Finding the right wireless carrier for your mobile phone should be simple. Or at least, that's how the ambitiously named Simple Mobile hopes to make it all seem.
With advertisements proclaiming "Truly Unlimited" high-speed data, talk and text at a monthly price lower than what you'd pay at a big-name carrier, Simple thinks picking its service to power your smartphone is a no-brainer. But sifting through the details of those plans isn't as simple as advertised.
Here's what you need to know about Simple Mobile.
What network does Simple Mobile use?
Owned by TracFone Wireless (the same company that operates fellow discount carriers Page Plus and Straight Talk among others), Simple Mobile is a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO. That means it doesn't actually own and operate cell towers of its own. Instead, Simple Mobile leases space on the network of a carrier that does have its own towers. That would be T-Mobile in Simple's case.
In theory, that's good news. T-Mobile ranks highly in network performance, finishing with roughly the same speed as AT&T in our recent tests of LTE network speeds. (Verizon is faster than both those carriers, incidentally.) So Simple customers should reap the benefits of T-Mobile's network, and, according to some independant Simple Mobile speed tests found around the web, they do.
Still, Simple Mobile warns that "actual availability, coverage and speed [of its network] may vary" from what T-Mobile customers see. In other words, if there's a lot of congestion on T-Mobile's network, Simple Mobile customers will see their speeds slow down. That's not an uncommon practice for prepaid carriers (T-Mobile-owned Metro carries the same caveat), but it's something to be aware of.
You can expect video streams to be restricted to 480p resolution with Simple Mobile's Truly Unlimited plans. That means DVD-like quality, which should be good enough on a smartphone-size screen but more noticeable if you're using a casting device to beam content to a larger display like a TV. Note that T-Mobile also limits video streaming to 480p resolution on its T-Mobile Essentials and T-Mobile One plans.
What phones can you use for Simple Mobile?
Because Simple Mobile operates on T-Mobile's GSM wireless network, you'll need a GSM-capable phone. The good news is that most every unlocked phone works on GSM. Simple Mobile has a compatibility checker (opens in new tab) on its website, though it doesn't feature the ability to plug in your phone's IMEI number; instead, you're simply asked if your phone works on a GSM network.
Keeping your current phone means buying a Simple Mobile SIM card for 99 cents, found everywhere from Best Buy to CVS or online at the company’s website. You can then pop it into any unlocked phone that can work on a GSM network.
If you don't want to bring your own phone to Simple Mobile, you can buy one from the wireless provider's website or one of its authorized stores around the country. On offer are new and open-box-discounted models of everything from budget Android devices to the new iPhone XS. Phones cost about the same as they do at other carriers, but be sure to buy your phone outright, as Simple Mobile's installment plans include a financing charge. The carrier charges $749 for an iPhone XR, for example, which is its typical asking price, but the monthly payments of $37.03 for that same model add up to $888.72 over 24 months.
What are the best Simple Mobile plans?
"Simple" may be part of the carrier's name, but that description doesn't really apply to its array of plans — especially with a number of limited time promotions boosting how much data you get.
Like other MVNOs, Simple Mobile splits its offerings between unlimited high-speed data and tiered plans that give you an allotment of LTE data. Run through that allotment, and you'll be slowed to 2G speeds for the remainder of the billing period.
Tiered plans normally start at 1GB for $25 a month, but that’s been raised to 3GB through March 31. That means Simple Mobile's $25 plan currently gives you more data than its $30 monthly plan, which offers 2GB of LTE data. A Simple Mobile rep told us that when you re-up your plan after March 31, that extra data won't be an option.
A third-tiered option lists 10GB of data for $40 a month, which appears to be a permanent increase from the previous allotment of 6GB of data. Simple Mobile had boosted that tiered plan to 12GB for a while, but that was part of a limited-time promotion — something that seems to happen a lot with Simple's assorted plans.
|Plan||Monthly Price||Autopay Discount||Notes|
|1GB||$20||$5 for first 3 months, then $1.25||Plan increased to 3GB of data through March 31.|
|10GB||$40||$2.50||Plan used to offer 6GB of data|
|Unlimited||$50||$5||Currently includes 10GB of hotspot data as part of promotion; video streaming limited to 480p resolution|
|Unlimited with 10GB of hotspot data||$60||$3||Video streaming limited to 480p resolution|
But wait — it gets more complicated. Like some other carriers, Simple Mobile offers discounts on your monthly rate when you enroll in its automatic-payment program. But the size of these discounts varies with each plan, and Simple Mobile offers promotional discounts on some plans that expire after a few months. Autopay enrollment reduces the cost of the carrier's $40 monthly plan to $37.50, while the $30 plan gets a $1.50 discount to $28.50. The entry-level plan enjoys a $5 autopay discount, but only for the first three months — after that, you'll pay $23.75.
Simple Mobile's two unlimited plans have their own complications. You can pay $50 for unlimited high-speed data, with video streaming restricted to 480p resolution. Adding $10 per month gets you 10GB of mobile hotspot data. However, yet another promotion adds that 10GB hotspot data perk to Simple Mobile's $50 plan, at least through March 31. Throw in a more generous autopay discount — you can knock $5 off the $50 plan with autopay versus $3 for the $60 plan — and it's clear what the better unlimited option is, at least for now.
Even for unlimited data plans, each carrier reserves the right to throttle your speeds after you cross a certain threshold. Simple Mobile sets that limit at 60GB a month, a company representative said. In comparison, T-Mobile sets the bar at 50 GB, which is pretty tough to hit under normal usage.
Unlike some carriers — Boost and Metro, notably — Simple Mobile's monthly rates don't fold in taxes and fees.
Simple Mobile also factors in discounts if you add additional lines to a plan. Adding a second line with 3GB of data costs $20 a month, a $5 discount off the regular rate. Another line with 12GB of data or unlimited data cost $25 a month — a significant discount for families who want unlimited data. Compare that with Metro, which charges the same $50 as Simple Mobile for its lowest-cost unlimited plan but lets you add additional lines for $30 each. That means a family of four would save $15 a month on their bill by opting for Simple Mobile's unlimited plan.
What special features does Simple Mobile offer?
If it's important to you that your cell carrier features a lot of bells and whistles, then Simple Mobile may not be your answer. At T-Mobile, for example, the T-Mobile One plan includes its free international data and texting in 210-plus countries. In contrast, Simple's service offers some modest international options for calling (to 69 destinations) and roaming (in 16 Latin American countries).
While some discount carriers offer a few perks to pull in customers — think Metro's 100GB of Google One storage — Simple Mobile offers only the occasional deal for a free budget Android phone when you start a new line of service. With this carrier, the "Simple" name means just simply cell service. And at the price you're getting it, that could be acceptable to you.
What do customers say about Simple Mobile?
The chatter online about Simple Mobile is mixed at best, with most negative reviews by bloggers and customers alike complaining about the company's customer service. The most common complaints involve time-consuming complications with getting service started, but there were also gripes about the functionality of the Simple Mobile smartphone app, which is used to change plans or add more data if you don't go the unlimited route were also leveraged.
On Yelp, complaints about service add up to a 1.5-star rating for Simple Mobile. But the carrier also gets some good notices online, with helpful YouTube hands-on videos that show the service actually works and offers good download speeds. Reviews.org gives Simple a 2.5-star rating, praising its pricing, but criticizing the carrier's unlimited offerings.
Simple Mobile's pricing makes it an option to consider if you're looking to save on your monthly bill, particularly if you can take advantage of the carrier's promotions to get more data. That 3GB for $20 deal tops what other low-cost carriers offer, as does the supersize 12GB plan. Now that carriers like TextNow and Visible are undercutting Simple Mobile's unlimited plan pricing — both carriers offer $40 unlimited plan — that Simple Mobile option becomes less compelling.
If you live in an area that's well-served by T-Mobile's network and you don't need a lot of perks with your cellular service, you should at least look into Simple Mobile. And the carrier's month-by-month approach makes it easy to move on should Simple Mobile not deliver on its promised simplicity.
Credit: Simple Mobile