Virgin tried to stand out from other prepaid carriers, including its fellow Sprint subsidiary Boost, by turning to the iPhone. In June 2017, Virgin announced it was becoming an iPhone-only carrier and stripping down its data plans to a single unlimited option. (It's since expanded its plans, and you can still find a handful of Android phones.) The new focus might have appealed to iPhone users, but the same issues with Virgin's network performance and customer service remain.
Network Performance (33/40)
A subsidiary of Sprint, Virgin relies on Sprint's network for its coverage. While that means Virgin is subject to the same limitations as Sprint's coverage, at least the carrier was able to match Sprint's performance when we tested the speed of mobile carriers' LTE networks.
Virgin tallied an average national download speed of 18 Mbps, decimal points ahead of Sprint's 17.7 Mbps average. Virgin was the fastest carrier we tested in Houston, thanks to Sprint's network there. That said, Sprint finished a second faster on our app download test than Virgin did, but the bottom line is that you can turn to Virgin and expect virtually the same performance you'd get from Sprint.
Virgin is subject to the same limitations as Sprint's coverage, but it was able to match Sprint's performance.
Plans (15/25 points)
After trying out a lone unlimited data plan for about a year, Virgin changed things up again this summer. You can now opt for 5GB of data for $35 a month or 10GB for $45. Both plans compare favorable to similar offerings from MetroPCS and Boost, though MetroPCS boasts the better-performing network.
Virgin kept an unlimited data plan, which will cost you $60 a month. Your video streaming will be restricted to 480p resolution, while music and games streaming have restrictions as well. The $60 unlimited plans at Boost and MetroPCS don't have those kind of limitations.
Customer Service (10/20 points)
If there's one area where Virgin really comes up short, it's customer service. And that’s because of the carrier's lackluster phone support. Like Boost, Virgin does all it can to dissuade you from talking to an actual person, though Virgin's service provided more unsatisfying answers when we went undercover to test carriers' support offerings.
The carrier offers better support tools online and through social media. Its Facebook account was particular responsive when we posed a tech-support question during our research. Like Boost, Virgin doesn't offer online chat support, which seems an odd omission given the carrier's reluctance to talk to you over the phone.
Phone Selection (2/10 points)
Virgin's phone selection has expanded from last year's iPhone-only focus to include some Android models, though many are currently listed as out of stock. Still, you can find the Galaxy S9, Moto G6 and Mote E5 Play among the more recent additions. Virgin maintains a deep bench of iPhones, from the iPhone X to the iPhone SE, with many models discounted now that we're close to Apple's 2018 iPhone launch.
Featured Virgin Phones: iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, Galaxy S9, iPhone X, Moto G6
Special Features (2/5 points)
The iPhone focus may be gone, but Virgin continues to emphasize its ties to the rest of the Virgin brand. Customers who activate a phone with Virgin are eligible for discounts at fashion, food and travel brands.
The mobile carrier is strengthening its ties to the rest of the Virgin brand.
Despite the other changes at Virgin, international packages remain more or less the same as before. A $5 monthly add-on gives you unlimited calls to Mexico and Canada, plus unlimited worldwide text messaging.
The $10-a-month bundle includes those benefits, plus unlimited calls to landlines in 70-plus countries, 200 minutes to select mobile numbers in 50-plus countries and reduced rates when you call more than 200 different places.