The citizens of America have long been taught that after purchasing a cell phone, the reasonable action is to pick a wireless plan from a prominent carrier like Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile. These plans can cost between $60 and $200 a month for individuals or families. The cost of the phone is soon eclipsed by the recurring service bills. However, this no longer has to be the norm. A lesser-known service provider, a discount carrier, can offer wireless plans for as little as $25 a month. They provide sufficiently fast internet speeds and reliable phone service. It takes courage and technological know-how to switch, the potential savings outweigh the downsides.
Budget carriers such as Cricket Wireless, Straight Talk, Boost Mobile, Mint Mobile, and Visible, lack a sense of prestige. They do not operate their own cell networks; instead, they lease wireless services from the big carriers. The no-frill plans often have trade-offs, including slower download speeds, as Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile subscribers have priority access to faster network performance. However, newer 5G and 4G cell technology is so fast that even budget carriers can provide very fast download speeds. Office workers who used to spend more time commuting and had to rely on their cellular network now have their commute time cut in half and are relying more on the Wi-Fi connection. The digital version of the SIM card lets you immediately activate an extra phone line without needing to insert a physical SIM card. After switching to a discount phone plan, a family of four buying new iPhones with a Cricket phone plan would spend $1,311 less than they would with Verizon.
In testing three discount services — Visible, Cricket and Straight Talk — on an iPhone in California, the difference from Verizon was slight. Consumers can sign up for discount phone plans by buying a physical SIM card from a website or a retail store, or by using an eSIM. I drove to 10 locations and tested each carrier’s internet speed with the Speedtest app, in addition to calling and using video streaming. The discount phone services performed fine overall, and delivered download speeds of up to 279 megabits per second, similar to my Verizon connection, which delivered download speeds of 287 megabits per second.
Of the three discount carriers, my favorite was Visible due to its smooth setup process and network performance. But cellular performance for each discount carrier will vary depending on the network’s coverage where you live and work. However, because eSIM technology makes it easy to switch to another network and the discount phone plans are cheap, giving a budget phone plan a try could be a smart decision. For example, Robin Phillips, a 54-year-old Seattle resident, tried Visible, despite initial hiccups, as it was worth it – he now saves about $1,000 a year.