I live in an area with ZERO att/tmobile coverage. Sprint coverage is sparse. Leaving Verizon and US Cellular as the only towers with consistent coverage.
I am a user of Straight Talk. I chose them for their pricing at the time of $45 for unlimited calls and texts with 5GB of high speed data, unlimited low speed data. The coverage was through Verizon and hit 95% of the places I travel. Really good.
In the years since I switched to Straight Talk, they have increased that 5GB data allotment to 6GB, then 8Gb, and now 10GB. What a deal~!
MVNOs like Straight Talk are able to offer lower prices than larger cell companies because they buy their data in bulk contracts from the same companies they compete with. MVNOs then make themselves cheaper by doing away with niceties like customer service (Straight Talk is a Walmart owned company). Perfect for folks that can solve their own technical issues. You can buy a phone from the MVNO company, or bring your own Verizon compatible phone. Is really a sweet setup that MVNOs have scored.
But, what else is out there? Since MVNOs are prepaid with no contracts, they make it really easy to jump ship to another and take your phone with you. Let’s take a look at other Verizon MVNOs and compare for 2018. I got my list from whistleout, then excluded any that didn’t have Unlimited Talk & Text or had too much fine print on their fee structure. I also looked at US Cellular MVNOs, but didn’t feel any were worth including.
Sorted by cost per GB, Straight Talk is still the winner. The table also shows how crazy data pricing still is. If you are a light data user, using less than 4GB, Google’s ProjectFi is your best bet. You pay for what you think you’ll use, then google gives you a discount on your next bill for what you don’t use.
But what about unlimited plans?
In 2016, we saw every major carrier bring back their own version of the coveted unlimited plans. Each with their own gotchya in the fine print when you go above an arbitrary usage number. This is why when you read about unlimited plans, it is in air quotes. “Unlimited Data”
In 2017, we saw MVNO cell providers also announce versions of unlimited plans. In the below table, I list the MVNOs that offer “unlimited” plans. Digging through the fine print, I found the data threshold that you will be throttled or cut off.
You can see again that Straight Talk is on top. The 32GB number does not appear in their fine print, just a note about throttling the top 3% of users. Digging through the forums, a rep admitted that this number is the equivalent to 32GB. I searched online for anyone who has hit this 32GB threshold and dealt with customer service, but didn’t find much. Seems folks are happy with the service. Straight Talk’s “unlimited” plan seems like a great deal at only $10 more per month.
Let’s keep going.
Lastly, here are the larger cell company’s “unlimited” plan offerings. Both att and verzion offer more than one “unlimited” plan. So I filtered by the cheapest plan with unlimited talk and text with data speeds of 2Mbps or higher. Unlike MVNOs and prepaid offerings, these are annual contract plans. Locking you to that carrier for 2+ years.
The results are surprisingly competitive to the MVNO “unlimited” offerings on a narrow view of cost per GB per month. In addition, you can add a cost benefit of the additional perks offered by larger carriers. Such as roaming, or free HBO. haha
If you are a light data user, really. None of these options should appeal to you. Stick with a Wifi Only smartphone plan, or consider Project Fi.
If you are a heavy data user, Straight Talk is a good choice until you want premium features like tethering or roaming. At which point, you will have to re-examine offerings from the larger cell companies and see what is best for you.
If you are a moderate data user of 2GB to 10GB and just want a smartphone that works most the time. Straight Talk is a far and away winner.