We hate it when this happens, but we seriously had to re-evaluate the results of our 2013 Best Value In Wireless survey. Scary enough, but so many major players made significant changes to their programs since we tested, we had to do a quick reset before we announced our winner this year. So without further ado, here is the new top 5…
#5 – Spot Mobile – www.spotmobile.com – $39.99 Unlimited Talk + Text + 500MB 4G data/Unlimited 2G data
Spot Mobile is a T-Mobile MVNO that runs off the standard T-Mobile MVNO network. While coverage is a bit more limited, if you live in a metropolitan area, Spot has you covered. There is no roaming off to the AT&T network, but if you can get past the slightly limited coverage area, you can reap the rewards of a $40 plan that has a half gig of data attached to it. This is double the data that the competition offers at the same price. If you need a bit more, simply upgrade to the $49.99 plan for 1GB or $59.99 for 2GB.
Spot Mobile could have rated much better in our survey, but their slow email response to our questions really drug them down. Spot appears to be the perfect carrier for the D-I-Y people that can figure out their issues on their own.
Overall, Spot did a decent job for us and should for you as well. If you live in a strong T-Mobile coverage area, Spot may be the carrier to save you some money. The monthly cost of Spot with sales tax for us was $43.67, making the 2 year cost of service $1048.08. Add this to a great phone from GetSmartphones.Info, like the Blu Studio 5.3 II for $229.99 and the total cost for the plan is $1278.07.
#4 – Virgin Mobile – www.virginmobileusa.com – $35 300 Min + Unlimited Text _2.5GB 3G data/unlimited 2G data
Virgin Mobile holds their spot on the survey with their $35 – 300 minute plan. Running off the native Sprint network, VM is the best choice for those that live in a solid Sprint area. Of course, by teaming that $99.99 Android phone with Google Voice and GroovIP, you can expand those minutes quickly with WiFI coverage.
Virgin’s customer service line was spectacular with all our questions and issues. They are almost worthy of being called a separate carrier as they had more information about coverage in our areas than Sprint was able to offer. The other advantage that Virgin Mobile offers their users is a broad selection of handsets ranging from basic feature phones at $39.99 to phones like the Samsung Galaxy S II for $299.99.
Overall, Virgin Mobile offers users some amazing values. If you can get by with 300 minutes of talk, the monthly cost we paid was $38.22 or $917.28. Adding a decent phone to the package for $149.99 brings the total cost to $1067.27.
#3 – Net10 – www.net10.com – $45 (with autopay) Unlimited Talk + Unlimited Text + 1.5GB data
Net10 was the front runner for our winner this year as we loved the service, the device selection and even the availability of refilling our devices. Unfortunately, in December when the review was done, Net10 offered all of this service with completely unlimited data on the AT&T network. This solidified them as the #1 choice. Effective March 1, 2013, Net10 cut their AT&T users data down from unlimited to 1.5GB.
As we said, the www.net10sim.com program made it easy for us to roll our various devices over to the service. Just be careful that your device allows for APN editing or some features may not work correctly. Our HTC Titan test phone was one that suffered this fate, while the Android devices worked flawlessly with the Tweakker App.
So, with Net10 dropping their data limit to a fixed 1.5GB for $45, we slipped them down 2 spaces to #3 on the list. For those that use T-Mobile SIM cards, you can rest assured that you still have a fantastic unlimited experience on your Net10 phone. For those AT&T users that have unlocked devices and live in a refarmed 1900mhz area, check out the SIM swap program at www.net10data.com for a free switch out to keep your unlimited data.
Overall, Net10 let us have a nice $49.14 monthly bill with our “AutoPay” registration. This made the 24 month cost $1179.36. Adding a great $200 device to the mix brought the total 2 year cost to $1379.36. Discounted refills are available online, though they aren’t as inexpensive as the AutoPay feature, but if you don’t want to commit your info to Net10 directly, the online refill PINS are the way to go.
#2 – Page Plus Cellular – www.pagepluscellular.com – $55 Unlimited Talk + Unlimited Text + 2GB data
Page Plus is one of those companies that flies under the radar of most people since they don’t realize that phones can have a life after being used on Verizon Wireless. That Droid X, iPhone 4 or other non LTE device can find a great home with a $55 plan. Page Plus features the excellent coverage of the VZW network and the benefit of working with so many 3G Verizon devices from the past. One little area of issue of course, is the lack of NEW 3G devices hitting the market now that work with VZW’s network.
The coverage for Page Plus was amazing, but the data speeds were usually in the 1.2Mbps to 3Mbps range. For a prepaid service, the speeds should be considered pretty good, but when you compare this to Spot Mobile’s 14Mbps down and 3Mbps up, they tend to seem a bit slow. Even compared to Boost Mobile’s 8Mbps WiMAX speeds, the lack of download speeds left us feeling a bit slower.
Now, with that said, we NEVER lost our connection. Our Droid X activated flawlessly, ran all day long without any dropped calls or data issues. Their customer service was also as good as anyone could expect, although billing support left a bit to be desired. We hope that billing doesn’t become an issue often though, since refill cards are the easy way to get things going.
Overall, Page Plus has a plan that starts at $39.99 for the feature phone user, $55 for the normal Smartphone user and if you are a beastly data user, they even have a $69.99 option that includes 5GB of data. There really is a plan for everyone on the most reliable network in the US. Our $55 plan set us back $60.06, but we found that we could purchase refills online and not have to pay that additional $5 in taxes. With the $55 cost per month, the 24 month cost is $1320 and you can pick up a nice new iPhone4s from Apple for $549 keeping your total for that new 24 month deal a lowly $1869. Compare this to the contract Verizon Wireless pricing that will run you about $3300 for the same package.
Our 2012 Best Value In Wireless Champ returns for another run at the top with the return of their 2GB MAX plan. Originally dubbed the #3 value this year with the $54.99 1GB plan, our opinion changed with the quick addition of the higher data allotment combined with the sudden cut in Net10’s AT&T offering. Red Pocket Mobile stays atop our survey this year with exceptional coverage, good customer service and amazing handset selection. You can easily select any unlocked world phone or any AT&T device with the service. This means you have the option of using about half a jillion smartphones.
Coverage with Red Pocket Mobile was beautiful in all our major markets. Voice quality was clear and we didn’t experience any dropped calls. Our data speeds were between 5-7Mbps in most areas. This is hardly those super speedy LTE downloads, but for normal smartphone usage, the speeds are more than acceptable.
Customer service with Red Pocket Mobile is still a bit of a quandary with us. We had nothing but good experiences with them and even had a local dealer offer to help us set up our accounts and SIM cards. Unfortunately, it seems that some on the internet have had more issues with them than we did, but we have to continue to base our ratings off our personal experiences and not the rumormills or trolls that post online.
Red Pocket Mobile continues to blow us away and with the $59.99 plan back on the table, they continue to offer the best value in wireless for 2013. The $59.99 plan set us back $65.39 a month, until we found a tax free refill pin option online from a 3rd party seller. Even at the $65.93 a month, the 24 month total came to $1569.39. Adding a Blu Studio 5.3 II handset for $229.99 will bring the total package to $1799.33.
To all the carriers that participated in our 2013 Best Value In Wireless survey, thank you. We hope to see all of you back for 2014. A special thank you to the following carriers, and we look forward to publishing some full reviews of your service in the near future.
Boost Mobile – www.boostmobile.com
Red Pocket Mobile – www.goredpocket.com
Spot Mobile – www.spotmobile.com
Ultra Mobile – www.ultra.me
Virgin Mobile – www.virginmobileusa.com
T-Mobile Monthly 4G – www.tmobile.com
AT&T GoPhone – www.att.com
Straight Talk – www.straighttalk.com
Republic Wireless – www.republicwireless.com
Verizon Wireless – www.verizonwireless.com
Page Plus Cellular – www.pagepluscellular.com
Go Smart Mobile – www.gosmartmobile.com
Platinum Tel – www.ptel.com
Ting – www.ting.com
WalMart Family Mobile – www.walmart.com
Good2Go Mobile – www.good2gomobile.com
H2O Wireless – www.h2owirelessnow.com