Times are changing at US Mobile, a relative newcomer to the wireless scene. Founded in 2015, the cellular service touts highly affordable packages for subscribers who need wireless coverage but want some flexibility in the talk, text and time they use each month. And with the addition of service from a second major carrier, US Mobile's options are now greater than ever, expanding to include unlimited data plans.
Here's what you need to know about US Mobile and its wireless service.
What network does US Mobile use?
Prior to this fall, US Mobile relied on GSM carrier T-Mobile, but that's now changed. US Mobile recently added service through "the biggest 4G LTE network in America." US Mobile won't spell it out specifically, but that means Verizon's network is now an option.
The addition of Verizon's network certainly broadens US Mobile's appeal, as Verizon has managed to consistently remain the fastest wireless network in the U.S. with the most extensive coverage. Rural customers, in particular, will be much better served by this new option. According to US Mobile, users on both networks will enjoy full LTE speeds.
US Mobile is geared much more toward people who are looking to bring their own device to the network.
It is worth noting that, unlike with Google Fi, customers cannot benefit from both networks. When you order your SIM card from US Mobile, you have to pick T-Mobile (a GSM network) or Verizon's CDMA network. It's possible to switch to the other network, but it would require a new SIM card and changing some options online. Note that the selection will be per device and not per account, so a customer with multiple lines could opt for two devices with a Verizon-based SIM card and one device with a T-Mobile-based SIM card, for instance.
What phones can you use with US Mobile?
US Mobile offers 12 phones on its website, with the $69 ZTE Maven 3 as the cheapest option. The most full-featured phones you can buy are last year's HTC One M10 ($699) and 2015's iPhone 6s Plus ($599). In the case of the 6s Plus, that's $50 more than what Apple charges. All of the devices that are available directly from US Mobile are listed at their full retail prices, and the higher-end handsets are, for the most part, a generation or two behind current models.
US Mobile's phone selection focuses on older models. (Credit: US Mobile)US Mobile is geared much more toward people who are looking to bring their own device to the network; it's open to any device that is compatible with T-Mobile's GSM network or Verizon's CDMA network. If your device is currently locked, you can even take advantage of US Mobile's unlocking service, which costs $15 (a competitive rate for this service), and the carrier will refund that fee if you stay with the company for six months.
What are the best US Mobile plans?
While the addition of Verizon's network has brought greater reach and flexibility to US Mobile, it's also introduced complications to US Mobile's plan pricing. The carrier now offers plans for GSM LTE (phones that use T-Mobile's network) and what it calls Super LTE (that would be Verizon's network). Both customizable plans offer different amounts of talk, text and data at differing amounts.
Here's what hasn't changed: US Mobile plans remain prepaid, so at the beginning of the month, you make selections regarding what you expect to use for talk, text and data. Combine the cost of your talk, text and data selections, add in a service fee for your line, and that's your monthly bill. (Ting uses a similar pay-for-what-you-use approach.)
For GSM LTE subscribers, monthly talk minutes start at 100 for $3 and range up to 5,000 minutes for $15. For texting, you can pay between $2 (for 100 texts) and $7 (unlimited texts) each month, while data options range from 100MB ($2) to 8GB ($35). You'll pay a $2 service fee for GSM LTE.
GSM LTE Plans
|Talk||100 minutes/$3||300 minutes/$5||500 minutes/$6||1,000 minutes/$8||2,000 minutes/$10||5,000 minutes/$15|
|Text||100 texts/$2||300 texts/$3||500 texts/$4||1,000 texts/$5||2,000 texts/$6||Unlimited/$7|
|Data||100MB/$2||300MB/$5||500MB/$9||1GB/$14||3GB/$20||5GB/$128 or 8GB/$35|
On the Super LTE side, the service fees doubles to $4 per line. Talk minutes start at 40 minutes for $2.50 and range up to 5,000 minutes for $15. You'll pay $1.50 each month for 40 texts, with prices capping off at $7 for 5,000 texts. Data limits start at 100MB ($2) and range up to 5GB ($26).
Super LTE Plans
|Talk||40 minutes/$2.50||100 minutes/$3||300 minutes/$5||500 minutes/$6||1,000 minutes/$8||2,000 minutes/$10||5,000 minutes/$15|
|Text||40 texts/$1.50||100 texts/$2||300 texts/$3||500 texts/$4||1,000 texts/$5||2,000 texts/$6||5,000 texts/$7|
Which service is cheaper depends on how you configure your plan. A GSM LTE subscriber would pay $27 a month for 500 minutes of talk, 1,000 texts and 1GB of data, while that same level of service costs $26 on Super LTE. Send 500 fewer texts, though, and up your data to 3GB a month, and the GSM LTE subscriber pays less — $32 vs. $34.
If you go over your selected allotments for the month, you'll get a notification and will be prompted to "top up." These additions will remain good for 30 days from the date you add them, so this works a bit like rollover minutes/texts/data on postpaid networks.
But wait: it gets more confusing. US Mobile also features Super LTE Unlimited plans on Verizon's network, with different levels of talk and text, along with different data speeds for your unlimited data. An unlimited data plan that caps data speeds at 1 Mbps with 100 minutes of talk and 100 texts will cost you $35 a month, while the same plan with a 5 Mbps speed cap costs $45. US Mobile's most expensive unlimited option features uncapped data speed and no limits on talk and text: it costs $75 a month. Tack on a $4 per line service fee to those rates, too.
US Mobile's new unlimited plan pricing (Credit: US Mobile)MORE: The Best and Worst Phone Carriers
US Mobile offers a straightforward dashboard to manage your account. And while it might have been nice to automate the process, at least the current method makes customers always aware of exactly where they stand for the month.
What special features does US Mobile offer?
US Mobile's SIM unlocking service isn't a common feature for a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), and it makes it much simpler to bring a locked device from T-Mobile or Verizon. US Mobile will help unlock your device if it's currently locked to another carrier, like AT&T.
At $3.99, US Mobile doesn't charge much for SIM cards to begin with, but if you buy a device through the carrier, or if you're a student, you are eligible for a free SIM card.
New customers can try the service risk-free for 30 days, 100 minutes, 100 texts or 100MB of data — whichever comes first.
The addition of Verizon's network adds to US Mobile's appeal.
If you're headed out of the country or simply don't need phone service for a period of time, you can "snooze" your US Mobile line for up to three months while retaining the number; you'll just need to pay $2 a month to maintain your line.
What do customers say about US Mobile?
Because US Mobile was founded just two years ago, there isn't a tremendous amount of feedback on the carrier, which has roughly 40,000 active lines at the moment. The Better Business Bureau has no rating or data regarding the company; neither do any of the major business review sites.
US Mobile's plan builder is easy to use and understand, but customers who are coming from a more traditional carrier may need a month or two to get a handle on their usage.
This leaves us with only customer ratings found online, and these are overwhelmingly positive. US Mobile proudly touts 2,544 reviews across Google, Amazon and Trustpilot, with an average rating of 4.82 stars out of 5. The problem with these kinds of public customer reviews is that the company tends to have some control over which reviews are visible,so take them with a grain of salt.
US Mobile offers a level of customization that few other MVNOs match. While the system of splitting out talk, text and data is common enough, the granularity that US Mobile allows in each category puts it at the forefront of services that have you pay only for what you use, though we wish rates wouldn't vary based on your SIM card. The addition of unlimited data is welcome, too, though again, trying to decide which data speed you want adds another level of complication.
US Mobile's dashboard tool is particularly helpful, making it dead simple to add extra minutes, texts or data if your monthly estimates come up short.
It's hard to recommend buying a device directly from US Mobile. At $3.99, SIM cards are affordable enough, and you can find better deals on phones elsewhere, including on the used-smartphone market.
If your smartphone use is very light, you can enjoy some very low monthly costs with US Mobile, thanks to the low service fee per device. The addition of Verizon's network makes US Mobile even more appealing to bargain hunters.
Credit: Tom's Guide