Sprint may find itself looking up at the other major carriers when it comes to subscribers. But Sprint's eagerness to play catch-up could pay off for you in the form of an unlimited data plan at an appealing price.
Which Sprint plans will fit your needs? We've looked at what the carrier offers family, individual and prepaid subscribers — including the latest discounts — to find your best options with Sprint.
Best Family Plan
Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan makes unlimited data too appealing to pass up. Normally, you pay $60 for the first line of unlimited data, $40 for the second and $30 for each additional line. That brings the total cost to $160 for a family of four. These prices reflect a discount for enrolling in Sprint's autopay program.
But again, the key word in all that is "normally." Sprint's always looking to entice customers to sign up for its service, and that generally takes the form of special offers on unlimited plan pricing. Under Sprint's latest offer, one line of data will cost you $50 each month. Add a second line of data, and Sprint charges you $40 for each one, or a monthly cost of $80 total. Make it four lines, and you'll pay $120 a month, or $30 per line.
There's some fine print, though. That discounted pricing lasts only through, June 30, 2018. After that, your plan reverts to its regular pricing ($60 a month for the first line, $40 for the second and $30 for each line after that). So you'll be back up to paying $160 a month. Still, more than $500 in savings between now and June 2018 is nothing to sneeze at.
Pressured by Verizon and T-Mobile, Sprint has eased one of the biggest restrictions to its unlimited plan. You can now stream HD video, matching what those other two carriers now offer. Previously, Sprint limited video streams to 480p resolution. It also upped speeds for music and game streaming to 1.5 Mbps and 8 Mbps, respectively. (Previously, those speeds were capped at 500 Kbps for music and 2 Mbps for games.) Sprint also offers 10GB of LTE hotspot data, up from 5GB in a previous iteration of its unlimited plan.
Other Options: Sprint’s pricing is particularly appealing for two people. An unlimited plan costs just $100 for two lines (or $80 if you take advantage of Sprint's current discount). Sprint has pulled the plug on its tiered data plans, so if you don't want unlimited data, you're either looking at one of Sprint's prepaid options or turning to another carrier.
Best Individual Unlimited Plan
Speaking of unlimited data, individuals can sign onto Unlimited Freedom for $60 a month, though that fee is $50 as of this writing. (Again, after June 30, 2018, you'll go back to paying $60 per month for unlimited data.) The same changes to video, music and game streaming also apply here. As with other carriers offering unlimited data, Sprint reserves the right to throttle your data speed if you exceed a certain amount — 23GB of data in a billing cycle in this case.
Other Options: It's unlimited data or nothing, as Sprint no longer offers tiered data plans to postpaid customers.
Best Prepaid Plan
With Sprint doing away with tiered data plans for its postpaid customers, prepaid is where to turn if you want a tiered data plan from the carrier. But the tiered plan pricing isn't that compelling — 3GB for $40 a month, 5GB for $50. (Those prices include a $5 monthly discount for enrolling in autopay.) To put that pricing in context, for that same $50 Sprint charges for its 5GB prepaid plan, you can get an unlimited data plan, at least through June 2018.
Sprint also offers unlimited data to prepaid subscribers. But at $60, it's the same price Sprint typically charges for its Unlimited Freedom plan. (And with the current discounts at Sprint, it actually costs more.) The prepaid unlimited plan also throttles video streaming to 480p and places restrictions on music and game streaming, too. You do get 5GB of hotspot data with the prepaid unlimited plan, but Sprint's other unlimited plan doubles that to 10GB. An unlimited data plan via Sprint's prepaid business just isn't that attractive an option.
Families may appreciate the discounts for multiple prepaid lines that Sprint now offers. Pricing's a little bit convoluted, but essentially, Sprint knocks $20 off the second line you add, and then $10 off each additional line. Take off $5 for enrolling in autopay, and a family of four would pay $135 for 3GB of data on each line. You can also mix and match data limits, opting for 5GB for some lines and 3GB for others.
What You Need to Know About Sprint
You've got a few other things to consider when mulling over Sprint's plans.
Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images* Sprint has the weakest network among the four major carriers. In our latest round of 4G speed tests, Sprint had the worst download and upload speeds among the Big Four. (It even finished behind T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS in our tests.) That said, we did notice an improvement in Sprint's performance over our previous testing, particularly in our tests in Houston, Chicago and Seattle. Sprint fares slightly better in other testing conducted by third-party researchers, but not much. In fact, in OpenSignal's most recent tests, Sprint's 4G speeds actually slowed down, though the carrier can boast greater 4G availability than before. Sprint has made improving its network a major focus in recent years, and it seems to be paying off — in recent J.D. Power rankings of network performance, Sprint finished second behind only Verizon in five of six regions measured in the survey, for example. But there's still work to be done.
* Sprint has a strong tie-in with Amazon Prime. Any Sprint subscriber can get Amazon Prime for $10.99 a month, enjoying expedited shipping and access to extras like Prime Video and Prime Music. That’s not necessarily a good value if you hold on to your Amazon Prime subscription for a year — the regular $99 subscription fee is less than what you’d pay through Sprint. But Sprint allows you to go month-to-month with Amazon Prime, so that’s helpful if you only need to use the service for a limited time.
* Sprint's could make music a selling point. Sprint just bought 33 percent of Tidal, the streaming music service founded by Jay-Z. Tidal offers a catalog of 42.5 million songs and 140,000 videos, including exclusives, and Sprint figures to leverage that for its customers. Details are scarce at this point, but we expect Sprint to incorporate Tidal as a subscription perk in some form.
* Sprint has stopped cutting your bill in half. For more than two years, Sprint took a novel approach to convincing people to switch their service from rival carriers: it offered to cut your bill in half. Alas, that promotion has finally come to an end. Blame the advent of unlimited data plans at every carrier and Sprint's decision to phase out its own tiered data plans. Sprint still offers incentives to get you to switch, promising to cover any switching fees up to $650 per line. (Those savings come in the form of a Visa prepaid card.)
* Sprint's international offering has a pan-American focus. Sprint's free Open World program lets you make free calls and texts to Mexico and Canada; you can call other countries in North and South America at discounted rates. What's more, when you travel in North and South America, you get unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of high-speed data. Travel in other parts of the world, and Sprint offers free texting, 20-cent-per-minute calling, and $30/GB data in more than 100 countries.
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