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The Best and Worst Phone Carriers of 2019

Metro by T-Mobile - The #1 Low-Cost Phone Carrier

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. Also, MetroPCS has relaunched itself as Metro by T-Mobile.

Thanks to a fast mobile network and appealing plans that satisfy both data demands and budget concerns, MetroPCS is our top-ranked prepaid carrier. In fact, MetroPCS has enough going for it that we'd even recommend it over Sprint. Opting for MetroPCS means accepting some trade-offs, particularly in the area of customer service, where the carrier continues to struggle, but MetroPCS' mix of performance and plans is hard to overlook, even after the service's name change to Metro by T-Mobile.

Carrier Performance (37/40 points)

Metro relies on the network of its parent company, T-Mobile, and that's good news for the discount carrier as it rode T-Mobile's improved download speeds to retain its crown as the best performing discount carrier. When we tested LTE speeds in eight cities recently, Metro mostly matched T-Mobile's performance. (We saw exceptions in Chicago and Houston, which could have been attributed to network congestion on the days we tested.) In other words, you won't have to sacrifice network performance if you opt for Metro's lower-priced plans. Note that our scoring in this category still reflects our 2017 results; we plan to update overall scores soon.

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

Plans (21/25 points)

Whether you want a low monthly bill or a big bucket of data, Metro has a plan that will deliver what you're asking for, and that's likely to continue once new plans launch under the Metro by T-Mobile banner. Plans still start at $30 a month for 2GB of data, which matches what Cricket offers. A better deal is Metro's $40 a month plan, which now features 10GB of data, doubling the plan's old 5GB allotment.

MetroPCS plansView Deal

Metro really shines in its unlimited data plans. You can get unlimited data for $50 a month; that comes with 5GB of LTE hotspot data and Google One access to 100GB of cloud storage. Opt for the $60 unlimited plan, and your hotspot data increases to 15GB; you'll also get an Amazon Prime membership on top of Google One storage. Unfortunately, both plans restrict video streaming to 480p resolution. (Boost's $60 plan lets you stream in HD.)

MORE: MetroPCS vs. Boost Mobile: Which Is Right for You?

Metro by T-Mobile will still let you add extra lines to each of its plans for $30 each. That's a better deal on more expensive plans, and it matches what rival Boost charges for additional lines.

Customer Service (13/20 points)

If there's one area where MetroPCS continues to struggle, it's in handling customer service questions. While MetroPCS' online support site has improved in our last round of testing — it includes documentation for various phones — the carrier doesn't always answer questions promptly on social media. Phone support features a maze of automated voice-recognition options that you have to navigate, adding time to support calls. Metro reps struggled to answer our questions, and we struggled to understand the answers. If you anticipate needing to interact with support a lot, that may be reason enough to give Metro a pass, though we'll be retesting customer service soon to see if there's been any improvement.

MORE: How MetroPCS Fared on Our Tech-Support Showdown

Phone Selection (6/10 points)

For a discount carrier, MetroPCS offers a decent selection of phones. While not great in number — we counted 24models on offer — you do get a variety of phones, including flagships like the Galaxy S9 and iPhone XS. ZTE's struggles in the US have robbed Metro of some of its more appealing exclusives, but the company says that phone selection will improve as it relaunches as Metro by T-Mobile. We hope the carrier continues to offer good discounts on phones — as of this writing, roughly half will cost you less than $200 when you port over a number to Metro.

Featured MetroPCS Phones: Galaxy S10 Plus and S10e, Galaxy S9, iPhone XS and XS Max, Moto E5

Special Features (3/5 points)

Metro has stepped up its perks considerably since the last time we evaluated carriers, taking a cue from parent company, T-Mobile. That figures to continue under the Metro by T-Mobile brand, starting with the Google One and Amazon Prime benefits available to unlimited plan subscribers. We expect the carrier will continue to let customers with tiered data plans take advantage of a Data Maximizer feature, which streams video at lower resolution, allowing you to squeeze more data out of your monthly allotment. The carrier's Music Unlimited program lets you stream music from more than 40 services without touching any of your data.

For $5 a month, you can get an add-on to your plan that allows unlimited calling in either Mexico or Canada. The Unlimited Canada package also includes unlimited texting to the United States' neighbor to the north, and you can use your LTE data plan when traveling in Canada. Mexico Unlimited offers the same benefits, except you don't get unlimited texting to or from that country. A $10 World Calling package allows for unlimited calls to landlines in more than 75 countries, plus 200 minutes of mobile calling in select countries.