Sprint — Last Place Among Major U.S. Carriers
Editors' Note: We've published the results of our latest network testing. Current rankings reflect previous results, but we plan to update scores along with new customer service rankings for wireless carriers shortly. In addition, the T-Mobile-Sprint merger is now complete, making Sprint part of T-Mobile. Here's what we had to say about Sprint prior to the close of the merger.
Sprint's days as a recognizable carrier are coming to an end. The merger between Sprint and T-Mobile was officially completed in April, and T-Mobile says that sometime over the summer, Sprint will be fully absorbed into the new T-Mobile service. (Existing customers will get to keep their current plans even after the Sprint branding disappears.) Sprint exits the scene having made an effort to close the gap between itself and rival major carriers.
Sprint has rolled out out aggressively priced, unlimited data plans, and made an effort to improve network performance. But other competitors aren't standing still either, and Sprint now finds itself looking up at prepaid provider Metro by T-Mobile after dropping in our rankings (though with Sprint merging into T-Mobile, they're all part of one big happy family now).
Carrier Performance (33/40 points)
For Sprint, it continues to be a case of good news/bad news when we test network performance. Just like in 2017, our latest LTE speed testing found that Sprint's speeds are improving. The trouble is, it still lags the other major wireless carriers.
In our latest round of testing, Sprint posted the best results in Philadelphia, finished runner-up in Chicago and turned in solid finishes in New York and Seattle. Best of all, Sprint's average download speed jumped from 17.7 Mbps in 2017 to 32.5 Mbps in our latest round of testing. Our scores still reflect those 2017 numbers, but we expect Sprint's to improve when we update our rankings with new test results.
Sprint continues to bring up the rear in RootMetrics' overall rankings, though its score wasn't that far behind T-Mobile's for the second half of 2019. In OpenSignal's report, Sprint finished second in video experience and in latency; it was last in every other category. Ookla also ranked Sprint fourth among the major carriers for network speed.
Sprint has launched its 5G network in 10 cities. You can see how Sprint's 5G performed from our 5G testing in Dallas, where speeds weren't as fast as Verizon's 5G network, but the signal was more consistent. Sprint customers who bought a Galaxy S20 can now access T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network, one of the benefits of the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. (Of course, Sprint customers who bought 5G phones in 2019 won't be able to use those phones on the merged carrier's network, though they have the chance to migrate to an S20 at a discount.)
Plans (21/25 points)
After reshuffling its data plans, Sprint still has one of the least expensive unlimited data plans among the Big Four carriers, with its $60-a-month Unlimited Basic plan. (That's the same price as T-Mobile's Essentials plan.) You will have to live with some restrictions for that lower rate, though: video streaming is capped at 480p resolution, speeds on music and gaming streams are capped as well and you only get 500MB of LTE hotspot data.
For $10 more each month, the Unlimited Plus plan features full HD streaming and 15GB of hotspot data. It also includes both Tidal and Hulu (Basic subscribers just get access to Hulu) and doubles the amount of LTE data you can use when you travel in Canada or Mexico.
Sprint plansView Deal
For families, the Unlimited Basic plan offers a cheaper monthly rate, with a second line of data costing $40 and additional lines available for $20 each. A second Unlimited Plus line costs $50 with additional lines costing $30 each. Sprint has lowered the monthly cost on the third and fourth lines through July 31, 2021, so if you're a family looking to save on your monthly bill, now's the time to take advantage of Sprint's deal before the company is fully absorbed into T-Mobile.
If you need even more perks, the new Unlimited Premium plan offers the Tidal and Hulu subscriptions that Unlimited Plus subscribers get, while also throwing in an Amazon Prime membership and access to the Lookout mobile security service. You'll get 50GB of LTE hotspot data and unlimited data when you're in Canada and Mexico. You'll pay up for these benefits, though: Unlimited Premium costs $80 for a single line, with a second line available for $60. Sprint lets families mix and match the different tiers of its unlimited plans.
Should you live in one of the cities where Sprint launches its 5G service, you won't pay extra for 5G data. However, you will have to get an Unlimited Premium plan, the most expensive option at Sprint.
Customer Service (14/20 points)
Sprint took a step back when we went undercover to test customer service. The carrier's agents certainly answered questions promptly and politely when we approached them on social media and over the phone, but the answers weren't always accurate.
We had better luck online, where Sprint's chat feature provided informative responses in a timely fashion. It's also easy to look up information on Sprint's support site. We'll soon update our customer service rankings and find out if Sprint's performance improved.
Phone Selection (8/10 points)
Sprint offers a respectable mix of phones, including some of the best smartphones currently available. You'll find all the major flagship phones at the carrier, as you would expect, along with the previous generation of Apple, Samsung and LG flagships. Google's Pixel phones are now available through Sprint, too. You'll find an emphasis on pre-owned versions of older phones, which can drive down your overall cost.
Featured Sprint Phones: Galaxy S20, Galaxy Z Flip, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone SE, Galaxy Note 10, LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen, Pixel 4 and 4 XL
Special Features (3/5 points)
The rise of unlimited plans means that one of Sprint's best promotions — its willingness to cut your bill in half if you switch from a tiered data plan with another carrier — is no more. Sprint still offers a few perks, though, and its latest addition is free access to Hulu for both versions of its unlimited data plan. The perk covers Hulu's $7.99-per-month membership, giving Sprint customers access to the streaming service's library of TV shows and movies. Unlimited Plus subscribers get access to the Tidal steaming music service, too.
Like its rival (and possible future partner) T-Mobile, Sprint offers special pricing to seniors through its Unlimited 55+ plan, which offers two lines of data for $70 a month — a savings of $30 off the regular price.
On the international front, Sprint no longer offers its Open World program to customers, which is a bummer if you travel frequently in Central and South America. At least you still have Sprint Global Roaming offers free text and data, but only at 2G speeds in most countries.
Other Sprint specials don't seem as special as the carrier probably thinks they are. Sprint Music Plus is a music player that's unlikely to have you singing its praises, and Sprint TV's promise of live or on-demand video only takes off if you skip the free service and pay up for the $9.99-a-month Xtra version. Sprint's Scout personal navigator and Family Safety Essentials mirror services you can find elsewhere, and the 5GB of free cloud storage you get through Pogoplug doesn't match the 15GB you'll get with Google Drive.