It may not be one of the major cell phone carriers dominating the U.S. market, but MetroPCS excels nonetheless. Its plans combine the quality of a big carrier with the affordability of a prepaid provider. It boasts a rightfully glowing customer service reputation, a solid feature set and decent coverage. And though it might not knock the carriers out of their top spots anytime soon, it comes closer than anyone else has.

In the wake of a recent acquisition, MetroPCS is now owned by T-Mobile and operates on T-Mobile's nationwide network. This gives it access to 4G LTE speeds and the larger brand's coveted "truly unlimited" data. For $40, you can get a MetroPCS plan with unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data, after which your data speeds will be throttled down. For $50 you can get the same plan, but with 2.5GB of data. And for $60, you can get truly unlimited high-speed data that will never be throttled. You could listen to as much music, watch as much streaming video and download as many apps as you please.

For families, MetroPCS offers family plans that take $5 off the price of monthly service for each phone. Family members can choose their own plans from the $40, $50 or $60 options, so if only one of you needs unlimited data, only one of you need pay for it. For a family of four, signing up for a shared plan would cut $20 from your combined bill every month.

As attractive as MetroPCS's plans are, its phone selection is unremarkable. The provider has just 12 phones available for sale. Three of them are feature phones, while several more are off-brand smartphones. A single Windows Phone – one of Nokia's Lumia models – is available for under $100. For gadget lovers, the Samsung Galaxy S4 can be purchased for $549.

Without phone subsidizing or payment plans, you'll have to pay the full price for phones up front, no matter how expensive they are. You can, however, buy a new SIM card for just $10, which allows you to bring your existing phone over to MetroPCS and avoid that large startup cost. Be sure to check that your phone is compatible using the eligibility tool on its website; some devices, like the iPhone, may or may not work depending on who your previous provider was.

MetroPCS Summary:
7.3/10

When it comes to prepaid cellular service that can compete with the major carriers, MetroPCS has some of the best cell phone plans around. Its weak device selection will disappoint some, and its network, while good, still comes in third overall in terms of call quality and coverage. But if you're looking for a simple, no-contract phone plan and can find and afford the phone you want on its sales site, MetroPCS won't disappoint.

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MetroPCS

Pros
MetroPCS offers truly unlimited, un-throttled data, talk and text for $60 a month, and has superb customer service to go with it.

Cons
You'll only be able to choose from a handful of phones, and MetroPCS doesn't have any payment plans to help you buy newer, more expensive devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S4.

The Verdict
: 7.33/10

MetroPCS is a fantastic prepaid cell phone provider. You'll have to pay more out of pocket to buy a new phone than you would with the big carriers, but you'll get great customer service and affordable monthly plans in return.