Sprint Report Card

As it tries to gain ground on rival carriers, Sprint has pulled out all the stops, with enticing offers to switch to its cellular service. But all of the unlimited plans, cut-your-bill-in-half promotions and other special features can't disguise one simple fact about Sprint: Its network performance continues to lag behind that of the other major carriers.

That flagging network performance ultimately hurt Sprint in our assessment of nine cellphone providers. Despite a strong second-place finish in our customer support showdown and an array of appealing plans for individuals and families, Sprint finished behind the other major carriers in our cellphone provider rankings, largely because its network performance simply doesn't measure up.

Carrier Performance (38/50 points)

Sprint recorded an average download speed of 11.2 Mbps in our tests of six cities — far off the pace set by Verizon and also well behind the average speeds for T-Mobile, AT&T and even discount carrier MetroPCS. Sprint's average upload speed of 6.4 Mbps also put it in fifth place, and it was the only carrier among the Big Four whose average app download speed failed to break the 2-minute mark.

Since we conducted our testing, Sprint has shown signs of life in third-party results. RootMetrics gave Sprint third place in its speed testing, where it beat out T-Mobile. (T-Mobile has decried RootMetrics' methodology in the past.) Sprint didn't fare as well in OpenSignal's test of network speed, though it did have the best 4G latency, according to that testing firm's latest results.

MORE: See How Sprint’s 4G Performance Stacks Up

Plans (15/20 points)

Sprint tries to compensate for its comparatively lackluster network with data — lots of it for both individual and family plans. Sprint's individual plan offers unlimited data for $60 a month with no monthly access fees. Both T-Mobile and AT&T offer unlimited plans as well — the former for $75 a month and the latter for $100 (though you also need to subscribe to either AT&T’s DirecTV or U-Verse service to qualify for unlimited data.) Sprint's unlimited plan comes with a key catch: you're limited to 480p resolution when you stream video, and music and game streaming are also at capped speeds. (T-Mobile's unlimited plan has a similar restriction on video.) You can pay an extra $20 per month per line to remove any streaming limitations.

Families will have to decide whether they want a lower bill or a lot of data. The carrier's shared 12GB data plan costs $140 a month for a family of four once device access fees are added to the $60 base rate. That's not much less than the $160 a month a family of four would pay for unlimited data with Sprint, though with restrictions on video, music and game streaming.

MORE: Compare Sprint’s Phone Plans to Other Carriers

Of the four major carriers, Sprint offers the most attractively priced prepaid plans, starting at $35 a month for 1GB of data. Another $10 gets you 3GB of data, though it's worth noting you could get even more data for that same $45 a month at discount carriers like Cricket and Virgin.

Customer Service (13/15 points)

Proving it can top other carriers when it puts its mind to it, Sprint showed a strong finish for customer service, coming in second place behind AT&T.

In our undercover phone calls, we found Sprint's tech support agents to be friendly and knowledgeable. Searching for online answers to simple questions, such as removing photos from our phone, was also a breeze. Plus, Twitter and Facebook also proved to be solid resources for Sprint customers looking for answers.

MORE: Compare Sprint’s Customer Service to Other Carriers

Phone Selection (7/10 points)

The major carriers have a wide array of phones, and Sprint is no exception, though it did offer the fewest phones among the big carriers. That said, only AT&T offered more of the phones on our list of 12 top devices. Sprint was missing only the Moto G and the Galaxy S6 Active. Sprint uses a CDMA network, so, like Verizon, there are limits to the use of unlocked phones with its service.

Special Features (4/5 points)

In a bid to draw customers away from rival services, Sprint offers to pick up the costs of a contract for customers who switch from a competitor. Under Sprint's Cut Your Bill in Half promotion, AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon subscribers can get a lower monthly fee for the same amount of data if they come over to Sprint, though there's an activation fee for each line you switch over. For T-Mobile subscribers, the offer doesn't apply to anyone with unlimited data plans, just the 2GB, 6GB and 10GB tiered data plans. Sprint says it will pay up to $650 per device in the form of a reward card to cover the costs of switching, but you'll have to trade in your current phone.

Sprint's Family Safety Essentials gives you parental controls, a family locator service and distracted-driver prevention (which locks a phone when its owner is driving) for $10 a month. However, you can get most of these services for a lower fee or for free if you turn to third-party apps.

Sprint TV includes a handful of on-demand video channels for free, including Fox, The Weather Channel and Access Hollywood. However, packages that include live streaming start at $9.99 per month. NBA Game Time offers scores, highlights and other basketball coverage for free. Racing fans may appreciate the included NASCAR Mobile 13, which includes stats and rankings for the popular car league, along with live radio broadcasts of events. Sprint also allows Wi-Fi calling and text messaging, if your phone supports it.

Best and Worst Wireless Carriers

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  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2807917/wireless-carrier-2015.html
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  • sam81_
    Cricket has some pretty awesome internationl features like use plan in thr whole NA
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  • Steve_102
    Tmobile the best. I ALWAYS have constant problems with Tmobile, they have numerous times sold me on a plan by "mistake" to have to correct it later. Their sales people never have matching answers, no one knows how plans operate and more. T-Mobile sales and customer service sucks, but they appear nice.
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  • Walt_1
    I have Cricket. And it;s not really that hard to find out that the throttle data at 8MBs. That's plenty and I have ATT's coverage non roaming of course
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  • Chris_220
    I attempted to switch from Verizon to Tmobile due to their international rates. I am military and Tmobile offers great rates in Qatar. I was told that my Galaxy S6 would work by a Tmobile Rep, and ordered SIMs under the Bring your Own Device plan. I was informed that I could receive a full refund within 30 days by the rep on the phone if I changed my mind. I received the SIM cards, and learned that my Verizon variant S6 wouldn't support data services on the Tmobile network; from what I gather my location relied on a Band that they didn't provide? Regardless, I closed the account and asked for a refund on the SIM cards. I was initially told by a customer service rep that they would not refund the SIM cards. After reviewing the information I received when I initially began the process of switching and noting that it did say I had 30 days to get a full refund, I called back and was informed that I would receive a refund for the SIM cards (that was after being bounced around several times to different reps and eventually their orders department. I was informed not to worry about returning the SIM cards, because it wasn't economical for Tmobile to reuse them. I was told that I would receive a refund for the SIM card purchase. This has never happened. I have interacted with them over the phone and on chat numerous times, and been given the run around every time. I am disputing the charges with my credit card company based on the chat logs I have promising a refund, and I am also posting to this and other forums in the hopes that prospective customers will see it and stay away from Tmobile. My goal is to cost them at least as much in revenue from a potential customer as they have effectively stolen from me. So, if you're reading this, please take my advice and stay away from Tmobile. They ripped me off, and they might do it to you as well.
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  • th666
    Strange... AT&T has always beat T-Mobile in reception, until... THIS ARTICLE. Whazup wid dat? Somebody at T-Mobile got cozy widya?
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  • zeterian
    You need to update this article with Project Fi by Google. It's pretty good.
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  • zeterian
    Is there a reason you keep trying to pass off this old article as representative of what's out there now. Project Fi beats all your entries in every category, yet you still omit it. It's been available to everybody since March. This is OLD NEWS. Changing the date doesn't make it new.

    It connects to both T-Mobile and Sprint plus wi-fi, which ever has the strongest signal. Downloading data over a home or free wi-fi doesn't count against your monthly data usage. I can download TBs of data at $10/GB with rebates instead of rollovers. I got connected to a human tech support in less than a minute last night.

    Are you getting paid to ignore certain carriers of are you that unaware of what's out there? Either way the validity of any articles will be suspect with regard to current models used for testing.
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  • Claybuster
    T Mobile lies! If you Binge through another device like Apple TV it eats your data. Netflix and HULU can only be watched on the phone. I told the represenitive that I was using my Apple TV and was told it was ok, but I found out I did NOT get unlimited data as advertised. I returned my 2 day old IPhone 6se for a refund and now I am having trouble getting my money returned, seems like they cannot find the phone after they signed for the receipt of the phone. I went back to Verizon. Still waiting for my money!
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  • Jmmedc
    I have T-Mobile and yes, they offer good plans, hot spot use and great speed but only if you are outside. Once you inside your home or in a building all bets are off. Inside a building you are lucky if you get a bar at 4g unless you commit to a bulky signal booster. I believe that if T-Mobile really wants to be in the number 1 spot they need to install more towers to truly improve reception indoors where most of are most of the time due to employment commitments.
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  • Claybuster
    Anonymous said:
    I have T-Mobile and yes, they offer good plans, hot spot use and great speed but only if you are outside. Once you inside your home or in a building all bets are off. Inside a building you are lucky if you get a bar at 4g unless you commit to a bulky signal booster. I believe that if T-Mobile really wants to be in the number 1 spot they need to install more towers to truly improve reception indoors where most of are most of the time due to employment commitments.
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  • Claybuster
    They lie by omission also. The Binge is only good on the phone. If you use Apple TV or the like it uses your data fast! They do not refund money on a new phone in a timely manner. TMobile stinks. I went back to Verizon and will stay there!
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  • Jmmedc
    Is there a way t-mobile can read our comments?
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  • rgd1101
    sure, post on their facebook or twitter
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  • Claybuster
    Anonymous said:
    Tmobile the best. I ALWAYS have constant problems with Tmobile, they have numerous times sold me on a plan by "mistake" to have to correct it later. Their sales people never have matching answers, no one knows how plans operate and more. T-Mobile sales and customer service sucks, but they appear nice.
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  • Claybuster
    I agree on how bad TMobile is. I went with them for the data on Binge and found that Binge only works on the Phone! Hot spotting to as an Apple TV you use your data up fast and you go to 2g for streaming. I was told different when I did my research. After many hours of research I went back to Verizon. I do travel and Verizon cannot be beat.
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  • Diehardlinux
    The hi jacking with straight talk:
    This has to be the worst prepaid cellular provider out there. As for security, there is none.
    This is the most shocking thing that has ever happened to me. The person who had stolen my number, had put it in a cheap Huawei phone with no SIM card and tried to port the phone to Verizon. My SIM card was deactivated because the number had been put into that phone. After the number was stolen, it was changed through the automated system allegedly which out my knowledge.

    After two hours on the phone on 06/05/16, I was told by a supervisor most of this stuff. Mind you while I was trying to get my number back, the person was in my account. I had to call back the next day and speak to another supervisor to try to get my number back and to get my minutes back that I had paid for. A day and a half without a phone had got me into some serious thinking about security layers on some of these sites. This one pretty much did not have enough security. Especially if my passcode was changed on the website. The person who had done it knew my mothers maiden name.

    Last call to straight talk management, I followed up on a promise by straight talk manage Genesis to provide me a nano SIM card for my device because I had used the SIM card I had out of a bring your own phone kit I had bought through Walmart some time ago. Long story short after talking to the management about my whole experience, THEY WERE NOT WILLING TO FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THEIR PROMISE. I told the straight talk representative that this is the worst customer service experience I had ever received and would not be stay with straight talk.

    Final thoughts after this experience, I said either I get to port out to another carrier of my choosing with my number or I change my number. Either way I'm leaving straight talk. Peace to the burner phone site and there lack of security.
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  • Kathy_21
    My verizon phone died again from water damage and I got a coupon in the mail from MetroPCS, which sounded too good to be true, but I had to check it out. There was absolutely no one in the store when I arrived on a Saturday afternoon, which was a terrible first impression. The phone froze up on day 8, on a Sunday @ 6pm, and of course, they were closed. I took it back for an exchange the next day and the manager accused me of damaging the phone intentionally, told me he didn't like my attitude, and I should go back to verizon !!! So I did, and they verified that the phone was not damaged!
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  • treetops422
    I had to stand outside or by a door or window to use virgin mobile calling without missing what people say. I was with virgin for 3 years and 3 phones. Iv had metro for 2 weeks I can hear people anywhere in my apartment. I live in a major city phoenix az. Virgin mobile is the worst ever, their insurance premium is 100$ on a 150$ phone.
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  • rgd1101
    Anonymous said:
    I had to stand outside or by a door or window to use virgin mobile calling without missing what people say. I was with virgin for 3 years and 3 phones. Iv had metro for 2 weeks I can hear people anywhere in my apartment. I live in a major city phoenix az. Virgin mobile is the worst ever, their insurance premium is 100$ on a 150$ phone.


    VM use sprint. metro pcs use t-mobile.
    why would you get insurance on a $150 phone?
    What about google project fi? it use US Cellular, sprint and tmobile network. or wifi.
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