How to Pick a Cell Phone Data Plan
Mobile phone plans are just like phones: they change with the times as new technology and new features become available. This is why it’s important to periodically compare mobile phone plans to see if prices and plan features have changed. If you’re buying a new phone, there’s no better time to compare cell phone plans, as your existing plan’s contract usually expires close to when you’d be looking for a replacement phone anyway.
What is a Cell Phone Data Plan?
Mobile phone plans, or data plans, are contracts that determine how much mobile data you can use over a set period of time, usually a month. Data plans may charge a fixed amount for voice, texts, and data use, or charge one fee for data use and another for phone and text use. Typically, customers are charged extra for exceeding their data plan limits.
When comparing phone plans, it’s important to remember mobile phone plans only charge for mobile data. They don’t charge for any data sent and received over WiFi networks, so any data you use when connected to a wireless internet connection does not count towards your monthly mobile data limit.
Choosing a Cell Phone Plan
While there are dozens of local cell phone providers available in the USA, most people opt for mobile phone plans from the four giants in the industry: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. These four carriers offer the largest coverage areas, and will probably form the basis of your cell phone plan comparison (while local carriers shouldn’t be discounted, they often lack the coverage area and features of the larger companies).
When comparing a cell phone plan, consider the following:
How much are you comfortable spending a month on your cell phone plan? Set a maximum price for your plan, and keep it in mind as you’re comparing phone plans. Do you want a barebones plan, or are you willing to pay for extra features?
Do you only use your phone occasionally, or do you document every aspect of your day on social media? Do you like to watch streaming video or play games anywhere, or are you content to only watch shows and play games when you’re on a WiFi connection? Knowing how you use mobile phone data helps you determine how many GBs of data you need a month, which in turn helps when choosing a cell phone plan that meets your needs.
Full-Speed Data Options
Verizon and other major carriers all offer full-speed data plans, normally using 4G networks (5G networks are rolling out in some cities, providing the fastest data speeds if you have a 5G phone). Be aware that full-speed data plans come with low data deprioritization thresholds, which throttle your data speed after you consume a certain amount of data. Almost all mobile phone plans have a data threshold, with the more expensive unlimited plans typically having higher thresholds.
As added incentives for customers, plan providers often partner with entertainment companies to offer free or discounted access to streaming services. While not as important a consideration as data limits, these offers should be considered when comparing phone plans. Streaming services such as HBO, Hulu, Netflix, Apple Music, and Disney+ may be part of your phone package.
If you have relatives in other countries, check how each carrier handles international calls. Some plans allow you to add flat-rate calling fees for specific countries to your plan or offer cheap pay-as-you-go international rates.
Traveling without an international plan can result in expensive roaming charges. Verizon automatically includes travel privileges for Mexico and Canada in its plans, which include voice, text, and data. For short-term international trips, Verizon offers $10.00 single-day data passes that allow you to use data worldwide.
Any cell phone plan comparison should include whether the plan offers mobile hotspots. A mobile hotspot feature allows you to connect your tablet or computer to your mobile phone data plan through a WiFi connection. Some carriers include mobile hotspots as part of their unlimited data plans, while others charge extra for the option.
Comparing Family Cell Phone Plans
Family cell phone plans allow unlimited talk and text for multiple devices, as well as a range of data packages. If you have a family of four or more, comparing family cell phone plans to individual plans often results in the same data caps for lower monthly fees. The primary owner of a family account can set limits on data usage for family members’ devices, allowing you to control how much data your children consume each month.
Cell phone comparison doesn’t have to be a difficult process. Know what you want to get out of your data plan and research several mobile data plans to see which best meets your needs. Or drop by any GoWireless store to discuss the advantages of a Verizon data plan.