Sprint may find itself looking up at the other major carriers when it comes to subscribers. But Sprint's eagerness to play catch-up could pay off for you in the form of an unlimited data plan at an appealing price.
Which Sprint plans will fit your needs? We've looked at what the carrier offers family, individual and prepaid subscribers — including the latest discounts — to find your best options with Sprint.
Best Family Plan
Sprint’s Unlimited Freedom plan makes unlimited data too appealing to pass up. Normally, you pay $60 for the first line of unlimited data, $40 for the second and $30 for each additional line. That brings the total cost to $160 for a family of four. These prices reflect a discount for enrolling in Sprint's autopay program.
But again, the key word in all that is "normally." As of this writing, Sprint continues to offer a promotional rate on its unlimited plan in which it charges $50 for the first line and the usual $40 for the second before waiving fees on the third, fourth, and fifth line. That means a family of four pays $90.
There's some fine print, though. That discounted pricing lasts only through October 31, 2018. (The longer the promotion lasts, the farther Sprint pushes out that expiration date. Folks who signed up earlier see their rates reset prior to next October.) After that, your plan reverts to its regular pricing of $60 a month for the first line, $40 for the second and $30 for each line after that, so you'll be back up to paying $160 a month. Still, around $900 in savings between now and October 2018 is nothing to sneeze at. (Another offer promises even bigger savings — you won't have to pay anything for unlimited data for the next year if you switch over to Sprint from another carrier, assuming you have a qualifying phone. This is another limited time offer that Sprint keeps extending.)
Pressured by other carriers, Sprint eased one of the biggest restrictions to its unlimited plan earlier this year. You can now stream HD video, matching what those other two carriers now offer. Previously, Sprint limited video streams to 480p resolution. It also upped speeds for music and game streaming to 1.5 Mbps and 8 Mbps, respectively. (Previously, those speeds were capped at 500 Kbps for music and 2 Mbps for games.) Sprint also offers 10GB of LTE hotspot data, up from 5GB in a previous iteration of its unlimited plan; go over that amount during a billing cycle and your hotspot speeds are slowed down considerably.
Other Options: Sprint’s pricing is particularly appealing for two people. An unlimited plan costs just $100 for two lines (or $90 for the next year if you take advantage of Sprint's current discount). Sprint has pulled the plug on its tiered data plans for families, so if you don't want unlimited data, you're either looking at one of Sprint's prepaid options or turning to another carrier.
Best Individual Unlimited Plan
Speaking of unlimited data, individuals can sign onto Unlimited Freedom for $60 a month, though that fee is $50 as of this writing. (Again, after October 31, 2018, you'll go back to paying $60 per month for unlimited data.) The same changes to video, music and game streaming also apply here. As with other carriers offering unlimited data, Sprint reserves the right to throttle your data speed if you exceed a certain amount — 23GB of data in a billing cycle in this case.
Other Options: Scroll down on Sprint's page, and you'll find one option outside of unlimited data if you only want a single line with Sprint. The carrier will give you 2GB of LTE data for $40 a month. (That price includes a $5 monthly autopay discount.) While Sprint will only throttle you if you use more than 2GB instead of charging you an overage fee, it's still not a very compelling option, considering that Sprint's prepaid service offers double the data at the same rate. And Verizon's lone tiered plan for single lines features 5GB of data, but though it costs $15 more each month than what Sprint charges.
Best Prepaid Plan
With Sprint doing away with all but one tiered data plan for its postpaid customers, prepaid is where to turn if you have little use for unlimited data. And Sprint has made it very simple to pick a plan, since it offers just one tiered data option.
The Sprint Forward plan costs $40 a month with autopay and includes 4GB of LTE data. (As we noted, that's double the data available in Sprint's lone tiered plan option for postpaid customers.) You get unlimited international texting, along with the ability to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot, though you'll be drawing from that 4GB pool of data. Go over your monthly data limit, and your speeds are throttled to 2G — pretty standard practice among carriers these days.
You can enjoy discounts if you add on extra lines. This, too, has been simplified from Sprint's old formula, since Sprint Forward customers pay $40 for the first line and $30 for each subsequent line of 4GB of data. A family of four, then, would pay $130 a month.
Prepaid customers can now opt for unlimited data, too, and it looks a lot like Sprint's postpaid unlimited plan, right down to the promotional pricing. A line of unlimited data costs prepaid customers $60, but until Sept. 14, Sprint's knocking that down to $50 through October 31, 2018. You can add a second line for $40 and additional lines for free. But that price only lasts through next October. After that, it's the same $160 for four lines of unlimited data that Sprint charges postpaid customers.
What You Need to Know About Sprint
You've got a few other things to consider when mulling over Sprint's plans.
Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images* Sprint is dangling free data to get you to switch carriers. Sprint no longer runs the Cut Your Bill in Half promotion to lure customers from other carriers, but it's trying out other methods to get you to give its service another look. Since the summer, Sprint has quietly run a promotion where customers who switch from Verizon and trade-in an eligible phone will get free unlimited data for the next year. (AT&T and T-Mobile customers are eligible, too, but the number of qualifying phones are more plentiful for Sprint customers.) The free data runs through October 31, 2018; after that, Sprint's normal rate for its unlimited plan kicks in. You will have to pay taxes and fees on your otherwise free plan, but this is a pretty solid offer.
* Sprint has the weakest network among the four major carriers. In our latest round of 4G speed tests, Sprint had the worst download and upload speeds among the Big Four. (It even finished behind T-Mobile-owned MetroPCS in our tests.) That said, we did notice an improvement in Sprint's performance over our previous testing, particularly in our tests in Houston, Chicago and Seattle. Sprint fares slightly better in other testing conducted by third-party researchers. OpenSignal said Sprint's LTE speeds have improved as has its 4G availability, and the carrier actually places ahead of T-Mobile in RootMetrics' rankings.
* Sprint has a strong tie-in with Amazon Prime. Any Sprint subscriber can get Amazon Prime for $10.99 a month, enjoying expedited shipping and access to extras like Prime Video and Prime Music. That’s not necessarily a good value if you hold on to your Amazon Prime subscription for a year — the regular $99 subscription fee is less than what you’d pay through Sprint. But Sprint allows you to go month-to-month with Amazon Prime, so that’s helpful if you only need to use the service for a limited time.
* Sprint's making music a selling point. Last year, Sprint bought 33 percent of Tidal, the streaming music service founded by Jay-Z. Tidal offers a catalog of 42.5 million songs and 140,000 videos, including exclusives, and Sprint customers can finally benefit from that. New and existing customers can sign up for Tidal HiFi for free for six months. That service tier, which promises lossless high fidelity sound quality, normally costs $20 a month. Sprint customers recently got early access to Jay-Z's 4:44 album, which the carrier billed as the first in a series of exclusives it plans to offer to subscribers through the Tidal partnership.
* Sprint is stepping up its exclusives game. For our money, Verizon and AT&T tend to score the biggest high-profile phone exclusives, but Sprint seems to be doing more in this area. It's already teamed up with HTC to offer exclusives like the HTC Bolt in recent months, and it also gets good budget exclusives like ZTE's Max XL. Now, Sprint has struck a deal to be the exclusive carrier for the Essential Phone, the phone developed by Android co-creator Andy Rubin (although that phone is also available unlocked).
* Sprint's international offering has a pan-American focus. Sprint's free Open World program lets you make free calls and texts to Mexico and Canada; you can call other countries in North and South America at discounted rates. What's more, when you travel in North and South America, you get unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of high-speed data. Travel in other parts of the world, and Sprint offers free texting, 20-cent-per-minute calling, and $30/GB data in more than 100 countries.
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