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The best and worst phone carriers of 2020

Boost — Second Best Low-Cost 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. As part of the planned T-Mobile-Sprint merger, Boost will be sold off to Dish to create a new wireless carrier.

It would be tempting, and not entirely wrong, to think of Boost Mobile as the Mini-Me to its parent company, Sprint.

Boost uses Sprint's network and essentially offers the same performance. And like Sprint, Boost is pushing unlimited plans, though with a few more restrictions than what Sprint now offers.

One other thing to note about Boost: It could soon have a new owner. Sprint and T-Mobile are pursuing a merger, and to alleviate regulatory concerns, the carriers say the combined company would sell off Boost.

Carrier Performance (33/40 points)

As noted above, Boost relies on Sprint's network, so Sprint's recent improvement in our network test results means that Boost's overall performance has improved, too. On the downside, Sprint still trails other major carriers when it comes to LTE speeds, so that means Boost still falls behind rivals like Metro by T-Mobile. Even worse, Boost had the worst result on our app download test, so when we update our grades to reflect our most recent round of LTE testing, Boost's numbers may take a hit. As of this writing, though, Boost's score still reflects earlier results.

Plans (16/25 points)

The popularity of unlimited plans has prompted Boost to offer more unlimited plans of its own. There's still a tiered data plan that gives you 3GB of LTE data for $35 a month, but you now have two different unlimited options at Boost plus a third, limited-time program.

Boost's $50 unlimited plan gives you 12GB of LTE hotspot data, while placing limits on your video, music and game streaming. (Metro By T-Mobile's comparably priced unlimited plan also limits video streaming to 480p resolution, but has no such restrictions on streaming music or games.) A $60 Unlimited Plus plan at Boost allows HD video streaming, while raising streaming speed caps on music and gaming; you also get 30GB of hotspot data. As for Boost's now-permanent $80 unlimited plan, it doubles hotspot data to 50GB, adds international calling options and throws in a Tidal Premium subscription. (You get six-month trials of Tidal with Boost's other plans.)

Boost plansView Deal

MORE: Prepaid Plans: How Boost's Offerings Compare

Additional lines on Boost cost $30 each for the $35 and $50 plans; you can add extra lines to the $60 Unlimited Plus plan for $40 per line and to the $80 plan for $60 per line.

Customer Service (14/20 points)

To get answers to questions during our 2017 undercover customer-support testing with Boost, we had the best luck using Twitter and Facebook. Responses on social media are prompt, though you should expect a little back and forth, especially on Twitter. Boost offers some fairly thorough online resources, too, but the carrier lacks an online chat feature for getting more detailed responses.

MORE: How Boost Fared in Our Customer Service Testing

Our biggest frustration came from Boost's phone support, which is seemingly set up to discourage you from talking to an actual person. Be prepared for a lot of automated menus, which will try to answer questions about your account. We'll be retesting customer service shortly to see if Boost improved.

Phone Selection (6/10 points)

Expect a solid mix of phones from Boost. Among dedicated prepaid carriers, it has the second largest selection, after Straight Talk, with most phones available for less than $300. The biggest knock here is that Boost's bring-your-own-device offer is restricted to devices that work on the carrier's CDMA network.

Featured Boost Phones: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S9, Moto G7 Play, Galaxy A20

Special Features (2/5 points)

Boost subscribers now get the same Tidal benefit available to Sprint customers — six free months of Tidal HiFi, which normally costs $19.99 a month. If you opt for Boost's tiered-data plan, you can stream music from six different services, including Spotify and Pandora, without it hitting your monthly allotment.

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

For international use, Boost sells a $5-a-month add-on that lets you make unlimited calls to Canada and Mexico and text internationally. You also get up to 8GB of data roaming while traveling in Mexico. The $10 package includes all of that plus calls to landlines in more than 70 countries and 200 minutes of mobile calling to more than 50 countries.