Technology

Best Cellphone Plans of 2023: Our Top Picks for July


See at T-Mobile

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T-Mobile Essentials Savings: $50 for 1 line

Best for value for a single line

See at T-Mobile

T-Mobile logo on a phone screen

T-Mobile Essentials Savings: $100 for 4 lines

Best for value (with multiple lines)

See at Verizon

Verizon logo on a phone

Verizon Unlimited Welcome: $75 for 1 line, $130 for 4 lines

Best for perks

See at Boost Mobile

boost mobile

Boost Mobile unlimited for $25 per month

Best for a single line with unlimited data

See at Google Fi

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Google Fi Wireless Simply Unlimited

Best for a family of four: $80 per month for four lines

See at TextNow

Textnow logo on a phone

TextNow

Cheapest option without data: As low as $0 a month

With AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon offering dozens of plans, not to mention the exponentially larger assortment from prepaid and smaller carriers like Mint Mobile, Visible and Google Fi Wireless, it’s not easy choosing the best cellphone plan. Without doing the right research you could end up paying a lot more than you should, and no one wants to lose out on saving money.

We’re going to try and fix that. We’ve been covering the latest in wireless plans across a host of providers and plans — from breaking down how to switch carriers, to the top unlimited and prepaid plans to knowing which network the smaller carriers use. Not to mention T-Mobile and Verizon’s recent plan revamps. 

Here’s our guide for sorting through the madness and some of our picks for what we think are the best unlimited and prepaid plans available right now. 

Three smartphones, each showing the name and logo of either Verizon, T-Mobile or AT&T

Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s the difference between ‘prepaid’ and ‘postpaid’ plans?

When choosing a phone plan, there are generally two main options: a postpaid carrier like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile (plus cable options like Spectrum Mobile and Xfinity Mobile) and prepaid providers such as Mint Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile, Google Fi Wireless and Cricket.

Look at a zoomed-out map of the US on the websites for AT&T, T-Mobile or Verizon and you’ll likely see it pretty well colored in by their respective color. Zooming in is where things get a bit more complicated, which is why we can’t offer blanket recommendations for one carrier over another. T-Mobile’s service in New York may be excellent, but if you’re in a rural area in Colorado, Verizon could be more reliable.

If you’re on T-Mobile, all of your plans are unlimited, and Verizon no longer lets new users sign up for a shared data plan. Only AT&T still offers some tiered data plans and… it’s not great.

Best postpaid phone plans

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Sarah Tew/CNET

T-Mobile recently reshuffled its plans, getting rid of what was our previous pick in this spot, the Base Essentials plan that offered a single line for $45 per month. It replaced that option with an Essentials Savings plan, a “limited time” offer of $50 a month for a single line.

T-Mobile logo on a phone screen

Sarah Tew/CNET

Those looking to save the most on unlimited service from the major carriers may also be best off with T-Mobile’s Essentials Savings. As mentioned above, unlimited talk, text and data are included for all of the carrier’s base unlimited plans, including 5G access.

Verizon logo on a phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is a bit more complicated. Verizon used to be our pick with its Play More plan that bundled in the Disney Bundle (ad-free Disney Plus, ESPN Plus and Hulu with ads) and services like Google Play Pass or Apple Arcade into the plan’s sticker price.

Best prepaid phone plans

boost mobile

Sarah Tew/CNET

Boost Mobile has added an unlimited plan that offers unlimited talk, text and data to new users for $25 per month with taxes and fees included. Unlike Mint Mobile’s 12-month plan, our previous pick in this slot, Boost’s plan isn’t tied to 12-month increments. You do, however, need to be a new Boost customer to get this offer.

Google Fi logo

Sarah Tew/CNET

When it comes to family plans, Google’s Fi Wireless cellphone service is a solid option. While its $50 pricing for one line is way higher than Mint’s, if you have three lines or more you can save a little.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

When it comes to plans with under 15GB of data, Mint once again has the best value if T-Mobile’s network is solid in your area. Whereas Metro and Cricket charge $40 per month for one line and Boost has a $35 plan for 10GB of data, Mint beats them all on price, and now data too.

Textnow logo on a phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re looking for service for a backup phone that’s rarely used, TextNow has a free plan. Running on T-Mobile’s network, the service offers free unlimited talk and unlimited texting, though ads are placed in its app which you use to call and text people. There isn’t any data included with this option and removing the ads without adding data would run you $10 a month. If you want to watch YouTube, FaceTime or surf the web, make sure to connect to Wi-Fi.