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Best phone plans in 2021: T-Mobile, Verizon, Google Fi, and more

September 27th, 2021 at 12:17 PM
Best Phone Plans 2021

Getting the best phone plan for your needs can be tricky. All three of the major carriers in the U.S. market their plans so heavily, that it can be tricky to know which plan is actually the best. That’s not to mention the fact that there are dozens of MVNO carriers in the country that use the big networks, and often offer lower prices. But at what cost?

There are a number of things to consider before you sign up to a new phone plan. Perhaps the first you’ll need to consider is your location, and where you plan on using the plan. Unfortunately, in some areas, major carriers still have a monopoly. For example, if Verizon is the only carrier available in your area, you’ll need to go for Verizon, or at least an MVNO that uses Verizon’s network. All three of the major carriers publish their network maps, which you can find here:

If you’re in a major city, chances are you have access to all three major networks.

You’ll also want to think about how much data you need. Increasingly, people are using more and more data, whether it be for video streaming or gaming. If you’re one of those people, you might just want to get an unlimited data plan so that you don’t have to worry about your data usage. Some plans also offer hotspot usage, which allows you to connect other devices to your phone like a Wi-Fi network. And, others offer perks like a Netflix or HBO Max subscription.

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Without further ado, here are the best phone plans in 2021.

Best phone plan overall: T-Mobile Essentials

T-Mobile-Network-Test-Drive
T-Mobile’s new Network Test Drive app for iPhone. Image source: T-Mobile

Pros: Unlimited data, relatively inexpensive, solid all-around

Cons: No extra perks, hotspot limited to 3G speeds

Are you looking for a solid plan that offers unlimited data, and is a little cheaper than the rest? If so, T-Mobile Essentials is the way to go. You won’t get much more than unlimited talk, text, and data. But for many users, that’s all you’ll need in the first place. You will be able to access T-Mobile’s 5G network, and it’s currently the largest 5G network. However, 5G speeds aren’t really all that much faster than 4G LTE just yet.

The plan offers other perks too. You’ll get unlimited talk, text, and 2G data in Canada and Mexico. And, you can text to over 120 countries as part of your plan. You’ll pay an extra $10 per month for a wearable, like an Apple Watch, and $15 per line for a tablet.

There are a few caveats to keep in mind. The plan in general does offer unlimited talk, text, and data. However, your speeds may be throttled after 50GB of data. That means that you might get slower speeds than 5G or 4G LTE when a network is being heavily used. While you will get unlimited hotspot usage, you’ll be limited to 3G speeds. And, you can only stream video at standard definition, or at 480p.

Still, if you can deal with those limitations, T-Mobile Essentials is well worth considering. It comes at $60 for a single line, but you could pay as little as $27 per line, per month, if you get five lines.

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Best premium phone plan: Verizon Play More Unlimited

Shopping Venues around Los Angeles - 16 August 2020
The storefront of Verizon in Los Angeles, California on August 29, 2020. Image source: Michael Buckner/BGR

Pros: Unlimited talk, text, and data, Disney+ bundle, other streaming trials

Cons: Expensive

Verizon’s Play More Unlimited plan may be a little expensive, but if you don’t mind paying a bit extra, you’ll get a ton of extra perks.

Let’s start with the basics. Like most modern plans, you’ll get unlimited talk, text, and data, including on Verizon’s expanding 5G network. The plan also offers unlimited hotspot usage, including 15GB of usage of high-speed hotspot data.

As the name suggests, Play More Unlimited offers a number of entertainment-related perks too. For starters, you’ll get a subscription to the Disney bundle, which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. You’ll also get 12 months of Discover+, Apple Arcade, and Google Play Pass. And the plan includes six months of Apple Music. After those trial periods, you will need to either pay for the subscription, or you’ll lose access. But that doesn’t apply to the Disney bundle subscription. It’s an ongoing perk as long as you have this plan.

As mentioned, of course, the plan is a bit expensive. For one line, you’ll pay $80 per month. You can get the price down to $40 per line per month if you have five lines or more. Note, this plan is also compatible with Verizon’s Just Kids plan, which we’ll get into a little more later.

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Best prepaid phone plan: Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile
An envelope with the Mint Mobile logo on it Image source: Mint Mobile

Pros: Inexpensive, decent coverage

Cons: No extra perks, have to pay for a full year to get the best price

Mint Mobile has been rising in recent years as a great way to get decent service at a very reasonable price. That’s why it’s our top pick for those looking for a prepaid plan. That said, keep in mind that it offers better value the longer you subscribe to it.

Mint Mobile offers a few different plans with varying amounts of data. The lowest-end plan offers 4GB per month, while the highest-end plan is unlimited. You’ll be able to use 5G networks on those plans, though on the unlimited plan, you’re limited to 35GB of 5G usage.

Mint Mobile is an MVNO that uses T-Mobile’s network, so you’ll get pretty good coverage. The way it works is that you’ll pay a lower price depending on how many months of coverage you pre-pay. So, you can get a plan with unlimited data for $30 per month, if you pre-pay for a full year of use. You can also pay month-to-month, for three months, or for six months, but you’ll pay a higher price.

So what are the downsides to the plan? Well, you won’t really get any extra perks from Mint. And, you won’t get things like free international calling or subscriptions to streaming services. And, the unlimited plan is limited to 5GB of hotspot usage. Still, if you don’t really need those things, then it may well be the plan for you.

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Best phone plan for seniors: T-Mobile Essentials 55+

T-Mobile Storefront
The storefront of T-Mobile in Los Angeles, California on August 29, 2020. Image source: Michael Buckner/BGR

Pros: Inexpensive, unlimited talk, text, and data

Cons: Not for those that don’t use much data

If you’re a senior, there are special plans for you — and the best of them is T-Mobile Essentials 55+. This plan is essentially a discounted version of the previously mentioned T-Mobile Essentials plan, and it comes at a steep discount for you.

This plan gives you unlimited talk, text, and data, so if you’re a heavy data user, it’s perfect for you. It also offers unlimited 3G hotspot usage, as well as 2G data in Canada and Mexico, and the ability to text abroad for free. After 50GB of data usage, your speeds could be throttled to lower speeds in times of heavy network congestion.

As with the standard T-Mobile Essentials plan, video-streaming is limited to standard definition, and you won’t get the same extra perks that you might get on some other T-Mobile plans. Still, considering the price, it’s pretty spectacular. You’ll pay $40 per month for one line, or $27.50 per line for two lines, which equates to $55. That’s far less than the standard plan.

Of course, the plan isn’t necessarily for everyone over 55. If you don’t really need much or any data, there are other plans to consider — like T-Mobile’s prepaid plans. But if you do use data, then you can’t get a much better deal than T-Mobile Essentials 55+.

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Best low-data phone plan: Google Fi Flexible

Google Fi App
Google Fi app on an iPhone. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Pros: Can be inexpensive, pay for what you want

Cons: If you use much data it’s not worth it

Google Fi has long offered a great plan for those that don’t use much data, and the Google Fi Flexible plan is a continuation of that. In recent years, Google Fi has started offering more plans, but the Google Fi Flexible plan is the same approach that put Google Fi on the map.

The basic gist of this plan is that you’ll pay $20 for each line for unlimited talk and text, and then $10 per 1GB of data. If you don’t end up using all the data that you paid for, you’ll be refunded for any data you don’t use, which can be used against your next bill. In other words, if you pay $20 for 2GB of data and only use $1.5GB, $5 will be credited towards your next bill. The service has a Bill Protection feature too — in which you’ll only pay for up to 6GB of data, or $60 worth. After that, data is free, but you’ll be stuck with an $80 bill that’s more expensive than an unlimited data plan from another carrier.

The Google Fi flexible plan offers other perks too. You can use your data for a mobile hotspot if you want. And, you’ll get unlimited texts and calls in Canada and Mexico.

There are some downsides to consider. Notably, this plan isn’t for you if you use more than a few gigabytes of data per month, and you won’t get perks that you might get from larger carriers. Still, if you’re someone that wants a flexible plan and you only use a few gigabytes per month, Google Fi Flexible may well be the way to go.

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Best family phone plan: Verizon Play More Unlimited

Verizon Unlimited Plans
A screenshot of Verizon’s Unlimited Plans Image source: Verizon

Pros: Options for kids, solid perks

Cons: Expensive

We’ve already talked about Verizon Play More Unlimited, but it’s worth thinking about the plan in the context of a family too. That’s not necessarily just because Play More Unlimited itself is a solid plan. It is, but the thing that makes it a great plan for families is that it’s compatible with Verizon’s Just Kids plan.

Just Kids is a dramatically scaled-back plan that’s built for your kids. The plan comes at $50 per month for two lines, or as little as $25 per line for five lines. Keep in mind, one of the plans will have to be one of Verizon’s Unlimited plans — which we recommend to be Play More Unlimited for most. Just Kids offers unlimited talk and text to up to 20 pre-defined contacts, and unlimited data at 5Mbps. Parents will be able to see what their kids do with their data.

Of course, Just Kids is only for the kids — and you’ll have to deal with another plan. That’s where Play More Unlimited comes in, which still offers perks like the Disney+ bundle, unlimited data on 5G, and so on. It’s a solid plan, and while it’s a bit expensive, it may be worth it for some.

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