As we continue through our testing of the Best Wireless Value of 2014, we stumbled across how many things have changed since we did our 2013 reviews. Funny enough, one of our favorite MVNO’s came on board with quite a few changes in the last year. From adding iPad data only plans that use the T-Mobile network to CDMA plans for Sprint devices, Red Pocket Mobile has something for everyone.
Coverage: We have to break this into three areas for this year since we are technically looking at three separate networks.
First off, the GSMA phone network runs off the AT&T network. This is the largest GSM network in the country. Voice and data reception was great in all four of our test markets and you get more data than AT&T’s comparable GoPhone offerings. One limitation that Red Pocket Mobile has with their GSMA service is that the LTE network does not appear to be active on their offerings at this date.
The 4G Mobile Internet plans are available for data only subscribers. These would primarily be for tablets or mobile hotspot usage. These plans run off the T-Mobile HSPA+ network. Coverage is a bit rougher on this network, but for $10 a month you can add a 1GB hotspot to your laptop bag that will work very quickly in most major cities.
The CDMAS plans run off the Sprint network and, if your area and device supports it, will use the LTE portion of the network. If you currently use Sprint, your coverage may drop off slightly as Sprint does not allow MVNO’s to roam on to their partner networks. Again, if you live in a good Sprint coverage area, this plan could save you as much as $80 a month over Sprint’s current rates. The plan offerings from Red Pocket Mobile are virtually in line with those from Virgin Mobile, another Sprint MVNO.
Costs: Again looking at the three options, there are three different price points. Pricing is one that Red Pocket Mobile hasn’t really crushed the competition on in the past, but their affordable rates and tax savings alone will make switching from that native network really something to consider.
GSMA – With plans from $5 a month to $59.99 a month, there is something that will fit everyone’s needs. PayGo pricing is $.10 a minute and can be purchased in as small as $5 increments. The monthly plans start at $19.99 for 250 minutes and 500 texts. From there you increase to add more talk time and data. The $29.99 plan is perfect for those with a feature phone. The unlimited talk and text plan has 100MB of data added to it for use with mobile browsing and MMS messages. Going to the $39.99 plan, you increase the data to 500MB and add unlimited international calling to select destinations. The $49.99 plan now includes unlimited data, but after 500MB speeds are throttled to an almost unusable rate. $54.99 takes you to 1.5GB of capped data and $59.99 takes the total to 3GB of capped data. There are no overages or throttled speeds with these two plans. Something worth noting though, the $54.99 and $59.99 plans both include up to 200 minutes of free international calling every month.
4G Mobile – These plans are much more simple than the voice calling plans that are offered on the GSMA selections. You have three choices, all of which are unlimited data with certain allotments of 4G speeds. You can select 1GB for $10, 3GB for $30 or 5GB for $50 a month. After reaching those caps with your device, your speeds are dropped to 2G (100kbps) until your next billing cycle. For the lighter user, these can be the perfect compliment to your tablet or laptop.
CDMAS – Again, they did a much nicer job of pricing out these new plans than their GSM plans. Three simple options and no real hard choices to make here. We start off with the $29.99 plan that includes unlimited talk and text. It also includes 100MB of data, primarily for MMS, but it would also support a feature phone very nicely. The $34.99 plan flips directions and limits your talk, but gives you unlimited text and data. The 300 minutes of talk on this plan is perfect for those that never use their phone as a phone, but want the communication features of texting and unlimited LTE data. Check your area for data speeds before considering this value plan as many times (see the pink area of the map above) you will find yourself at a crawl instead of a Sprint. Finally, there’s the compromise plan with a $49.99 price tag. This plan drops unlimited talk, text and data in your lap for one low price. LTE speeds are available where Sprint has rolled out their network. WiMax and Spark should also be available in their respective markets as well.
Performance: Overall, the test devices performed well in our markets. We were a bit distraught by the fact that Sprint doesn’t offer LTE in some major markets, like Seattle, but hopefully they will be fixing that soon. Our tests of the GSM network was as good as usual with great voice quality, high data speeds and the ultimate level of device compatibility. Virtually any AT&T or unlocked GSM phone will perform beautifully on the GSMA plans. Data speeds routinely hit 15Mbps with an HSPA+42 compatible phone. This is back to where the performance was back in 2012 when RPM was our first choice in wireless providers.
The 4G Mobile data plans were also impressive with similar speeds and easy setup. Our USB stick took no time at all to get running and the Wi-Fi hotspot was just as easy to use. Overall, we were impressed with the fact that we could grab a pay as you go hotspot from Wal-Mart and be up and running in about 10 minutes. Speeds were a bit slower than our cellular connection using the same network, but overall, speeds in the 10-12Mbps range were about average on the network.
The CDMAS network was probably the most underwhelming option for us. Voice quality was still strong, but data speeds in 3 of our 4 markets were terrible. Downloads averaged between 300kbps and 1.2Mbps. We were able to get an older WiMax powered HTC Evo 4G activated in the Seattle area and achieved speeds of nearly 8Mbps, but when paying for unlimited data, we expect more in today’s market. The $49.99 plan is definitely a steal if you live in one of the orange areas on the coverage map above.
Overall Impressions: Setting up service with Red Pocket is almost too easy. You simply bring your old Sprint phone, AT&T device or any unlocked GSM phone to the network and they just work. iPhone setup has become too easy with a simple App from the Red Pocket website and Android devices are still just as easy as they were on day one. Even Windows Phones set up rather quickly with the right adjustments. Once you are registered on the network, the service you receive is a great value and dealers are becoming more and more popular across the country.
While there is better pricing out there, the coverage that Red Pocket offers is second to none. Overall, RPM and their new plans did nothing more than offer more options for more people to use. We love more options, and more options from Red Pocket Mobile is a win-win for everyone.