After spending years pressuring customers to give up their unlimited data plans, the cell carriers have come full circle and are offering unlimited data plans. Sorting out which carrier offers the best deal—AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon—isn’t exactly straightforward, so we ranked each based on their features. Read on to see which comes out on top.
Unlimited Data Plan Pricing
How much an unlimited wireless data plan costs is a big deal for most people. Here’s how each stacks up:
AT&T $100, and $40 for additional lines, 4th line free
Sprint $50, $40 for 2nd line, lines 3 and 4 are free (first year only)
T-Mobile $70, $100 for 2 lines, $160 for 4 lines
Verizon $80, or $100 for multiple lines and $20 per line
Single Line Price Winner
Sprint At $50 for the first year and $60 after that, Sprint undercuts everyone else.
Multi-line Price Winner
T-Mobile and Sprint For the first year, Sprint’s multi-line rate is lower, but after the promotional period ends it’s a tie between T-Mobile and Sprint.
Data Throttling Cap
Unlimited data doesn’t mean you’ll always get full download speeds. All of the major carriers throttle the download speeds after you hit a data usage cap.
AT&T 22 GB
Sprint 23 GB
T-Mobile 28 GB
Verizon 22 GB
Unlimited Data Speed Throttling Cap Winner
T-Mobile With its 28 GB cap, T-Mobile gives customers far more data before slowing you down than any of the other four big carriers.
International Roaming for Canada and Mexico
Turns out there’s life outside of the United States, and we like to stay in touch when we travel. Here’s how each carrier stacks up with their unlimited data plans.
AT&T Unlimited calling, texting, and data
T-Mobile Unlimited calling, texting, and data
Verizon Unlimited calling and texting, 500 MB 4G LTE, 2G data after hitting the cap
International Roaming Winner
AT&T and T-Mobile Both AT&T and T-Mobile offer the best unlimited roaming options. AT&T users have to activate the free Roam North America feature first.
Wireless Data Hotspot
Sharing our cellular data connection with other devices is important if you need to get online with your tablet or laptop on the go.
Sprint 10 GB per line, 2G speed after hitting data cap
T-Mobile 10 GB per line, 3G speed after hitting data cap
Verizon 10 GB per line, 3G speed after hitting data cap
Wireless Hotspot Winner
T-Mobile and Verizon It’s a tie between T-Mobile and Verizon because both offer 3G speeds after hitting your 10 GB per month tethering data cap.
Streaming Video Quality
If you like watching video when you’re out and about, quality matters. All of the carriers handle video a little differently.
AT&T Content provider quality, but users can throttle with Stream Saver feature
Sprint 1080p video max
T-Mobile Content provider quality, but users must disable Binge On
Verizon Content provider quality
Streaming Video Winner
AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon In this case, it’s easier to declare Sprint the loser because it caps video quality at 1080p. That said, most people probably aren’t streaming video that’s higher quality than 1080p right now.
Best Unlimited Data Plan Winner
T-Mobile If you’re looking for the best overall deal on an unlimited smartphone data plan, T-Mobile is the way to go. T-Mobile offers the best non-introductory price and highest throttling data cap, plus it’s at least in line with the other carriers for Canada and Mexico roaming, tethering, and video streaming.