PROS / In terms of value for money, Sprint stands tall, offering generous service plans and incentives at an affordable monthly rate.
CONS / It operates the weakest of the four major American networks – good enough for many but frustratingly slow in the age of streaming video.
VERDICT / If you just want affordable cell service and are willing to put up with slow LTE speeds to get it, Sprint’s value pricing is undeniably attractive.
There's a reason Sprint is one of the most recognized cell phone companies in America. The network it owns and operates is large and affordable, with features like truly unlimited data, family share plans and international calling. Its solid device selection sets it above lesser-known companies, offering Android phones, iPhones, tablets and hotspots. But Sprint is not without its drawbacks, chief among them a molasses-slow 4G LTE network that can struggle to stream HD video.
True, Sprint’s network covers more of the United States than T-Mobile, especially in rural areas, but it can't hold a candle to the coast-to-coast omnipresence of Verizon or AT&T. The network is notorious for spotty coverage, even in major cities. You can use your phone almost anywhere you go, but you may have to deal with dropped calls, low bars or other connection issues. Over half of the cities RootMetrics tested in its independent nationwide service analysis fell beneath the 10 Mbps speed line, and in this day and age, you often need at least 10 Mbps speeds. To be fair, Sprint used to be much worse and the company has greatly improved, but if having the fastest downloads and best, most stable cell phone service is important to you, other networks are far more capable.
The best things Sprint has going for it are its cheap cell phone plans. The company has an all-inclusive single-line plan for $75: You get unlimited talk, text and unthrottled 4G LTE data for $20 less than T-Mobile. Should you not need unlimited data, you can stick with a 3GB plan for $50 or a 6GB plan for $65. Both are on par with T-Mobile’s prices, though they lack T-Mobile’s data rollover or free media streaming programs – everything you do on a Sprint LTE connection counts toward your data cap.
Since it's a major carrier, Sprint customers have a decent selection of flagship phones to pick from. Top-of-the-line Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the HTC One A9 and M9, and the latest releases from LG are available for full purchase or on installment plans, as are Apple’s latest iPhones like the 6s and iPhone SE. The mid-tier selection is much weaker, with just a few older-generation phones from the major carriers. If you’re after a budget device, you’ve got six feature phones to pick from but few smartphone options under $200.
Sprint’s 4G LTE network is the weakest of the four major carriers, but when you consider price and phone selection, the value you get for your money is top-tier. If staying under budget is worth slower download speeds and the potential for a few dropped calls, Sprint may well be the best cell phone provider for your family.