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 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.
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. As of this writing, for example, Sprint is only charging $50 on that first line of data, and it's waiving the fees on lines three through five. That means a family of four would pay $90 a month for an unlimited plan at Sprint.
There's some fine print, though. That discounted pricing lasts only through, March 31, 2018. After that, your first line of data goes back to $60 a month, and you'll have to pay those $30 per line fees that Sprint had previously waived. So you'll be back up to paying $160 a month. Still, more than $1,000 in savings over the next year is hard to ignore.
Even if you don’t need all that data, the regular price for unlimited is hard to beat, even with Sprint’s other plans. Take the shared 12GB plan, which in most cases would be enough data for families of four. Once you add in $20 per device access fees to that $60-a-month 12GB plan, a four-person family pays $140 — or $20 less than what they’d pay for unlimited data.
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.) Like Verizon and T-Mobile, 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 $90 if you take advantage of Sprint's current discount). As with four-family plans, that unlimited plan pricing is attractive even if you don’t need all that data. Sprint's 6GB shared data plan costs $45 a month, but access fees bring the total cost to $85 each month for two people — $15 less than the regular cost of the Unlimited Freedom plan.
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 March 31, 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: The new pricing on unlimited data — it cost $75 a month at this time last year — makes it a more compelling option for individuals than Sprint’s Better Choice tiered data plans. The 3GB plan costs $50 a month when you include a device access fee, so you would only save $10 off the regular price of the Unlimited Freedom plan.
If you anticipate needing only a bare minimum of data, you could try Sprint's $20 1GB plan, though the $20 access fee means you'll pay $40 a month.
Best Prepaid Plan
Sprint's prepaid plans come in two tiers — 3GB for $40 a month, 5GB for $50. (Those prices include a $5 monthly discount for enrolling in autopay.) If you exceed your prepaid data cap, Sprint throttles you down to 2G speeds for the rest of the billing cycle, but doesn't charge you overage fees. Those prices assume you'll enroll in autopay. Otherwise, tack on $5 each month.
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.)
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 2015 tests of 4G speeds in six cities, Sprint had the worst download and upload speeds among the Big Four. (It even finished behind T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS in our tests.) 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. Subscribe to Sprint’s 40GB data plan, and the carrier throws in a year of Amazon Prime. It’s a nice extra, though not necessarily an incentive to jump to that plan, as the monthly access fees nearly equal what you’d pay for a year of Amazon Prime.
* Sprint's about to 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 scare at this point, but we expect Sprint to incorporate Tidal as a subscription perk in some form.
* Sprint is aggressively targeting switchers. If you can live with Sprint's network, you could save some money on your monthly bills by switching over from one of the other carriers. Sprint continues to offer a cut-your-bill-in-half promotion, though recent changes to other carriers' plans have limited just which plans Sprint is willing to cut your rate on. Eligible plans at Verizon include that carrier's 8, 16, 24, 30, 40, 50 and 60GB plans; AT&T's eligible plans include the 6, 10, 16, 25, 30, 40, 50 and 60GB Mobile Share Advantage offers. As for T-Mobile customers, Sprint will cut your bill in half if you had the 6GB or 10GB Simple Choice plans that T-Mobile offered prior to its move to all-unlimited plans. In a really big caveat, your discounted rate only lasts until Jan. 31, 2018.
* 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.
* Sprint won't let you roll over data, but won't charge you for overages. Assuming you go with a tiered data plan, Sprint doesn't offer rollover data, in which unused data can be applied to your next month. But you won't have to pay extra should you exceed your monthly limit. Instead, Sprint throttles you down to 2G speeds for the rest of the billing cycle once you've used up your allotted 4G LTE data.
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