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The new wave of 'unlimited' data plans: How Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T compare – 9 to 5 Mac

Over the last week, all four of the major United States carriers either announced new unlimited data plans or made changes to existing plans in an effort to better compete. With all four carriers offering some form of unlimited data, now may be as good of a time as ever to analyze your current plan and think about switching.

Read on for a breakdown of what each plan has to offer…

The push towards unlimited data was really kickstarted last week when Verizon announced it’s all-new unlimited plan. Shortly thereafter, T-Mobile in typical fashion announced that it was dropping two of the restrictions on its unlimited plan: HD streaming and tethering.

From there, Sprint announced changes to its unlimited plan, as well. The carrier, like T-Mobile, announced support for HD video and mobile tethering. Those changes came less than a week after Sprint announced a new plan with promo pricing. Then, AT&T announced that it was expanding its unlimited plan, which had previously been available only to U-Verse and DirecTV subscribers.

All of these changes can be a bit overwhelming, so we decided to put it all together into a nice, quick chart. For your viewing pleasure:

unlimited-data-plans-compared

There are a few things to note about the chart, though. For one, the pricing. T-Mobile’s pricing is as you see it. The carrier, as part of its Uncarrier efforts, includes all taxes and fees in its advertised pricing. The same can’t be said for the other carriers, though, who tack on taxes and fees after the fact, thus increasing the price. The price increase really depends on your location and it can be a pretty big chunk of change in some areas. There’s also activation fees to consider:

  • Sprint: $25
  • Verizon: $30
  • AT&T: $25
  • T-Mobile: $0

Furthermore, Sprint’s pricing deserves an asterisk because of its promotional nature. The carrier says that come March 31st, 2018, its prices will rise to be more inline with what other carriers are charging. The first line will run $60, the second line $40, and the third, fourth, and fifth $30.

  • 1st line: $60
  • 2nd line: $40
  • 3rd line: $30
  • 4th line: $30
  • 5th line: $30

In terms of pricing, T-Mobile has the clear advantage if you ignore the promotional pricing from Sprint. Though, if you need five lines, Sprint is the best option. As for data, you get the most bang for your buck from T-Mobile at 28GB per line before throttling kicks in. From there, Sprint is slightly ahead of AT&T and Verizon.

One of the most notable differences is with hotspot support. While Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint all offer hotspot support, AT&T does not. This really sets AT&T’s apart of the competition and you have to wonder if the carrier will budge on this issue after backlash, but we’ll have to wait and see.

So what unlimited data plan is the best?

T-Mobile-One

It’s hard to say because there are several factors to consider. For one, what carrier offers the best service in your location? If a carrier has a slightly cheaper price but spotty service, you won’t really be getting your money’s worth. You all also have to consider how many lines you’ll need and if you need hotspot support. For many, having a hotspot isn’t necessary, so it really just depends on your needs and wants.

If we had to pick, T-Mobile’s ONE unlimited plan is the most well-rounded and affordable option available right now. You get pretty much the same thing as you get from other carriers for a solid price.

What are your thoughts on the new wave of unlimited data plans? Let us know down in the comments.


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