T-Mobile vs. Verizon: Which Is Best for You?

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.

Network Performance

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

Plan Selection

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

Plan

Monthly Rate

Video Streaming

Hotspot Data

Travel Coverage

Taxes and Fees

T-Mobile One

$70

480p

Unlimited at
3G speed

Up to 5GB of LTE
data in Mexico and
Canada; data at 2G
speed

Included

T-Mobile One Plus

$80

HD

10GB of LTE;
unlimited 3G

Up to 5GB of LTE
data in Mexico and
Canada; data at 2G
speed

Included

Verizon Go Unlimited

$75

480p

Unlimited at
600 kbps

Up to 512MB of
LTE data per day
in Mexico and
Canada

Not included

Verizon Beyond Unlimited

$85

HD

15GB of LTE;
unlimited at
600 kbps

Up to 512MB of
LTE data per day
in Mexico and Canada

Not included

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

Plan

1 Line, Total Cost

2 Lines, Total Cost

3 Lines, Total Cost

4, Lines Total Cost

T-Mobile One

$70

$120

$140

$160

Verizon Go Unlimited

$75

$130

$150

$160

Verizon Beyond Unlimited

$85

$160

$180

$200

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.

Customer Service

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

Device Selection

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.

Perks

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.

Deals

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.

The Winner

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.

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  • androidpjx
    T-Mobile One Plus International ($25/mo/line) gives you unlimited 4G tethering (up to the 50G usage threshold)
  • canesfan81
    I realize that population centers are just that, where the majority of a given region's/state's/nation's people live. With that in mind, that is where most network testing is done, and rightly so. However, the great swaths of territory in between metros, and almost as importantly along interstate and other major highways, is where a good deal of wireless customers find out what their chosen carrier has done with their network. While T-Mo may be making some headway in this area, it is still in the smaller non-urban and greater suburban areas connecting large cities. Like between Orlando and Tampa FL, just taken as a for instance for distance between 2 better known cities since I really don't know the coverage in that strip of interstate. Stretching to a greater distance like Nashville and Indianapolis or even Chicago shows very spotty coverage still for the magenta carrier. They were just late to the WE'RE GONNA SPEND LOADS OF $$$ ON INFRASTRUCTURE game, and concentrated, until quite recently, on its wheelhouse of big cities. Like in my small city of only a quarter million, one can almost exactly predict when one shall lose T-Mo's lte signal (and pretty much hspa+ as well) since it follows the city limit. Of course big red's signal in pretty much all aforementioned territories is there and pretty strong if not good. So yes, magenta's working on filling in gaps they say, but the work they've ahead of them seems nearly insurmountable. Add to that the approaching 4.5G and 5G network rollouts, it's hard to imagine how T-Mobile/Deutsche Telekom (or most companies really) can continue to afford to broaden existing technology's (LTE) footprint in comparatively rural areas AND rollout 5G to already well covered areas plus those rural areas.
  • shawndugout13
    So many test..Left Verizon years back and will never go back. Constant billing issues, run around support, taxes and fees galore, etc. The only reason I stayed with them at the time because yes, the reception reliability was great and still is. BUT, T-Mobile now has great reliable 4G LTE, and 3G coverage, fast too. You can argue which one edges the other now on all these "test" we keep hearing of from different sources but times have changed. To even mention root metrics scam is shamefull, considering they always rank T-Mobile last. Makes you wonder huh..Open signal is a more reputable and more extensive testing measure. You forgot to mention the test just prior also where T-Mobile won all 6 catagories, the first time ever been done. You also forgot to mention the other national ranked customer service data which had T-Mobile ranked number one. From having both carries I can tell you times have changed. The one advantage Verizon had has slipped and continues to. I would be interested in more detailed info on what test methods were done here in this testing as contrast to Open Source. I do doubt the resources as they will probably be very isolated and limited on a more complete scale of testing methods.
  • shawndugout13
    Canes fan81, T-Mobile has already started implementing some new towers, along with new equipment on existing infastructure. Next phase will simply be to push a software update. Remember, there are no mobile devices as of now 5G capable. There will be shortly though by the end of this year and rolling into 2019.
  • shawndugout13
    Also, T-Mobile states as well the 50G does not mean you will be throttled, just that it may be dependent on time, location, priority, etc. On T-Mobile here for many years now. Night and day from the good old days. I usually average 25 to 35G in a billing cycle. I have tested about a handfull of times this possible cap from 55G to 70G and All times I was still getting in the same locations and time 4G LTE. It is more difficult as of now and for a while actually for Verizon as well as others to do on unlimited plans. Hence why Verizon and others start at 25 to 28G possible caps. We can actually thank T-Mobile for taking the lead and seeing others follow regarding plan options, deals, perks, unlimited plans, etc. Funny to see..They started offering better plans, then more did the same. They let you stream music without counting towards data. Now others offer Spottify. They gave you netflix. Now others offer Hulu. Now, lets see what they offer streaming tv services with the purchase of layer 3. THEN, lets see what others start doing.
  • Askanison40
    Sprint is better than both, so.....
  • taylorh_9
    I have phones on both in California and I can say that 95% of the time they're pretty much both great. Going rural is where T-Mobile is still weak. There are places where T-Mobile still has no towers and no signal. Also, it has been my experience that in "congested" areas Verizon holds up more reliably.
    T-Mobile is total crap at my house, my parent's house, non-existent (literally) at my wife's parents house, my sister's house, and at my work. So I have 5 specifically good reasons to not. That doesn't even count my frequent vacation spots and the beach I go to (yes, still.)
    As for data limits. Verizon says 22GB, but I know people that have gone to 100GB+ and don't notice any deprioritization. They may see it in congested areas but they aren't complaining.
    So Verizon has my vote for reliability and the aren't about the same price.
    I had AT&T for a long time and I'll never go back.
    Verizon CS has been great and have always taken good care of me, so there's that.
  • heyduh
    The $5 difference in the plans is obliterated by: 1. $5 credit per line that VZW gives if you auto bill pay + paperless billing. +right now, its giving a $150 gift card if you bring your number to VZW. i'm laughing at the uncarrier.........after 7 years with them.