It's important to compare different options when shopping around for a prepaid cell phone. Minutes, text, data, coverage, and phones are all considered for prepaid cell phone buyers. Different people have different needs but let's say you're going to use your prepaid cell phone primarily for talking. Boost Mobile, Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Metro PCS all offer prepaid cell phones with unlimited talk service but which carrier is the best? All of these prepaid carriers also offer unlimited texting with their unlimited talk so if you are a heavy texter, this comparison is also relevant. Usually, prepaid cell phone carriers are able to offer a cheaper deal than contract carriers.
They can give you such a great deal on your monthly plan by having you pay full retail for their phones. These phones are also generally older than what national carriers offer.
Boost Mobile offers one of the most famous deals in the prepaid market. $50 for unlimited talk, sms text, mms, web, instant messaging, email, and 411. If you want to add BlackBerry BIS service and 3G, it's $10 extra. For the purpose of this comparison, we'll focus on their $50 plan. You pay $50 by the month and you don't have to sign any contracts. Boost Mobile uses Sprint's CDMA network which is very good. Also, if you buy iDen phones, you can use the Walkie-Talkie features for free which is covered by Sprint's Nextel iDen network. Not only does Boost have good coverage(CDMA), but they are also known to have some of best and newest phones compared to the rest of the prepaid carriers. Bottom line, Boost Mobile is one of the better prepaid cell phone carriers that are our there.
Virgin Mobile offers everything Boost mobile offers except PTT (walkie-talkie). For unlimited calling, web, email, and messaging, you have to pay $60 per month as advertised in their Beyond Talk Plan. You have to add $10 for their BlackBerry BIS service. Like Boost, Virgin Mobile also uses Sprint's nationwide network. If you are using your prepaid cell phone for just talking and texting, I see no real advantage in choosing Virgin Mobile over Boost Mobile. On a side note, Virgin Mobile has a more flexing BlackBerry prepaid plan. You can set up a BlackBerry plan for as little as $35 a month. This includes 300 minutes, unlimited text, data, 3G, and BlackBerry's BIS. With Boost, the minimum BlackBerry plan is $60.
Edit: This summer, Virgin Mobile changed their Beyond Talk plans. Instead of paying $60 for everything, you now pay $55. There is no more additional charge for BlackBerry Smartphones.
T-Mobile's prepaid plan is as basic as vanilla. Their unlimited talk plan includes unlimited talk, sms text, and mms. No word on data (i.e. web). You get all of this for $50 per month. I compare their prepaid service to vanilla because everything they offer is average. Their plan is average, their price is average, their phones are below average, and their coverage is average. They do offer a specialized texting plan for $15 a month for unlimited text and 10 cent/minute on voice. T-Mobile's prepaid service might be right for you if your name is "Joe" or "Jane". Otherwise, there are better options out there.
Verizon Wireless Prepaid
Verizon's prepaid service is very similar to their contract service. Overpriced. It's like going into a fancy French restaurant and paying $20 to eat canned escargot. For just their prepaid unlimited talk plan, you pay $74.99. This is without text. They don't even offer data on their monthly prepaid. If you want unlimited talk and text, it will cost you $94.99. Ahem. Who are you trying to fool Verizon? That is crazy expensive. One thing Verizon have going for them is the coverage. They have great nationwide coverage and they do a good job bragging about it on their commercials. Unfortunately, their prepaid service is expensive. For your money, you should look pass big red and look into other carriers.
AT&T markets their prepaid phones as "Go Phones", clearly named for people who love to get up and go. The only place your going to go is to the store to buy more phone cards. Having experienced Go Phones first hand, I find myself constantly buying minute with their pay as you go plan. But let's be fair, I didn't have their monthly unlimited plan and that's what we're looking at. AT&T offers unlimited talk and text for $60 per month. This does not include any data. So basically, they offer you the same plan as Verizon but cheaper. Unlike Verizon, you won't get good coverage. AT&T's coverage is widely known to be spotty and fair at best. When shopping for unlimited prepaid talk service, "go" to another carrier.
The last carrier we'll look at is MetroPCS. MetroPCS offers the lowest rate plan out of the carriers we've covered. For $40 a month, you get unlimited talk, text, and data. They also offer a BlackBerry plan which costs $60. What's not so good is the coverage. While they are the 5th largest network in the US, they only focus on large cities. Check their website to see if coverage is good in your area. If you want the best bang for your buck, consider MetroPCS.
SIMPLE Mobile offers 4 easy to understand plans starting at $25. For $25, you can get unlimited local/long distance(national) calling, unlimited texting, voicemail, caller id, and free 411 for 15 days. This plan only qualifies if you use a basic phone. $40 will get you the same thing, plus 3G speeds and basic web for a full month. This plan works for basic phones and smart phones. Add $10 for a total of $50 and you can get the previous plan with BlackBerry BIS/BBM/App World.
For those who don't want to settle for anything but the best, the $60 plan will get you everything from the $50 BlackBerry plan, plus the ability to support 4G(HSPA+) speeds. Note: You must have a 4G capable phone in order to get the most of the 4G service. You will also get a recurring $5 International Long Distance credit. A nice discount for those who talk overseas.
Currently, SIMPLE Mobile seems to be the best option for those who don't want to be locked into those generic(and sometimes bad) prepaid phone. With SIMPLE Mobile, you can buy a GSM phone unlocked and use the SIMPLE Mobile sim card. This is much more convenient than CDMA companies like Virgin Mobile where you are tied to buying their line of phones.
Prepaid cell phones are great for people that might not have stable jobs or for those that don't like contracts. They are also very convenient. Not having a bill at the end of the month is a cool thing. For those looking for the absolute lowest price, I suggest MetroPCS. For those looking for the absolute best coverage, I suggest Verizon. For those looking for the best of both world, I suggest Boost Mobile. Sprint's network is almost, if not, as good as Verizon's. For $10 more than MetroPCS and $45 less than Verizon, Boost Mobile is a solid choice for nearly everyone. I decided to buy my mom a MetroPCS phone since coverage was good in our area and she doesn't travel much. If MetroPCS wasn't covered here, Boost would've been my next choice.
Kaitlyn myranda cunningham on May 18, 2017:
Is that phone free
Set's All Set (author) from New England on February 09, 2014:
That sucks to hear. My simple mobile work great at my home but is terrible at work. I've asked many people about their providers and it seems only vrz works. I'm still happy with them. They say me a bunch of money and I can use any tmobile phone with them.
cely on January 31, 2014:
I have simple mobile and it not good at all........I don't get signal in my home I have to go outside to make a call or send a message....mind you I live in Ohio and we have been in a deep freeze for a while so going outside to make calls isn't easy
Aaron on February 20, 2013:
Update: Virgin Mobile has no roaming charges
Aaron on February 20, 2013:
Something I didn't hear mentioned between Boost, Virgin mobile and Metro is the ability to roam. On metro if you are off their network and "roaming" you will have money withdrawn from your apps acount. I was told bu customer service, if you do not add any money to your apps account(money set aside to perchase apps) you will not have service. This was the same case with boost. Not sure about Virgin.
Simon on June 11, 2012:
I had boost mobile for 6 months and the service has been excellent. I started with the $55 option. I have traveled many places in Fl, Al and OK and the company provided good quality signal most of the time. Their quality/price ratio beats the competitors. I moved from a 3 year contract from T-mobile to Boost and do not regret at all. I love the face my friends make when I ask them for their plans, how much they spend, and then tell them how much I pay for a better plan
Eric on June 06, 2012:
Thank you so much for this review ! I was going to ask the question on what's the difference between Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile.This was very informative and slightly funny. Thank you and I will be getting me ANOTHER boost mobile phone. I have had one in the past. The customer service sucks but hey that's all customer service.
Set's All Set (author) from New England on April 20, 2012:
Thanks for the tip kidcuddy!
I've added SIMPLE Mobile. For those of you guys with these plans, be sure to leave a comment on reception quality, customer service issues, and anything else you want to add. We're building good information for those who are looking for prepaid phones on the cheap. Thanks!
kidcuddy on April 20, 2012:
good list. but you should add simple mobile to the list as well. Metro pcs doesn't offer sim card phones so you are forced to buy their phones. Simple mobile lets you use other phones for the same price as MetroPcs.
yellowbean on November 18, 2011:
I've been happy with TMobile prepaid in Long Island, NY for years (and with a contract before that), but lately I've been missing calls and texts - is it the old Motorola flip phone or is the TMobile service getting worse? I've been thinking about going to MetroPCS, but I'm also concerned about service.
Set's All Set (author) from New England on November 16, 2011:
Thank you ferminelmatador for the correction! I have Sprint and they've never let me down as far as coverage. I'm waiting for my contract to expire so I can save money on a prepaid. I'll probably do updates to this article to keep it updated. Thanks.
Kimmy07 on November 16, 2011:
Thank you, Thank you!!!!! Someone finally answered my question! I wanted Boost to win so that I can buy the zte warp instead of the samsung exhibit 2. My main concern was coverage.
ferminelmatador on November 09, 2011:
GOOD article, little missed info:
Boost mobile offers a shrinkage plan starting @ $50 a month and after 18months your @ $35 a month. I'm 5 months away to reaching my $35 a month and since sprint owns boostmobile; i get the same quality of service with boost as sprint. So the bottom line, after 18 months Boost is cheaper than metro pcs and the network just as good as Sprint.
Set's All Set (author) from New England on October 07, 2011:
You are not alone. I have friends with that same problem or spotty coverage. Not to sure on your 3G issue. They never had to re-set 3G. I suspect that VM saves costs but using only certain towers and not all though I am not sure. Will post if I hear any updates.
Tuesday on October 07, 2011:
I have a recurring Question re: pre-paid. Example:
Sprint contract service
Pre-paid unlimited PLan
using Sprint Towers/Netword
Why is this?
They may be calling it "unlimited" talk/text/data,
but obviously it is not. 3G has to be re-set by Tech Support every fews days.
Mike on October 06, 2011:
I to as of right now have a contract with Verizon but its ending in 14 days YAY! Ive been counting down the months and days LOL. me and wife are stuck between virgin and boost for prepaid.
We live in Cass Co. Michigan servive here for both are fair, I do believe my wife is mybe going with virgin while I may go with boost, and we are prob going to get the smart phones.
David on August 29, 2011:
One point to note is MetroPCS has no 3g coverage and their 4g coverage data speeds are very low.
Tom Barrister on August 29, 2011:
If they have service in your area, T-Mobile is probably the best now, especially for smartphone users. They have a monthly $70 unlimited everything (the first 5 MB of data are high-speed). If they don't have high-speed data in your area, $50 gets unlimited talk, text, and low-speed data (first 100 MB are high-speed).
Set's All Set (author) from New England on May 19, 2011:
tracfone is ridiculously overpriced and I omitted them from this list because of that. And their phone are ancient in comparison.
janet2 on May 02, 2011:
set's all set. that does sound like a good deal. i wanted to look into tracfone. i know that's not what this is between.. but arent they all on the same coverage? like doesn't tracfone pick up verizons network?
Dana Rock from Pacific Northwest on November 21, 2010:
Virgin Mobile RULES!!!!!
Set's All Set (author) from New England on October 25, 2010:
I feel your frustration. I do feel like phone companies are overcharging their services. Has it come down to choosing the lesser of many evils? There was a time when I didn't have a cell phone. Now, I can't leave home without one. As of now, my Sprint bill comes a little over $150 for a 2 line family plan. If I were to go to virgin or boost, I would pay about $100 for the same service. What's holding me back is my contract. :( I feel your pain.
owen_mshengu_sharif on October 24, 2010:
Like so many telecommunication services - all have their foibles ... some more expensive (downright costly) than others.
AT&T is a diabolical financial rip-off ... as they except that they try to hook iPhone users to two year contracts.
Sprint and Verizon have their own entrapment, i.e. Droid.
T-Mobile - albeit various plan options - they still have an added catch for International Text/Phone Calls as does boostmobile - who furthermore require their own phones - with no iPhone compatible. Virgin too has it's limitations
All in all - the telephone companies are all disingenuous to the nth degree ... all rip-offs ...
Just when can we expect all of these telecom companies to come clean and give us - we the consumer a workable solution ...
kim mencaric on October 03, 2010:
Boots works better then any phone I have ever had T-mobile does not work everywarein my home town and in my house .... boost works in Glasgow Haywood siths grove and even in wallmarts and other stores
Set's All Set (author) from New England on September 06, 2010:
Thanks for the comment Adroit Alien! Verizon is launching a prepaid data service but that doesn't pertain to this hub. This hub is all talk!
Adroit Alien on September 06, 2010:
Good stuff man. I've been looking at the prepaids the other day. I was about to get a Go Phone but your article laid it all out for me. Thanks.
Set's All Set (author) from New England on August 30, 2010:
Thank you wordscriber!
I was searching for a good prepaid for my mom. She is not very tech savvy so I decided to do a comparison for those in the same situation. She can now ditch her home phone and talk forever!
wordsscriber from California on August 30, 2010:
Good comparison. It can get a little confusing when looking for a cell phone. Prepaid seems like a viable option. Well written Hub.