Mobile Data Plans Vary Widely in Price & Usage Limits
We’ve already entered the era of smartphone – even though some of us may choose to stay behind. 😉
With the smartphone emergence and the decline in cellular usage for actually calling people, the new challenge from a financial standpoint is to figure out how you can get the cheapest mobile data plan – without any other add-ons. Otherwise, the lifetime cost of a smartphone can really kill your savings.
Note that just about everyone throttles data once you hit a certain threshold and there are very few truly “unlimited” plans out there.
Unlimited Mobile Data Plans without Talk & Text Add-Ons
And that’s the challenge – finding an unlimited data plan with no other services that you are paying extra for. With some of the unique low cost mobile VOIP and other free options available, a phone with a data plan can, in effect, serve as a phone with a talk plan. And if you’re using it for that purpose, you’ll rack up some bandwidth.
Most data plans today come with unlimited texting and some amount of talk minutes. Pro tip: since many of these plans come with free text messaging and but pricey data, you may want to learn how to send text messages to email, so you don’t have to constantly pay data fees when accessing your email account on a web browser.
Who wants to constantly worry about how much in charges they are racking up for using the web as they want to? To help guide you, here’s a run-down of all the national mobile phone providers who offer data plans.
T-Mobile Data Plans:
T-Mobile recently started offering a cheap unlimited data plan that is prepaid. For $30 a month, you get unlimited mobile web and text and 100 minutes of talk time! That is an outstanding value (maybe the best out there right now. Note that first 5GB of data are at up to 4G speeds (quite generous), and speeds are reduced after. This is a great mobile plan for how most people are using their phone these days.
T-Mobile also has “Simply Prepaid” (no contract) plans with no data overages that are more geared towards heavy talkers:
- $40/month for up to 3GB of 4G LTE
- $50/month for up to 5GB of 4G LTE
- $60/month for up to 10GB of 4G LTE
One of the leaders in the cheap smart phone data plan space now, Republic Wireless plans start at $15 per month for unlimited talk, text, and wifi data, with data plans that 3G and 4G LTE available for reasonable prices.
If no wifi is available, Republic kicks you over to Sprint or T-Mobile’s network.
If you want a data plan that is affordable, yet customizable to fit your data usage, this is a solid pick.
Update: you can now bring your own phone to Republic Wireless, which is a huge positive development.
- No Contract: $15+/month, includes unlimited talk, text, and wifi data. Uses T-Mobile’s/Sprint’s 3G/4G networks for data plans.
Lyca Mobile is an international MVNO that is headquartered in the UK and has 14 million subscribers. They offer some interesting cheap data plans and run off of the T-Mobile network in the United States. Their cheapest prepaid data plan is:
- No contract
- $29/month with unlimited talk, text, and data (up to 1GB of 4G LTE per month) or $35/month with unlimited talk, text, and data (up to 2GB of 4G LTE per month)
- includes free international calling to China, Mexico, Canada, UK, India and over 50 other countries.
FreedomPop is a national Sprint MVNO that operates in a similar way to Republic Wireless with wifi calling in addition to basic talk, text, and data. Details include:
- No Contract: $19.99/month, including unlimited talk, text, and 1GB data.
- Earn free 4G LTE data every month by adding friends
- Earn unlimited free data by completing partner offers
- You can bring your own phone.
Verizon Data Plans:
Verizon prepaid data plans start at $45/month for 2 GB of data and come with unlimited talk and text. Contractual plans start at $50/month.
Recently, Verizon started giving more data if you sign up for auto pay. You can pay $45 for 2GB or $60 for 5GB on a prepaid plan with Verizon, currently. With the auto pay program, Verizon will add 1GB to each of these plans (for a total of 3GB and 6GB respectively).
Sprint Data Plans
If you’re looking for straight up cheap mobile data plan only, Sprint has a few options. They offer a “tablet” plan with starting at $10 (just 100 MB). You can get 1 GB for $15. You do have to lease the tablet, from as low as $10/month.
- lease only: $10+/month + lease charges.
AT&T Data Plans:
AT&T data plans range from $30/month for 3 GB of data on up (there is a 250 MB plan for $14.99) with some free device offerings, but you do have to sign a contract. There are prepaid plans, but they are more expensive and require buying a device.
Straight Talk is a Tracfone subsidiary (like Net10). I just discovered Straight Talk recently, and they also offer an unlimited mobile plan. It looks like a great option for high data users, as data is not throttled until the 5 GB level.
- No Contract: $45/month, unlimited data, text, and talk. 3G/4G availability varies by phone and location. Throttling begins at 5 GB.
Metro PCS is not nationwide in coverage and does have roaming charges. But they do offer some cheap data-only “tablet” plans if they are in your market area and you don’t travel frequently.
- No Contract: starting at $15/month, unlimited text, up to 2 GB data w/roaming charges. Network is limited in coverage at 4G speeds.
Boost mobile data plans include unlimited talk and text, starting at $35/mo. You can’t get just a data plan with Boost.
- No Contract: starting at $35/month, unlimited talk, text and 2 GB data. No roaming charges. 3G/4G available with some phones.
Virgin Mobile Unlimited:
I reviewed the Virgin Mobile Unlimited plan previously, and the review wasn’t the most favorable because I was comparing the total cost of the plan for those who like to use their phones primarily for texting and calling to other low cost cell providers. Virgin Mobile runs off Sprint’s 3G/4G network and offers an unlimited data, talk, and text plan for just $40/month. Here’s a run-down.
- No Contract: $40/month, includes unlimited data, talk, and text. Note that high speed data is throttled at the 4 GB level. You can get an additional 2 GB of high speed data for $10 more.
They have a few other plans as well, but this is the cheapest one that includes data.
Virgin Mobile is actually a Sprint subsidiary, and their offerings here for low cost data plans are superior to Sprint, and another Sprint subsidiary highlighted in this post, Boost Mobile. Check out my Virgin Mobile Unlimited review.
Mobile Data Plan Discussion:
- Are you using your phone for data only? Which plan do you use?
- How much data are you using each month?