Sprint may be looking to join forces with T-Mobile as part of a $26 billion merger. But until regulators sign off on that deal, Sprint remains an independent carrier still hoping to bring in new customers with aggressively priced data plans.
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." As of this writing, Sprint is waiving the $30 fee on lines three, four and five. So a family of four would pay $100 a month for their unlimited service.
There's some fine print, though. That discounted pricing lasts only through June 30, 2019. After that, your plan reverts to its regular pricing, so that hypothetical family of four is back to paying $160 a month. Still, around $800 in savings between now and next June is nothing to sneeze at. (Another offer promises even bigger savings — you won't have to pay anything for unlimited data for the next year if you switch over to Sprint from another carrier, assuming you have a qualifying phone. This is another limited time offer that Sprint keeps extending.)
Sprint has another edge over rivals' unlimited plans. You can stream HD video by default. Other carriers' plans start with 480p resolution on streaming video, and you have pay extra each month to ensure HD quality. Sprint does have other streaming restrictions though, capping speeds for music and game streaming to 1.5 Mbps and 8 Mbps, respectively. Unlimited plans get 10GB of LTE hotspot data per line; go over that amount during a billing cycle and your hotspot speeds are slowed down considerably.
Other Options: Sprint’s pricing is particularly appealing for two people. An unlimited plan costs just $100 for two lines. Sprint has pulled the plug on its tiered data plans for families, 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. 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. That's a bigger cap than the 22GB AT&T and Verizon advertise, but not nearly as much as T-Mobile's 50GB threshhold.
Other Options: Scroll down on Sprint's page, and you'll find one option outside of unlimited data if you only want a single line with Sprint. The carrier will give you 2GB of LTE data for $40 a month. (That price includes a $5 monthly autopay discount.) While Sprint will only throttle you if you use more than 2GB instead of charging you an overage fee, it's still not a very compelling option, considering that Sprint's prepaid service offers double the data at the same rate. And Verizon's lone tiered plan for single lines features 5GB of data, but though it costs $15 more each month than what Sprint charges.
Best Prepaid Plan
With Sprint doing away with all but one tiered data plan for its postpaid customers, prepaid is where to turn if you have little use for unlimited data. And Sprint has made it very simple to pick a plan, since it offers just one tiered data option.
MORE: Find the Best Prepaid Plan
The Sprint Forward plan costs $40 a month with autopay and includes 4GB of LTE data. (As we noted, that's double the data available in Sprint's lone tiered plan option for postpaid customers.) You get unlimited international texting, along with the ability to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot, though you'll be drawing from that 4GB pool of data. Go over your monthly data limit, and your speeds are throttled to 2G — pretty standard practice among carriers these days.
You can enjoy discounts if you add on extra lines. Sprint Forward customers pay $40 for the first line and $30 for each subsequent line of 4GB of data. A family of four, then, would pay $130 a month.
Prepaid customers can now opt for unlimited data, too, and it looks a lot like Sprint's postpaid unlimited plan, right down to the promotional pricing. A line of unlimited data costs prepaid customers $60. You can add a second line for $40 and additional lines for free at the moment. (Normally, you'd pay $30 per line for lines three, four and five.) That price only lasts through June 2019. After that, it's the same $160 for four lines of unlimited data that Sprint charges postpaid customers.
What You Need to Know About Sprint
You've got a few other things to consider when mulling over Sprint's plans.
* Sprint is dangling free data to get you to switch carriers. Sprint no longer runs the Cut Your Bill in Half promotion to lure customers from other carriers, but it's trying out other methods to get you to give its service another look. Since last summer, Sprint has quietly run a promotion where customers who switch from Verizon and trade-in an eligible phone will get free unlimited data for the next year. (AT&T and T-Mobile customers are eligible, too, but the number of qualifying phones are more plentiful for Verizon customers.) The free data runs through May 31, 2019; after that, Sprint's normal rate for its unlimited plan kicks in. You will have to pay taxes and fees on your otherwise free plan, but this is a pretty solid offer.
* Sprint offers you free Hulu. Other carriers have started including streaming video as an enticement for subscribers, such as AT&T with HBO and T-Mobile with Netflix. Sprint has added its own free streaming perk by letting unlimited data plan users get a free Hulu subscription for their account. (That means Sprint customers with a family plan share the Hulu subscription.) The deal covers Hulu's $7.99-a-month membership tier, which includes access to the service's library of TV shows and movies, though not live TV streaming.
* 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. Testing firms paint a more positive picture of an improving network. OpenSignal's latest report also has Sprint with the slowest 4G speeds, though the network testing firm noted that Sprint's average speed has increased by 3 Mbps and that it's right behind AT&T. Sprint finished third in the latest RootMetrics rankings, and even managed to share top honors in the texting performance category with AT&T and Verizon.
* Sprint's making music a selling point. Sprint owns 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 customers benefit from that. New and existing customers can sign up for Tidal HiFi for free for six months. That service tier, which promises lossless high fidelity sound quality, normally costs $20 a month. In 2017, Sprint customers got early access to Jay-Z's 4:44 album, which the carrier billed as the first in a series of exclusives it plans to offer to subscribers through the Tidal partnership.
* Sprint is stepping up its exclusives game. For our money, Verizon and AT&T tend to score the biggest high-profile phone exclusives, but Sprint seems to be doing more in this area. In 2017, it teamed up with HTC to offer exclusives like the HTC Bolt, and it also gets good budget exclusives like ZTE's Max XL. Sprint also carries the Essential Phone, and it was the first Big Four carrier to offer the LG V30+, a higher capacity version of LG's V30. It'll be interesting to see if those exclusives continue in 2018, especially as Sprint looks to merge with T-Mobile.
* Sprint revised its international plans. The free Open World program is no more, a bummer for anyone who did a lot of traveling in North and South America. Travelers must now turn to Sprint Global Roaming, which offers free text and data at 2G speeds; calls will cost you 20 cents a minute. If you want faster data speeds, you can opt for Sprint's High-Speed Data Roaming Pass, with rates varying depending on where you're traveling.