Virgin may have found a way to stand out from other prepaid carriers, including its fellow Sprint subsidiary Boost. In June 2017, Virgin announced it was becoming an iPhone-only carrier and stripped down its data plans to a single unlimited option. The new focus could potentially appeal 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 Virgin's recent reboot, you can have any plan you want, so long as it's a $50-a-month unlimited data plan. All other options have been stripped away, which is a shame, because Virgin used to offer one of the best values among discount carriers (a $35 monthly plan with a generous 5GB of LTE data).
Virgin's unlimited plan costs the same as unlimited data at MetroPCS and Boost, but Virgin also imposes the same limitations that Boost does. You can only stream video at 480p resolution. Music and game streaming are capped as well, at 500 Kbps and 2 Mbps, respectively.
Under a current promotion, you pay only $1 a month for unlimited data for the next 6 months when you bring your phone to Virgin or if you buy an iPhone from the carrier. You're still on the hook for taxes, and you've got to enroll in autopay.
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 was pretty limited before it went iPhone-only, and it's even more so now that your only option is one of Apple's phones. It was one of the first discount carriers to get the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Virgin also sells the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, though you'll pay as much as you would if you bought through Apple. You can also opt for older models, though only the iPhone 6 and iPhone SE are offered at a discount.
Featured Virgin Phones: iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
Special Features (2/5 points)
As it remakes itself into an iPhone-focused carrier, Virgin is strengthening its ties to the rest of the Virgin brand. Customers who sign up for the carrier's Inner Circle unlimited plan can also enroll in Virgin Perks, which offers discounts from Virgin Wines, an extra night stay at Virgin Hotels and a free companion ticket when you book a round-trip flight on a Virgin Atlantic plane to the UK. You have to enroll in Virgin Perks by Sept. 30, though.
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.