Mobile Data Plans Vary Widely in Price & Usage Limits
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.
I’m going to highlight the cheapest mobile data plans out there, but you may also want to check out this list of prepaid MVNO’s and cheapest mobile hotspots to find the plan that is right for your use.
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 + $5/GB. Uses T-Mobile’s/Sprint’s 3G/4G networks for data plans.
Xfinity Mobile is the new MVNO from Comcast Xfinity that runs on Verizon’s network. It is only available to Xfinity Internet customers within Xfinity’s service map. Check out my full Xfinity Mobile review for more information.
- No contract: $0/month. Everyone gets unlimited text and talk + 100MB data per month.
- Choice of 2 data plans: $12/GB or unlimited for $45/mo. (4G LTE speeds up to 20 GB before reduced speeds)
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: $0/month, including unlimited talk, text, and 500MB data – more data costs extra.
- Earn free 4G LTE data every month by adding friends
- Earn unlimited free data by completing partner offers
- You can bring your own phone.
Total Wireless is a Tracfone brand that is sold online and at WalMart. For $35/month, you can get 5 GB of 4G LTE/3G data and unlimited talk and text. Additional data can be purchased for more.
Verizon Data Plans:
Verizon prepaid data plans start at $40/month for 3 GB of data and come with unlimited talk and text.
7 GB of data is only $10 more ($50/month) and 10 GB is $60/month.
Verizon has added carryover data to these plans, which is great to see.
Sprint Data Plans
If you’re looking for straight up cheap mobile data plan only, Sprint has a few options. You can get 2 GB with unlimited talk and text for $40/month.
AT&T Data Plans:
AT&T data plans start at $45/month for 6 GB of data and unlimited talk and text.
- No Contract: $45/month for 6 GB, $65/month for unlimited (throttled after 22 GB).
Straight Talk is a Tracfone subsidiary. 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 10 GB level.
- No Contract: $45/month, unlimited talk, text, and data, with 10 GB at high speeds. 3G/4G availability varies by phone and location.
Metro PCS is now nationwide in coverage and no longer has US roaming charges – as it is part of T-Mobile and runs on their network.
- No Contract: starting at $30/month, unlimited talk, text, and data (data is throttled at 2 GB for 4G LTE).
Boost mobile data plans include unlimited talk and text, starting at $50/month if you auto re-boost. You can’t get just a data plan with Boost.
- No Contract: starting at $35/month, unlimited talk, text and 3 GB data. Unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE plan is just $50/month. No roaming charges.
Comcast’s XFinity is now in the mobile game. It offers 2 plans for those with XFinity Internet service:
- $12/1 GB
- $45/Mo. for unlimited
Virgin Mobile Unlimited:
Virgin Mobile runs off Sprint’s 4G LTE/3G network and offers an unlimited data, talk, and text plan for just $35/month. Here’s a run-down.
- No Contract: $35/month, includes unlimited data, talk, and text. Note that high speed data is throttled at the 5 GB level. You can get an additional 5 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 a Sprint subsidiary, and their offerings here for low cost data plans are superior to Sprint. 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?