It doesn’t take long for a plan that offers $50 smartphones and a $35 a month billing option to make our top 5. Of course, where you need that extra boost for the holidays, a family event, or even just because you want to call a friend for 5 days straight, there is still an option for that. Coming in at #4 in our 2013 Best Value in Wireless survey is Virgin Mobile. Coming in with phones with a 2 year cost as low as $889.99 and maxing out at $1599.99 for their fastest non-iPhone and unlimited talk, text and data, Virgin Mobile has a plan for all.
Our experience with coverage was good in all four markets we tested. There were some spotty areas on the outskirts of our normal travel areas, but as long as you aren’t heading to Montana anytime soon, coverage should be solid. Data speeds for the 3G connection maxed out around 600-700kbps and the 4G coverage was usually in the 3-6Mbps range with boosts in to the 9-10Mbps range. If you happen to live in one of the 4G WiMAX areas, these plans are a total steal as you get 2.5GB of WiMAX coverage included for no extra fees. Virgin Mobile runs of the native Sprint network, so if Sprint’s current coverage is less than great in your area, you might just want to wait until we get further up the list. Overall, coverage gets an 8 out of 10 from our users.
Here is where we got a bit fuzzy on our requirement of unlimited talk and text for our unlimited category. Let’s start with Virgin Mobile offers unlimited talk, text and data for $55 a month. Now they qualified for our Unlimited category with that plan, if you aren’t much of a talker, you can really start saving cash. For $35 a month, you get unlimited text/data and 300 minutes of talk time. For kids, this could be the greatest plan ever. Or if you are like some of our editors that only text and email, it is also a perfect fit. The expense of 2 years of the $35 plan with a new Galaxy S II smartphone is a mere $1119,99. This is more than a deal, it is a downright steal. Things aren’t quite as rosy if you need more minutes as bumping to 1200 minutes a month will cost $1359.99 with the same device. To get that truly unlimited deal, your 24 month cost climbs to $1599.99. Now, there is one more cost benefit that we bring up for the folks at Virgin Mobile, they have the iPhone…
This brings us straight into handset selection. With everything from low end Android powered smartphones for $50 to the iPhone 4s at $449.99, Virgin Mobile should have a handset to fit your needs. From mid-range powerhouses like the HTC One V to the dated, but still amazing HTC Evo V 4G, Virgin Mobile will keep a decent handset in your pocket without breaking the bank. For those iPhone loyalists, Virgin carries both the iPhone 4 (8GB) and the iPhone 4s (16GB) for $349.99 and $449.99 respectively. This gives Virgin Mobile one of the best selections of in-house devices of any of the carriers that made our 2013 Best Value in Wireless survey.
Looking into customer service, we have to admit we were thrilled with the response times of their Twitter help. We simply tweeted an issue and within 15 minutes had a response and a link with instructions. We also had no issues when calling support, although hold times were not the greatest. We’ve almost come to expect these long hold times in the cellular industry and really just hope to have someone eventually pick up that can handle the issue and speak clearly enough to explain how to fix it. Overall, we had no issues with Virgin Mobile’s customer service, nor their technical support persons.
Bringing it around to Virgin Mobile’s final grade, they offer a stellar deal with their low minute plan and the flexibility to bring that plan up to a truly unlimited plan if needed for a bit more money. This flexibility alone is well worth a look for most people and as we said, if you are one that texts and emails instead of talking, Virgin Mobile has the plan for you. When you combine this with the Wi-Fi calling features of Android through Google Voice and Apps like GrooVIP, Virgin’s $35 a month plan is just too good for many to pass up.