Virgin Mobile is a prepaid cell phone provider with a lot of flexibility in its plans. Its pay-as-you-go options pair well with feature phones, while its smartphone plans offer unlimited texts and data as well as varying numbers of talk minutes at rock-bottom prices. The provider falls short in other areas – its coverage, for example, relies on the weakest of the four major nationwide networks, and its device selection can't compete.
The most expensive plan Virgin offers is $55 a month for a single line and comes with unlimited talk, text and data. The data is throttled to 3G speeds after you hit a 2.5GB cap, so it's not truly unlimited like you might find at some other carriers. For just $55, though, it's a great deal. If you don't need unlimited talk minutes but still want to use a smartphone, you can sign up for either the $45 or $35 plan. Both come with unlimited texts and throttled data, along with 1,200 and 300 minutes of talk time, respectively.
As cheap as Virgin's plans are, its phones can get quite expensive. Feature phones will run you between $11.99 and $39.99, but smartphones can range as high as $600. This can be somewhat mitigated with payment plans: Through a partnership with PayPal, Virgin offers six-month, interest-free payment plans on any phone over $99. You have to have the credit to qualify, though, which could be difficult for some users.
Virgin Mobile doesn't offer family share plans, though a family of four could easily sign up for four separate $55 lines. The resulting $220 per month price tag is on par with the cost of family plans at many other providers, but those providers often offer additional features that Virgin lacks, such as international calling, tablets and subsidized phones.
Virgin licenses its network access from Sprint, which means all Virgin customers have access to the exact same network as Sprint customers. Depending on where you live, this may or may not be a concern. Sprint's network has very little coverage in many of the Western states, as well as more rural areas in the Eastern states. Major cities are covered, of course, but some still suffer from troubled reception – phone calls made in certain parts of Seattle, for example, are notoriously spotty.
Among prepaid cell phone providers, Virgin Mobile stands tall. Its unlimited plans, low rates and multiple payment options for new phones make decent cellular service affordable. When pitted against the major carriers, however, Virgin's lack of features becomes apparent. If you want a family plan, the ability to call internationally without breaking the bank, or just stronger cellular service than the Sprint network provides, Virgin won't be for you.
Virgin Mobile doesn't charge any unexpected fees to its customers, ever.
Spotty coverage and a lack of family, business and international plans limit the company's overall versatility.
As a prepaid provider, Virgin Mobile's monthly prices are easy on the wallet. When compared to bigger carriers, however, its coverage and feature set are substandard.