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The best and worst phone carriers of 2020

Virgin — No Longer an Option

Editors' Note: Forget about taking your wireless business to Virgin Mobile. Sprint, which owns the carrier, is shutting down Virgin and moving customers over to Boost in February. Here's what we had to say about Virgin in the last update of our carrier rankings.

Virgin tried to stand out from other prepaid carriers, including its fellow Sprint subsidiary Boost, by turning to the iPhone. Nearly three years ago, 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 no matter what phones Virgin offers.

Network Performance (33/40)

We didn't include Virgin in our recent round of LTE performance testing, since Virgin was leaning hard into its identity as an iPhone-focused carrier when we began our testing and we use Galaxy S phones to test speeds to ensure more consistent results. Since Sprint's network improved its download speed, we'd expect to see the same from Virgin, since the prepaid carrier's results closely mirror its parent network's, at least in past tests.

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 last 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 Metro by T-Mobile and Boost, though Metro 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 traditionally 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.

MORE: Customer Service: Where Virgin Ranked

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. You can find the Galaxy S9, Moto G7 Play and Galaxy A10e. (In other words, not the most recent models.) Virgin maintains a deep bench of iPhones, from the iPhone 11 to the iPhone 6s.

Featured Virgin Phones: iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, iPhone XR, Moto G7 Play, Galaxy A10e, Galaxy S10e

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.