Six things to consider when choosing your cell phone provider

You’ve already chosen between an iPhone and an Android phone, picked your favorite phone case, and downloaded your favorite apps. Unfortunately, choosing a cell phone provider can be a much more impactful and difficult choice.

There are a plethora of mobile plans to choose from. Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are known as the big three cellphone providers in the United States. These brands have partnerships with some big streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, offering promising discounts on episodes of your favorite TV shows.

Brands that are not part of the big three, however, are not to be overlooked. Brands like RedPocket and MetroPCS may be more profitable precisely because they don’t offer the bundles and added benefits of other providers. The best cell phone companies aren’t always about the newest features, discounts, and gadgets.

If you live in a unique geographic location, you may need to find a cell phone provider that prioritizes customers who live in remote areas. Alternatively, if you live and work in a busy city, you can choose a provider that prioritizes fast internet speeds and consistent connectivity.

Before you start researching the best cell phone providers, take a minute to figure out which aspects of your phone service are most important to you. Do you need constant high-speed Internet access for family members who work or study from home?

Do you want a company that simply offers great customer service and helps you resolve connectivity issues as soon as they arise? Your answers to these questions will help you determine which cell phone provider is right for you.

1. Customer service

When choosing a phone provider, it’s important to remember that you’re working with a company like any other. Customer service is an often overlooked – yet essential – part of the cell phone buying process. Your cell phone is a key part of your workday and after-work entertainment, so you want to make sure the cell phone company you choose is one you trust to fix potential errors.

Friendly policies and enthusiastic customer service representatives are good indicators of good customer service. You may also feel more comfortable choosing a reputable phone provider that has been recommended by friends or family.

2. Data coverage

If you travel often, you’ll want to make sure your data is still usable in the countries and states you visit the most. If you live in a remote area, it’s even more important that you have access to a provider that offers connectivity in more rural areas. If you choose to buy from a smaller carrier that isn’t one of the big three, it’s important to make sure your provider of choice doesn’t just offer coverage in your area.

3. Data speed

In a world that is constantly connected through social media and news apps, 5G internet is a must for any phone operator. If you don’t plan on using social media and only want to use your phone for business calls or texts, you may not need 5G internet. But if you want to post to social media or have mobile access to news apps that update every few minutes, you’ll need at least 4G internet.

Some mobile plans only allow you to use 5G internet for a certain amount of time per month and will reduce your speeds to 1G or 2G if you exceed a certain limit. Ideally, you want a mobile plan that offers unlimited data usage as well as unlimited texting and calling, but that can quickly get expensive.

4. Family use

Are you planning to buy a phone for someone else in your family besides yourself? If you have children or a spouse, you may want to consider a family plan. With Verizon’s unlimited plan, for example, you can connect all your devices, including tablets and smartwatches. If you have younger members of your family who don’t yet own their own phones, you might consider investing in a mobile plan for a tablet.

5. Cost

Cost is one of the most important factors for most families and individuals choosing between mobile plans and phone providers. You can choose to purchase a phone upfront with a one-time payment or pay for it in monthly installments. It’s also important to note that smaller brands like RedPocket and Mint Mobile tend to be cheaper than plans from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. RedPocket plans, for example, start at just $20 per month and include unlimited calls, texts, and data.

6. Additional Features

There are always additional features to be had when choosing between mobile plans. If you’re a media enthusiast, you might want to invest in a phone that offers discounts on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Some plans even offer discounts on additional devices like watches, tablets, or cloud storage. If you love buying all the latest gadgets and tech — or know someone in your family who does — these great features and discounts might be worth the extra monthly bucks.

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