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The best cell phone providers in 2024

Having the best cell phone carrier can save you lots of money and prevent stress. Use this guide to find the provider that fits your budget and data needs.

Best cell providers - six different mobile phones against a mango-colored background

Picking the best cell phone provider is a difficult and tricky job, but important. Thankfully, we have a list of plans from a range of major US carriers such as Verizon, T-mobile, and more, to suit your needs no matter what they are, ensuring that you get the right amount of data and coverage for the greatest value and minimal hassle.

Whether you’re looking for the best cell phone providers for students, the best T-mobile phones, the best Verizon phones, or the best Mint Mobile plans, we’ve always got your back here at Pocket Tactics, so be sure to check out our other tech and hardware guides for even more useful tips.

Why you can trust our advice ✔ At Pocket Tactics, our experts spend days testing games, phones, tech, and services. We always share honest opinions to help you buy the best. Find out how we test.


Best US cell phone provider overall

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Verizon specifications:
Network Verizon
Reasons to buy
  • Reliable and fast 5G coverage
  • Easy to customize plans
Reasons to avoid
  • Not the cheapest
  • Fastest 5G not available everywhere

We’ve picked Verizon as the best cell phone provider in the US because it has a wide variety of simple plans and the most reliable 5G coverage. If you bring your phone, plans start at $25/per month for the Unlimited Welcome line or $30 for an extra 30GB of premium hotspot data – perfect for playing the best mobile games or streaming on the go.

Verizon offers all the latest devices if you do want a new phone, and its plans are easy to customize to your needs so you don’t pay over the odds. You can also choose phone bundles, which include subscriptions to services like Disney Plus and Walmart+.

While we do have to point out that Verizon’s customer reviews average a pretty disheartening 1.2 out of 5 stars on Trust Pilot, all the cell phone carriers on this list have pretty low scores, with no provider above the 2-star mark. This suggests customers only leave reviews when they’ve had a bad experience, so it might be worth taking with a pinch of salt.

Verizon isn’t the cheapest cell phone provider here, but its 5G coverage is impressive; the company rolled out C-Band 5G early last year, to offer faster mid-band 5G to millions of consumers across the country. RootMetrics recently reported that Verizon had the best 5G reliability of any carrier, so if data is important to you, we think it’s worth paying a little more.

Compare all the Verizon plans here.

Mint Mobile

Affordable plans if you pay upfront

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Mint Mobile specifications:
Network T-Mobile
Reasons to buy
  • Affordable unlimited data plans
  • Uses reliable T-mobile network
Reasons to avoid
  • Few bonus packages
  • Low prices are tied to a yearly contract

Mint Mobile became famous for having Ryan Reynolds as a major shareholder, but now that the Canadian actor has sold his stake to T-Mobile, is it still worth considering as a cell phone provider? In short, yes. Mint uses T-Mobile’s network for coverage, and it swaps between 5G and 4G LTE coverage (whichever is stronger in your area) for reliable and fast speeds.

Mint Mobile also offers some of the most affordable prepaid phone plans, with extra discounts on family plans. The lowest prices apply when you take out at least a 12-month contract, but Mint usually offers promotions to new customers that give you months of free service.

All Mint Mobile plans have unlimited calls and texts, 5G and 4G LTE coverage (whichever is stronger in your areas), free calls to Canada and Mexico, and free mobile hotspots up to 10GB. The price you pay each month depends on how much data you need: on a 12-month plan, $15 a month gets you 5GB of data, while 40GB of 5G data is $30.

If you want a cheap cell phone provider and don’t mind paying upfront for your plan, Mint Mobile is a great option, offering all the latest Android devices and Apple iPhones if you want a new device. Check the compatibility of your device here.


Best 5G coverage with the fastest data speeds

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T-mobile specifications:
Network T-Mobile
Reasons to buy
  • Powerful unlimited plans
  • Good perks with pricier contracts
  • Excellent coverage and fast data speeds
Reasons to avoid
  • Not the cheapest

T-Mobile has a selection of fantastic phone plans with 5G coverage, although this provider is not quite as budget-friendly as Mint Mobile. We like that T-Mobile makes it easy to check 5G and 4G LTE coverage in your area with its coverage map, giving you peace of mind before you take out a contract.

T-Mobile’s Go5G plans are ideal for the most data-hungry users and those who want the best performance from their phones. The Essentials Savings plan starts at $50 per month for 50GB of data, while the Magenta Max plan ($85 a month) gives you Unlimited Data, a free Netflix account, and a 40GB mobile hotspot.

Unlike some carriers, all the taxes and fees are included in this price. T-Mobile offers discounts when you take out multiple lines at the same time (great for families) as well as for those aged over 55, military personnel, veterans, and first responders.

Compare T-Mobile plans.

AT&T Wireless

A good range of plans and good US coverage

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AT&T Wireless specifications:
Network AT&T
Reasons to buy
  • Extensive 5G coverage
  • Good range of plans
  • Physical stores
Reasons to avoid
  • Physical stores
  • Plan pricing can be unclear

AT&T Wireless is one of the three major cell phone carriers in the US, owning and looking after its own cell towers rather than piggybacking on them as smaller networks do. Cell phone reception is still top-notch, but we haven’t rated AT&T higher in this guide because T-Mobile has better customer reviews, and Verizon provides better coverage generally.

There are plenty of AT&T Wireless plans to choose from, including those with discounts for students or multiple lines. If you bring your own phone AT&T Wireless will give you $250 in bill credits, but if you do want a new device, the payment plans are reasonable. Once you’ve paid off your phone, it will be unlocked for use on any cell phone carrier in the future.

Unlike Visible Wireless below, AT&T is one of the providers to have physical stores, which means you can visit should you have a query, or want to talk to someone about your contract. It’s also easy to check AT&T’s wireless coverage across the US.

Compare AT&T Wireless plans.

US Mobile

Good student discounts and a 100-day free trial of its 5G contract

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US Mobile specifications:
Network Verizon
Reasons to buy
  • Lots of customization for plans
  • Excellent 5G speeds
  • Good perks
Reasons to avoid
  • Limited range of phones

US Mobile might be one of the lesser-known brands on this list, but they’ve got a fun website and some incredible 5G speeds. If you’re into mobile gaming or streaming on your phone, this might be the provider for you.

If you run out of data, texts, or talk minutes before your next month, for example, you can add Top Ups to refill your balance. US Mobile also has an Autopilot AI service, which essentially looks over your previous typical phone usage and finds the best plan for you – not the most expensive one.

The Unlimited Basic package starts at $35 per month, while Unlimited Premium is $45 (which gives you 10GB of international data and 50GB of hotspot data).

Compare US Mobile contracts.

Cricket Wireless

Best small prepaid wireless service provider

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Cricket Wireless specifications:
Network AT&T
Reasons to buy
  • Offers a service trial using free app
  • Free HBO Max on some plans
Reasons to avoid
  • No contracts

In the same way that Visible is owned by Verizon, Cricket Wireless is owned by AT&T. According to Wikipedia, it supplies ten million subscribers in the United States, which makes it one of the smaller carriers on our list. With a range of prepaid plans, you know exactly what you’re spending, and you get access to Cricket’s nationwide 5G network as standard on each plan.

Cricket’s cheapest plan is $30 per month (for 5GB data) and the most expensive is Unlimited Premium with 15 GB Mobile Hotspot data at $60 monthly. If you want to buy several family lines, you can get 4 for $25 each month. Cricket also offers bonuses for the more expensive plans, including the ability to stream HBO Max with ads.

If you’ve got an iPhone, it’s possible to trial Cricket Wireless with the tryCricket app, which has an average rating of 4.7 stars out of 5. We’d suggest taking advantage of this free trial and checking Cricket’s network coverage to ensure you’ll be covered in your area.

Compare Cricket Wireless plans.


A cheap cell phone provider for unlimited data plans

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Visible specifications:
Network Verizon
Reasons to buy
  • Affordable limited plans
  • Two simple plans to choose from
Reasons to avoid
  • Slower speeds during busy periods
  • No physical stores or call centers

Visible is another lesser-known US cell phone carrier that is well worth checking out before going straight to the big brands. The carrier is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that uses Verizon’s network, which we’ve already said is very reliable. It’s worth saying, though, that if the network gets congested you can see speeds slowing down on some plans.

Visible has two simple contract plans; the standard Visible plan ($25/month) offers “all the basics” – unlimited calls, texts, and data, an unlimited data hotspot, plus unlimited calls and texts to Mexico and Canada.

The Visible+ plan ($45/month) gives you all of this, plus 5G Ultra Wideband, the Premium Network Experience – meaning your speeds won’t slow down during congested periods – and International Calling to over 30 countries. There aren’t any hidden extra fees here, and adding an Apple Watch costs you an extra $5/month.

Visible only offered iPhones when it started, but now you can get the latest and best Android phones from Samsung and Google. Visible saves money by not having a storefront or call center (it does have 24/7 online chat support). If you don’t mind that and want to save money on an unlimited plan, this is the best cell phone carrier for you.

Compare Visible plans here.

Consumer Cellular

Best cell phone provider for seniors

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Consumer Cellular specifications:
Network Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) – AT&T and T-Mobile
Reasons to buy
  • Higher data plans are good
  • Discount for seniors
Reasons to avoid
  • Low data plans are expensive

The Consumer Cellular website isn’t as sleek as some providers, but there are some good value deals if you know where to look. As far as pricing goes, what you get at the lowest end isn’t as generous as other providers in this list. For example, $25 a month includes unlimited talk and text but only 5GB of data (it’s unlimited on Verizon’s basic plan).

However, Consumer Cellular should appeal to you if you want a monthly plan without a contract, and it’s been going for over 25 years as a US-based company (with US-based customer service centers).

Consumer Cellular gives AARP members a 5 percent discount, which has seen it become popular among seniors. As an MVNO, the carrier relies on T-Mobile and AT&T networks for coverage, so you should get as good a coverage as those wherever you are in the country. Like many providers, you can check your postcode on the website to make sure.

Compare Consumer Cellular plans.

How we chose the best cell phone providers

The best cell phone providers ensure that you remain connected anytime, any place, so the first thing we look at when picking the best cell phone providers is their coverage, reliability, and speed, across both 4G and 5G.

We also understand how important it is to find the right contract for you, so we look at both the prices and range of plans and customization options that the provider offers, and we can’t resist a good unlimited data package. And, of course, we also like to keep an eye out for any plan perks and bonuses, from free cinema tickets to exclusive discounts.

How do I choose the best cell phone provider for me?

The best cell phone provider for you will give you the right amount of data and coverage for the best price to suit your needs and preferences.

To break down your options and pick the best provider for you, you should start by considering your monthly spending and how you want to pay. Some network providers ask you to lock into a monthly plan for a set period, while others offer pay-as-you-go or prepaid contracts, which can work out cheaper overall. US Mobile and Consumer Cellular also offer a free trial, so you can test the coverage before you commit.

That’s all we’ve got on the best cell phone provider in 2024. If you’ve decided to pick up a new phone and want some accessories to go with it, be sure to check out our list of the best iPhone cases, the best stylus for iPad and iPhone, the best power banks, or the best Apple Watch.