Verizon may be the largest wireless provider in the country, but try telling that to T-Mobile.The upstart carrier says it added 3.6 million postpaid customers in 2017, conceivably taking extra delight in luring those subscribers away from Verizon.
Should you make the jump over to T-Mobile as well? Or is Verizon the best choice for you? Let's take a closer look at what the rival carriers offer their subscribers to help you figure out which wireless service best meets your needs.
How you feel about the network performance of these respective carriers likely depends on where you live and whom you ask. In its most recent report based on crowdsourced data, OpenSignal declared T-Mobile the "operator to beat" after the provider won five of the six spots that OpenSignal measures. As for Verizon, OpenSignal said that Big Red's network speed had recovered in the second half of 2017 after the launch of unlimited plans increased congestion on the carrier's network.
But hold the phone: RootMetrics, which uses drive tests for its network-performance reports, paints the opposite picture, with Verizon winning top honors — the ninth consecutive time it's topped RootMetrics' rankings. T-Mobile finishes fourth in RootMetrics' report, behind even AT&T and Sprint.
Our own testing in six cities across the U.S. found that Verizon had the best average download speed; the provider also blew away rival carriers in our app-download test, which measured how long it took to install a 58MB app from Google Play. But T-Mobile had the fastest upload speeds in our testing, which was good enough to earn runner-up honors. Keep in mind that we completed our testing before Verizon instituted its unlimited-data plans, so those results could change when we update our test results this spring.
For now, Verizon gets the edge, thanks to the reach of its network and our experience with its LTE speeds. But T-Mobile is quite strong, particularly in metro areas, where the Uncarrier holds its own against Verizon.
Winner: Verizon, by a nose
Having a great cellphone plan means more than just offering the lowest monthly rate. It also requires the right extras and add-ons. In this showdown, T-Mobile wins on both counts.
Unlimited Plans: T-Mobile Vs. Verizon
Taxes and Fees
Up to 5GB of LTE
T-Mobile One Plus
10GB of LTE;
Up to 5GB of LTE
Verizon Go Unlimited
Up to 512MB of
Verizon Beyond Unlimited
15GB of LTE;
Up to 512MB of
The Uncarrier's lone unlimited plan is cheaper than either unlimited option offered by Verizon. T-Mobile charges you $70 a month for its T-Mobile One Plan, which is $5 cheaper than the $75-a-month Go Unlimited plan at Verizon.
T-Mobile's plan is less restrictive, too. It will slow down your data only if you use more than 50GB during a billing period; Verizon starts clamping down at 22GB. And under the Go Unlimited plan, Verizon reserves the right to slow down your speeds if its network is congested.
MORE: Best Plans for Families
Both T-Mobile One and Verizon Go Unlimited restrict video streaming to 480p. If you want HD-quality streaming, you can upgrade to T-Mobile One Plus for an extra $10 per month per line, and you get other extras like 10GB of LTE hotspot data and free Wi-Fi on Gogo-enabled flights. Even at $80 a month, this T-Mobile plan is still cheaper than the $85 Beyond Unlimited plan at Verizon, which also streams video at HD quality while giving you 15GB of LTE hotspot data.
Families get a better deal at T-Mobile, where a family of four pays $160 per month for unlimited data. You'd pay the same for four lines of Go Unlimited at Verizon, though Verizon could slow your data speeds. The better Beyond Unlimited plan costs a family of four $200 each month.
Unlimited Family Plans Compared
1 Line, Total Cost
2 Lines, Total Cost
3 Lines, Total Cost
4, Lines Total Cost
Verizon Go Unlimited
Verizon Beyond Unlimited
It's also worth noting that T-Mobile's pricing includes taxes and fees, so the price you see advertised is the one that will show up on your bill each month.
Verizon still offers tiered data plans, which you won't find at T-Mobile. This can be appealing if you're a single user who doesn't need unlimited data. Verizon's $55-a-month, 5GB plan for individuals is one of our favorite options.
For prepaid customers, Verizon offers a wider array of options, with four plans starting at 3GB ($40 a month) and ranging up to unlimited data ($80). T-Mobile's prepaid pricing is more attractive, though: 4GB of data costs you $45, while 6GB runs $55. As of this writing, T-Mobile is also offering a 10GB option for $50 a month, with discounts should you need to add more lines.
Winner: T-Mobile has the better pricing on plans with fewer restrictions and gotchas. Verizon does offer a good 5GB plan to individuals, though.
No matter which carrier you opt for, you should expect top-notch customer support. Verizon and T-Mobile finished one-two in our most recent rankings of wireless carriers' customer-support offerings. The previous year, the two providers tied (though they both finished just behind AT&T and Sprint in that round of testing). Bottom line: Both Verizon and T-Mobile have consistently earned high marks from us when we've gone undercover to grade their online, phone and social-media support.
Still, we give the nod to Verizon, thanks to a website that's just a little bit easier to navigate. We particularly like the online device simulator that Verizon offers, as it can tackle phone-specific questions and save you a support call or online query.
T-Mobile could stand to make its online support a little bit more visible, though we've found the online documentation to be extensive once we've tracked it down. T-Mobile really shines in how it interacts with customers, whether on the phone or via Twitter or Facebook support accounts. The Uncarrier's reps were both friendly and fast when we spoke to them.
Winner:Verizon, but by a hair
These days, if you want a flagship phone, you're going to find it at most major carriers. Both T-Mobile and Verizon offer the latest flagships from Apple, Samsung and LG, and those phones land on both carriers at the same time.
Verizon still wins out on the exclusives game, though. It's the only carrier to sell Google's Pixel phones directly (though you can also buy those phones directly from Google), and it also landed the Moto Z2 Force and other modular Moto devices before other carriers did. (The Z2 Force is now available at T-Mobile, though.)
T-Mobile might be more appealing to budget-minded phone buyers, with a selection of phones selling for under $200 from LG and Samsung. The carrier also sells its own branded phones, the $150 Revvl and $225 Revvl Plus. We took a look at the more expensive Revvl and found that it offered good battery life and excellent performance for its price. However, the camera performed inconsistently, and the design felt pretty cheap.
While both carriers let you bring your own devices, T-Mobile has an edge here as more unlocked phones are likely to work with the carrier's GSM-based network. The newly available Huawei Mate 10 Pro, for example, isn't compatible with Verizon's CDMA network.
Winner: Verizon:Big Red gets the nod for its exclusives, though if you buy your phones unlocked, T-Mobile is more likely to support your device.
This is one area where it's no contest. T-Mobile sets the standard on benefits and extras for its customers. The carrier's perks are so generous, in fact, that it's hard to pinpoint the best one.
International travelers will appreciate the fact that a T-Mobile One plan lets you text and access your data at no additional charge when you travel in any of 140-plus countries. (Your data will be really slow, though.) Travel to Mexico and Canada, and you can use up to 5G of LTE data as part of your plan while also enjoying unlimited talk and text. If you've got two lines of unlimited data, T-Mobile picks up the cost of your $9.99-per-month Netflix subscription. And the carrier hosts weekly giveaways to subscribers as part of its T-Mobile Tuesdays.
Verizon's perks are scanty by comparison. One of its biggest differentiators — letting you stream select NFL games live — no longer sets the carrier apart. Verizon, in an effort to promote the company's recently acquired Yahoo properties, now extends that benefit to anyone with a mobile device.
Verizon customers can use their data when they travel abroad, but they'll need to buy a TravelPass, which costs from $5 to $10 a day depending on the country. (If you have an unlimited plan, you can get 512MB of LTE data per day for free when you travel to Mexico or Canada.) With the carrier's reward program, Verizon Up, you can earn credits when you spend money with the carrier, and you can redeem these credits for discounts and giveaways. But you have to enroll in Verizon Selects, which tracks your web and app activity.
Winner: T-Mobile sets the standard for subscriber benefits.
This is the category that's the most subject to change, depending on what deals either carrier is offering at the moment. As of this writing, T-Mobile and Verizon are pretty evenly matched in offering you deals on devices.
T-Mobile currently offers buy-one/get-one-free offers for the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, and iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. (Be aware that your rebate, which is spread out over 24 months of bill credits, is capped at $700, so if you want a second iPhone X or iPhone 8 Plus, you're on the hook for the balance.) You'll find similar BOGO deals for the Galaxy S8, LG V30 and LG G6. For these deals, you've got to trade in an eligible smartphone and port over a phone number. T-Mobile also offers rebates on the latest Samsung and LG phones if you trade in your current device.
Verizon has BOGO deals of its own, for the iPhone 8, Galaxy S8 and LG V30 currently. The company also leverages its exclusive hold on the Pixel by offering a free Pixel 2 when you buy a Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL. Similarly, buying an iPhone X gets you an iPhone 8 for free. As at T-Mobile, your rebate comes in bill credits spread out over 24 months, and you've got to trade in an eligible phone to qualify. Note 8 fans can save $200 on the Samsung phablet with those savings coming in cash credits over 24 months.
Winner: Draw: It's a push, so long as these two carriers offer dueling BOGOs. But T-Mobile tends to trot out new deals first, and the carrier hasn't been shy about discounting additional lines on family plans in the past.
There's a reason our overall carrier rankings are so tight at the top: T-Mobile and Verizon are pretty evenly matched. In this one-on-one face-off, Verizon enjoys a slight edge, winning three categories to T-Mobile's two, with the two carriers splitting the difference on the best deals.
Verizon finishes on top in two key categories — network performance and customer service — but it lost its edge in plans after splitting its unlimited offering into two separate tiers. If a lower monthly bill is the most important thing about your cellular service, it's hard to overlook T-Mobile, especially with all the perks the Uncarrier throws your way.
While Verizon still enjoys a slight edge over T-Mobile in our testing if you want the best overall service, that could change once we update our network-performance and customer-service rankings for 2018. As always in the ever-competitive world of wireless service, stay tuned to see who's on top in a few months' time.