TIRED: The Essentials plan only includes 3G speeds if you use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. You have to pay $25 more per month (!) for a top-of-the-line Magenta Plus package to get HD video streaming on the go, unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi on flights with Gogo, voicemail to text, and 20 gigabytes of 4G LTE hotspot data.
Will Your Phone Work? T-Mobile has a Phone Compatibility Test that lets you search to see if your phone will work on its network. Most unlocked phones should work, especially those that also work on AT&T, but see our section below for our favorite devices and more info on how to liberate a phone from your current carrier.
How AT&T Compares
AT&T Unlimited Starter, Extra, and Elite
Starting at $65/month for one line
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AT&T is on the spendier end for its unlimited plans, and there are a lot of restrictions like no mobile hotspot tethering or HD streaming for the base plan. The carrier also still pushes Mobile Share Plus data-sharing plans, which aren’t much cheaper and give you less for your money. Stick with the unlimited plans (there are three): Unlimited Starter, Unlimited Extra, and Unlimited Elite. We’ve detailed the pricing structure for the Starter tier below.
Unlimited Starter Cost per Line (with Autopay. Taxes/Fees not included): 1 Line: $65 | 2 Lines: $120 | 3 Lines: $135 | 4 Lines: $140
WIRED: Your data won’t be throttled until you hit a 50-gigabytes or 100-gigabytes on the Unlimited Extra and Unlimited Elite plans, respectively. If you’re on the Unlimited Elite, you get a big 30-gigabyte bucket of mobile hotspot to tether to other devices, access to HBO Max, as well as 5G (if you have a 5G-supported device).
TIRED: The Unlimited Starter plan is light on extras, with no HD video streaming, no international data, and zero Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Plus, AT&T may slow your internet speed during any “busy” times. The mid-tier Unlimited Extra only gets you 15-gigabytes of hotspot data and no HD streaming when you’re on the go.
Will Your Phone Work? AT&T has a Device Compatibility Tool you can use to check your current phone(s). Unlocked GSM phones work on AT&T and T-Mobile.
How Verizon Compares
Verizon Start, Play More, Do More, Get More and Just Kids
Starting at $70/month for one line
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Verizon still has the best coverage, but T-Mobile and others are giving it a run for its money. The carrier finally got rid of its confusingly named double Unlimited plans, GoUnlimited and BeyondUnlimited, only to replace them with four Unlimited plans plus a kids plan. You can choose between Start Unlimited, Play More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, Get More Unlimited, and Just Kids. We’ve outlined pricing for the starter tier below.
Start Unlimited Cost per Line (with Auto Pay, Taxes/Fees not included): 1 Line: $70 | 2 Lines: $120 | 3 Lines: $135 | 4 Lines: $140 | 5 Lines: $150
WIRED: Verizon is the best option if you live in rural America, according to OpenSignal, as it has strong coverage. Every plan includes six free months of Apple Music, and a free year of Disney+. All tiers include talk, text, and data to Mexico and Canada and international texting. Higher tiers include 500GB of Verizon Cloud storage.
TIRED: Relatively expensive compared to other carriers. If you’re on the base package, there’s no Wi-Fi mobile hotspot and Verizon may throttle your internet speed during any “congestion.” You have to step up another $10 per month for HD streaming and 5G access. Verizon has two $80-per-month (pricing for a single line) plans that make you choose between HD streaming and a good amount of 4G data before throttling—with HD streaming you can have only 25-gigabytes of data, but if you want a max cap of 50-gigabytes of data before throttling kicks in, you’ll have to settle on 480p streaming quality.