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, Sprint has announced plans to join forces with T-Mobile. The merger requires regulatory approval. Should the merger move ahead, look for us to update our evaluation of the combined carrier, but until then, you can look at our guide to the T-Mobile-Sprint merger to see how it might impact the wireless market.
Sprint is making an effort to close the gap between itself and its Big Four rivals, rolling out an aggressively priced, unlimited data plan and making an effort to improve its fourth-place network. 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.
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 soon.
Sprint can point to offering one of the lowest-priced unlimited data plans.
Sprint continues to bring up the rear in RootMetrics' rankings, but OpenSignal painted a more optimistic picture. That testing firm says that Sprint was nearly even with AT&T in 4G availability by the end of 2018, though its download speed is behind the other major carriers'. Sprint also finished last in Ookla's rankings of download and upload speed, with the most recent report covering the first half of 2018.
Sprint just launched its 5G network in four cities — Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas and Kansas City — , with five more cities to follow by mid-year. Sprint's first 5G phone, the LG V50 ThinQ, is now available in those cities, too. You can see how it performed from our 5G testing in Dallas, where speeds weren't as fast as Verizon's 5G network, but the signal was more consistent.
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.
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.
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 in 2017. 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 S10, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, Galaxy Note 9, LG V50 ThinQ, LG V40 ThinQ, Essential Phone, Pixel 3 and 3 XL
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.
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.