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Guide to Choosing a New Cell Phone Carrier in 2021

Posted on 03/03/21 by Nicholas Jones

woman with cell phone

A new year can be the right time to choose a new cell phone plan. With so many factors to consider, the process can feel more than a little overwhelming. Among the major factors worth considering are:

  • Savings. It’s always gratifying when a service is easy on the wallet. It makes sense to keep an eye out for what company offers the least expensive service and most frequent deals.
  • Data (and mobile hotspot data). It’s useful to check which carriers offer unlimited data, and whether there are any loopholes or hidden costs in those offers. Relevant here is that the ability to turn a mobile device into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot provides useful flexibility, but it needs robust data support in your carrier’s plan to be viable.
  • Coverage. Solid nationwide coverage, or at the very least excellent coverage in your home region, is important for your device to work reliably. A new consideration as 5G networks come online is which carriers offer 5G coverage.

When looking at each of these considerations, it’s important to think through your own needs — whether they’re data-heavy and involve mobile gaming and multimedia, or whether you need the ability to stay in touch seamlessly despite frequent travel (hey, travel could become a thing again in 2021). Or maybe there’s a specific device you want to use that your carrier needs to support. Whatever your must-haves may be, your specific needs will be part of the picture all through the selection process.

This guide provides a place to get started. For each of the priorities we’ve mentioned above, we’ll discuss some of the choices on the market with some basic points to keep in mind and offer up some possible options.

grandparents using a cell phone

The Best Cell Phone Plans for Savings

Savings aren’t always everything. Sometimes, services are cheap simply because they’re so bare-bones as to be just about useless. You always want to make sure you’re getting value for the money you’re paying. However, there are smaller carriers out there that offer highly affordable service that’s also genuinely functional for certain niches.

One great choice for people who don’t use a lot of data or talk minutes each month is Consumer Cellular. It has small data tiers and limited-minute plans for as little as $25 per month and it offers discounts for AARP members, making it a popular choice for seniors. Running on AT&T and T-Mobile’s parent networks, it offers 5G coverage and makes it fairly easy to manage your plans and keep costs down.

There are other plans that deliver inexpensive service for different niches:

  • For cheap talk and text, Republic Wireless offers a no-frills and no-data plan for $15 / month.
  • If you need over 1GB of data but are on a budget, Good2Go Mobile offers a plan at the same rate, though it only supports 4G LTE data.
  • For a few dollars more per month, you can get 4GB of 4G LTE data through Tello, running on Sprint’s national network.

Tello is one of the best all-around performers in the wallet-friendly bracket of mobile providers. It also offers a set of economy plans that mix and match levels of service. It’s possible to build a plan for just $10 monthly that provides 1GB of data along with free calling to Mexico, Canada, and China.

The Best Plans for Data Users

There are a number of different ways people use mobile data. Some use enough data that they need an unlimited plan, while others use data in more limited ways or for shorter stretches of time that can be addressed by tiered data. There are plans that offer mobile hotspot support or structures for specific kinds of multimedia services for the data-heavy user. It all depends on your specific needs.

  • Verizon’s Play More Unlimited plan is a go-to option for the heavy data user and mobile gamer — offering subscriptions to Disney+ and Hulu, 50 GB of high-speed data, and 15 GB of mobile hotspot data support.
  • A close Verizon competitor is T-Mobile’s Magenta Plan, which offers unlimited data and 5G coverage, all for $70 per month.
  • For fans of HBO programming, AT&T’s Unlimited Elite data plan provides unlimited LTE data, hotspot capabilities, and a subscription to HBO Max.
  • For traveling data use, it’s hard to beat Google Fi Unlimited, which provides unlimited text and data in over 200 countries and offers added savings the more people you add to your plan.

T-Mobile also offers family plans designed for unlimited data usage, and AT&T is another major carrier with some competitive options available. For users in the market for tiered data plans like the Play More plan outlined above, Verizon tends to come out on top.

mobile network coverage in a city

Mobile Carriers With the Best Coverage

One of the most important considerations for choosing a cell phone plan is making sure the carrier offers excellent coverage in your area, or in any area where you might find yourself.

Cell phone service in the U.S. is provided by three major networks on which various smaller plans and providers operate. These major carriers are T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. A much more limited service network, providing mostly 3G and 4G coverage in several states, is also operated by U.S. Cellular.

Here’s how the big three stack up:

  • Verizon leads the way in coverage, reaching a full 71% of the US with its 4G LTE network. It presently offers the fastest 5G network (although as with other providers in the early stages, its reach and access is limited).
  • AT&T’s 4G LTE network covers nearly 70% of the U.S., and its 5G network is in the process of rolling out (currently limited but present in areas of more than 30 states).
  • T-Mobile’s 4G services reach 62% of the U.S., while its 5G network presently reaches some 30% of the nation.

Before purchasing a cell phone plan, it’s always best to check the network’s strength in your area. If you’re in an area that’s distant from the nearest cell tower even with the broadest national coverage, or if you’re in a particular densely-built urban area, this can be an early sign that you might also make use of a cell phone signal booster from weBoost.

Support Your Cell Phone Plan With Signal Booster Technology

weboost outside directional antenna

No matter which cell phone plan you decide on, it’s always worth keeping in mind that you could run into instances of weak or poor quality signal regardless of what the plan itself promises. This can be due to a number of factors, including adverse weather, interference from building materials or terrain, or unusually heavy network traffic. You can plan to compensate for the unexpected by also picking out a cell phone signal booster.

Cell signal boosters work by picking up an external signal, amplifying it, and distributing it inside your home, office, or vehicle. This proprietary digital technology can boost a weak signal by up to 32 times, providing you with reliable talk and data and making sure you stay connected when you need it most.

When picking out the best cell phone signal booster for you, it’s always wise to get expert advice. The experienced staff at weBoost are always on hand to talk about your needs and suggest the best solution for you. Contact us today to learn more.

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