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How to Choose a Cellular Provider: 5 Helpful Tips

Choosing a cellular provider can be difficult. Between Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and a host of others, who has the best deal? Here are five things to consider when choosing a cellular provider.

1. Plan Type
There are three types of phone plans.

The most common is the post-paid contract plan. This plan locks you in a contract with a provider for two years. You can drop it, but expect to pay a hefty fine for canceling early. These contracts also have family plans and offer free calls to those with the same carrier.

The next is no-contract monthly plans. The phone is pricey, but you’re not muscled into a contract. T-Mobile, Cricket, Sprint subsidiaries Virgin and Mobile, along with MetroPCS offer these plans.

Prepaid plans are popular for those who don’t use their phone often. Net10, TracFone, T-Mobile, and Virgin are popular options.

2. Price of the Plan
T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular cost less a month than Verizon, AT&T, and Cricket. MetroPCS costs even less.

AT&T and Verizon pump up prices by making customers buy data plans to avoid accidental overages.

Use T-Mobile, Sprint, or a smaller carrier for a plan if you want the basics. By the time you pay for a plan with Verizon or AT&T, you might as well have bought a smart phone.

People who don’t use the phone much should look at prepaid phones. T-Mobile is very affordable. Net10, TracFone, and Sprint’s Virgin Mobile have plans for $10/month, and some carries have even cheaper options.
3. Plan Coverage
Sprint and T-Mobile may be cheaper, but you must consider their coverage. Sprint’s coverage is smaller than Verizon, and T-Mobile’s is even smaller.

The smaller the carrier’s coverage map is, the cheaper it is. But if you spend lots of time in areas covered by certain plans, you can save a lot of money.

For international travel, T-Mobile and AT&T use the Global GSM system, and their phones work almost anywhere in the world. Other carriers use CDMA, and Verizon and Sprint sell GSM/CDMA phones that roam globally.

4. Phone Type
Picking a phone isn’t much of an issue anymore, but Verizon and AT&T do tie for overall phone selection.

Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7 smart phones are available on major carriers and even regional characters have a fine selection of phones.

5. Speed
Top carriers like Sprint and Verizon and others have some form of a 4G network. This means fast internet, but at the cost of battery life. U.S. Cellular and Cricket will be joining the bandwagon soon.

Even when networks have the same “G”, some connections are faster than others, and allow for phones to be “tethered” to a laptop and used as a modem. Some even skip the tethering process and act as mobile hot spots for up to five devices (for an extra fee of course).

Across cities nationwide, Verizon has the fastest 4G LTE network, with AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint fighting for second.

Picking the right cellular provider can save you money, get you the coverage you need, and possibly the phone of your dreams. Pick wisely!