Cricket Wireless floundered for several years with its small, private cellular network, and its cell phone coverage paled in comparison to what the best nationwide carriers offered. AT&T acquired the company and began merging it with Aio Wireless, but the process was long and arduous, and for some time customers remained tied to a patchy network. Now that the Aio merger is complete and Cricket phones are finally able to take advantage of AT&T's coverage, the prepaid cell phone provider has transformed from an also-ran option to a stalwart name in the business, offering some of the best cell phone plans around.

Cricket's base plan offers unlimited talk, texts (including international messaging) and 1GB of high-speed data for just $40 a month. You can increase your high-speed data limit to 3GB for $50 a month or go for a whopping 10GB for $60. Regardless of the plan you pick, Cricket throttles your speeds once you hit your data limit rather than charge you overage fees. If you sign up for automatic payments, it will knock $5 off each bill, bringing the basic 1GB plan down to just $35.

The cell phone company doesn't have designated family share plans, but it does provide a $10 discount to every additional line of service you put on your account, with the discount increasing the more phones you have on an account – $10 off for the second phone, $20 off the price of the third and so on. You can get four lines of smartphone service, each with unlimited talk, text and its own dedicated 3GB data allocation, for just $140 a month. If you sign up for automatic payments, that goes down to just $120.

Like all prepaid providers, Cricket doesn't subsidize its phones, so if you want a top-of-the-line model like the Samsung Galaxy S5, be prepared to pay hundreds up front. However, you can bring your own phone to the service, so if you already own a phone or want to buy one used and connect it to your Cricket account, you can do so and save yourself a great deal of money.

Cricket Wireless Summary:

When you compare Cricket's cell phone plans with the competition, you find them nearly unbeatable. For $50, its 3GB data tier tends to be a comfortable sweet spot for many users, and the AT&T network is the strongest available from any prepaid provider. If you're looking for the service and support of a small company with the network authority of a large one – and you're willing to pay the full price of a new phone or bring your own – Cricket could win your heart.


Cricket Wireless

Cricket pairs the solidity of AT&T's network with the affordability of a great prepaid provider.

You have to either pay the full, unsubsidized price for a new phone or bring your own; there are no used phones, early upgrades or phone payment plans to speak of.

The Verdict:

For those who want the speed and stability that the best carriers provide, without the extra hassle of contracts or early upgrade plans, Cricket Wireless is simple and affordable.