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." Sprint's always looking to entice customers to sign up for its service, and that generally takes the form of special offers on unlimited plan pricing. Under Sprint's latest offer, one line of data will cost you $50 each month. Add a second line of data for $40, which brings your monthly total to $90. The third, fourth and fifth line are free, meaning a family of four would pay $100 for unlimited data.
There's some fine print, though. That discounted pricing lasts only through June 30, 2018. After that, your plan reverts to its regular pricing ($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, more than $600 in savings between now and June 2018 is nothing to sneeze at. (Another offer promises even bigger savings — you won't have to pay anything for unlimited data if you switch over to Sprint from another carrier before June 30; you will need to already have a qualifying phone to be eligible for this offer, though.)
Pressured by other carriers, Sprint has eased one of the biggest restrictions to its unlimited plan. 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.
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 June 30, 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.) The average user consumes around 2GB of data each month, so Sprint's not giving you a lot of headroom. By way of comparison, Verizon's lone tiered plan for single lines features 5GB of data, but it costs $15 more each month.
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 option.
The Sprint Forward plan costs $40 a month with autopay and includes 4GB of LTE data. (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.
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. ThroughJune 30, Sprint is running a promotion where customers who switch from Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile will get free unlimited data for the next year. (After July 31, 2018, Sprint's normal rate for its unlimited plan kicks in.) You'll need to bring over an eligible phone, and you will have to pay taxes and fees on your otherwise free plan, but this is a pretty solid offer. It ends on June 30, but expect Sprint to periodically trot out other enticements to attract new customers.
* 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, but not much. In fact, in OpenSignal's most recent tests, Sprint's 4G speeds actually slowed down, though the carrier can boast greater 4G availability than before. Sprint has made improving its network a major focus in recent years, and it seems to be paying off — in recent J.D. Power rankings of network performance, Sprint finished second behind only Verizon in five of six regions measured in the survey, for example. But there's still work to be done.
* 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 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, when that device developed by Android co-founder Andy Rubin ships later this year.
* 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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