Are you considering switching cell phone providers when your current contract runs out? Attracting a new customer brings in so much money for a mobile phone provider that the cell phone companies will practically bend over backwards to meet your needs. If you are a new customer, you can often expect a special gift – such as a low-cost phone or several months of discounted service – when you switch carriers.

Which provider should you choose? The largest cell phone providers are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, but there are also several regional carriers that merit your consideration. In this article, we’ll discuss the best cell phone service providers and explain the differences that might lead you to choose one over the rest.

Major Cell Phone Carriers

Verizon

Verizon made waves in 2017 with the introduction of the New Verizon Plan. The New Verizon plan greatly simplifies the process of choosing a mobile phone plan because every version of the plan includes unlimited talk and text. You only need to choose the amount of data that you need. The plan starts at $35 monthly for 2 GB and tops out at $80 for unlimited data. If you choose a limited plan, your unused data will roll over to the end of the following month – and if you run out of data, you won’t lose Internet access. You’ll continue to connect at a slower rate until your next billing cycle.

Verizon is the most popular mobile phone carrier in the United States. Verizon’s popularity means that the carrier may not work as hard to earn your business as other companies might. Verizon’s unlimited data plan, while simple and straightforward, isn’t the most cost-effective unlimited data plan available.

Worth noting is the fact that Verizon is the exclusive carrier of the Google Pixel. Some believe that the Pixel executes on Google’s vision for the Android operating system better than any other phone.

AT&T

If you own a phone that works on GSM networks, AT&T may be an excellent new carrier for you as the company charges no activation fees for new customers who bring their own devices. AT&T offers two plans. The Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus plans cost $60 and $90 respectively. Both plans include unlimited talk, text and data. The Unlimited Plus plan includes sufficient bandwidth for high-definition video streaming, a mobile hotspot for sharing 10 GB of data monthly and free streaming content from HBO. Although less expensive unlimited plans are available elsewhere, AT&T does offer significant savings to customers who pay for multiple lines.

T-Mobile

If you’re looking for a mobile phone carrier that’s willing to foot the bill on a shiny new smartphone in exchange for your signature on a two-year contract, T-Mobile isn’t the carrier for you. The carrier will allow you to finance a new phone, but it will not subsidize the cost. Perhaps the greatest feature of T-Mobile is that the company offers the most straightforward pricing of all major mobile phone carriers.

T-Mobile offers just one plan. It’s called T-Mobile ONE, and it starts at $70 per month. The plan includes unlimited talk, text and data, and the advertised price is exactly what you pay. T-Mobile pays all other taxes and fees. The monthly price per line decreases as you add more lines. For an extra $5 per month, you can get some extra features including high-definition video streaming, a mobile hotspot and in-flight Wi-Fi.

Sprint

If you are a devoted technophile who simply must have the latest devices as they become available, Sprint’s option to lease a device instead of buying it may appeal to you. With a lease from Sprint, you’ll rent your device – at a small increase to your regular monthly bill – for 18 months. When the lease term ends, you’ll return the device and can begin leasing a new one. If you join Sprint’s iPhone Forever or Galaxy Forever programs, you can trade your current phone in for the latest Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy after only 12 lease payments. Although leasing a phone means that you’ll eventually need to return it to Sprint, you’ll pay significantly less than you would if you bought the phone outright.

Sprint’s standard plan includes unlimited talk, text and data and costs $60 for one line. As you add additional lines, you’ll pay less per line. Sprint also offers a plan with 2 GB of data for $40.

When the Essential Phone comes out in Summer 2017, Sprint will be the exclusive carrier. Andy Rubin, co-creator of the Android operating system, is also the co-founder of Essential Products, so Android fans are watching the Essential Phone with great interest.

Regional Cell Phone Carriers

Virgin Mobile

If you prefer not to use a smartphone, you may find Virgin Mobile an appealing carrier because the company’s PayLo plans for feature phones start at just $20 with no data access. Virgin Mobile also offers smartphone plans with unlimited talk and text at $35 for 5 GB of data, $45 for 10 GB and $60 for unlimited data. Virgin Mobile is also an excellent carrier for streaming music lovers. Virgin Mobile automatically detects when you use apps such as Spotify, Pandora and Napster and does not count the streaming music against your monthly data allotment.

Cricket Wireless

If you’d like to switch cell phone carriers and get a new smartphone in the process, Cricket Wireless may be the perfect choice for you. If you port your number from another carrier while activating a new line with Cricket, you can receive a free Samsung Galaxy Amp 2, Alcatel STREAK or ZTE Sonata 3. Cricket has smartphone plans available starting at $30 for 1 GB of data. An unlimited data plan is $60. If you have a feature phone, you can also use the $30 plan for unlimited talk and text. Cricket covers the taxes and fees on its monthly plans, so the price you see is what you pay for service.

U.S. Cellular

The most popular of the regional mobile phone carriers, U.S. Cellular is highly regarded for the quality of its coverage where service is available. The company uses its 4G LTE network to stream voice calls for the highest clarity possible. U.S. Cellular carries more feature phones than most mobile phone companies, and they also have an extensive selection of smartphones available. U.S. Cellular even has an offer that gives you an opportunity to receive a free iPhone 7 with a 30-month contract. U.S. Cellular’s standard smartphone plan starts at $50 for unlimited talk and text and 2 GB of data. The unlimited data plan is $70 but includes a truly unlimited amount of data. If you exceed 22 GB of usage in a month, your phone will continue to connect at a lower speed until the next month begins. U.S. Cellular also has feature phone plans available.

Disclaimer

All facts stated in this article are true to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing, but promotions, plans and phones offered can change rapidly in the mobile phone industry. For the latest information about a mobile carrier’s offerings, check the carrier’s website.