There's a reason Sprint is one of the top four cell phone companies in America. The network it owns and operates is one of the largest in the country. It offers features such as truly unlimited data, family share plans and international calling. It boasts 4G LTE in 185 markets. And its superb device selection sets it above the lesser-known providers, offering everything from Android phones and iPhones to BlackBerrys and Tablets.
Where Sprint fails is in the quality of its network. As expansive as it is, Sprint is notorious for spotty coverage, even in major cities. It's a true nationwide network, and you'll be able to use your phone almost anywhere you go, but you may have to deal with dropped calls, low bars or other connection issues. Plus, you'll only get access to data speeds averaging 10.3Mbps. That's certainly fast, but it's slower than other carriers.
Sprint has streamlined its plans and now offers unlimited talk and text by default. The first device on a plan costs $50, to which you add a data allocation: $10 for a feature phone, $20 for a 1GB smartphone plan and $30 for an unlimited smartphone plan. Effectively, you can get unlimited talk, text and data for your new smartphone for $80 a month. This may be a lot compared to no-contract plans, but it lets you buy phones at subsidized rates, significantly reducing your up-front costs.
One of the newest plans Sprint offers is One Up, a no-contract early-upgrade plan that lets you buy yourself a new phone after just one year instead of the two years of a normal contract. On the One Up plan, you pay off the price of your phone every month on a payment schedule that lasts 24 months. After the first year, even though you will have only paid for half the price of your current phone, you can trade that phone in for a new one without penalty.
Since the $80 price for Sprint's single-line plan includes the cost of a subsidized phone, but you aren't buying a subsidized phone on the One Up plan, Sprint offers a $15 discount. You'll still end up paying more over the course of two years than you would on a basic plan. But, as we found in our research, Sprint's One Up is far cheaper than comparable early-upgrade plans at other carriers. If you're interested in getting a phone every year rather than every two years, it's a clear winner.
Since it's a major carrier, you'll have your pick of phones from Sprint when it's time to upgrade, however many years it's been. Top-of-the-line Android devices such as the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4; brand-new Apple products like the iPhone 5s and 5c; Windows phones; BlackBerrys; tablets; mobile hotspots – all are available, either online or at Sprint stores.
When it comes to coverage and 4G speeds, Sprint's network is the weakest of the four major carriers. In terms of price and phone selection, it's about average. But if you want unlimited data and the ability to upgrade your phone every year for as little as possible, Sprint is your best choice.
Sprint offers truly unlimited data, and its One Up plan is the cheapest early-upgrade plan offered by any of the big carriers.
Its network is merely adequate, with spotty coverage in some cities and slow 4G LTE data speeds.
Sprint lags behind the other big carriers in terms of coverage and overall quality. Its unlimited plans are truly unlimited, but they can be overpriced. If you're looking for a good buy, stick with One Up, Sprint's early-upgrade plan.