in monthly installments. It’s also important to note that smaller brands like RedPocket and Mint Mobile tend to be less expensive than plans from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. RedPocket plans, for instance, start at just $20 a month and include unlimited talk, text, and data.
6. Extra Features
There are always extra features to be had when choosing between mobile plans. If you’re a media buff, you might want to invest in a phone that offers discounts on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Some plans even offer discounts on additional devices like watches, tablets, or cloud storage. If you love purchasing all the latest gadgets and tech—or you know someone in your family who does—these great features and discounts might be worth the extra monthly dollars.