How to Find the Best No Contract Smartphone Plans in 2015 – Part 1
Last updated 3/26/2016
Almost everyone has a smartphone or will have one shortly. Their usefulness is undeniable. This convenience comes at a high cost and often a multi-year commitment. We examine some little known companies that can take the average cell phone bill from just under $150 to as little as $30 a month. It is surprising that only 1-2% of subscribers switch to other carriers every year, they must feel married to their service.
Important: As with any mobile wireless plan, you need to ensure you have coverage where you need it. Home, work, play, you need signal otherwise it does not matter what the price is.
Traditionally, smartphone buyers were able to purchase the latest smartphone at a significant discount, often $199, when they committed to a new 2 year plan with a major wireless carrier like, AT&T Wireless, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile. Things have changed. There are many more options available to smartphone owners.
No contract Smartphone plans are increasing in popularity due to the growing trend of low-cost prepaid smartphones and lower cost unlocked smartphones. Unlocked smartphones like the Google Nexus 6 ($499) and the Motorola Moto G ($199) are very affordable, and consumers do not have to lock themselves into a 2-year contract. Additionally, used smartphones are readily available on eBay and Craigslist, fueled by people selling off their old phone when upgrading.
If you are stuck in a contract, look for ways to get out of it. This can happen when they change terms of their contract. Also, look for discounts on the plan. Many larger employers have discounts with carriers.
We will examine the leading prepaid no contract smartphone plans to help you find the best one.
Check and compare coverage using Open Signal.
Key Factors to Look for in a No Contract Wireless Carrier
Here are the main attributes you need to understand when evaluating a wireless carrier:
- Price – of course you want to minimize this.
- Network – these carriers buy access on one of the major 4 networks. Understand which network works well in your home and area of travel.
- Minutes – Only purchase as many minutes as you need. More people are concerned with text and data limits.
- Text Messages – Make sure you have enough to cover your needs.
- Data –Pick a plan that has enough data for your needs.
- Smartphones – Ensure that your desired phone is available for this carrier.
- International – does the carrier allow you to use the phone internationally?
Time to switch. Verizon Wireless has Switch to Verizon - Free Motorola One 5G - after 24 monthly bill credits. $549 value. When you sign up for an Unlimited plan and activate a new line. No trade in required. Free 2 day Shipping. Expires: 1/24/2021 - Online only. 50% off Activation fee - only $20 instead of $40.
- Get 5G Access at no extra charge
Play More Unlimited Plan
- 1 Line $80 for 5G, Unlimited Talk, Text, 4G LTE Data, Up to 15GB hotspot, DVD Quality Streaming, Apple Music Free for 6 months. Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ included
- 4 lines for $160
Motorola One 5G Specs
- 6.7" bezel-free display
- 5G optimized Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 processor
- 4GB Memory
- 128GB Storage
- 48MPixel Macro Vision + Ring Light
- Up to 49 hr of usage time
- Up to 11 days of standby
Posted: January 21, 2021 10:39 AM PST
New, unlocked Android phone gives you the flexibility to change carriers and choose your own data plan; works with Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and other major carriers
- Great Value, no need to pay $700-$1000 for an expensive flagship phone!
- If your phone stopped getting monthly security updates, it is time for a new phone
It does not have all the latest bells and whistles but does the job at half the price of top of the line phones. No waterproofing, so use a good case. cnet Review calls it a feature rich budget smartphone
Google Pixel phones get all the latest updates and do not have junkware installed. Comes with 3 years of OS and security updates] and the custom-built Titan M chip.
- New, unlocked Android phone gives you the flexibility to change carriers and choose your own data plan; unlocked smartphone works with T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and other major carriers; not compatible with the Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband network
- 5G capable cell phone gives you an extra boost of speed so you can download a movie in seconds, enjoy smooth streaming in ultra clear HD, play games at home and on the go, and even share your 5G speed with friends
- The all day battery can last up to 48 hours with Extreme Battery Saver
- Your phone will automatically receive the latest OS and security updates for at least 3 years; the custom-made Titan M chip helps secure the operating system and sensitive data, like passwords
- Take vibrant photos on your phone even in the dark with Night Sight, bring studio-quality light to your pictures of people with Portrait Light; and get more scenery and people in the shot with the rear-facing ultrawide lens
- With Call Screen, Google Assistant filters out detected spammers without interrupting you and provides helpful information about callers you don’t recognize before you answer your phone
- With HD Google Duo screen sharing, you can read articles, watch live sports, and video chat with friends and family
- Phone includes a 3.5 mm audio jack for maximum flexibility, so it works with the wired or Bluetooth headphones you already have
Posted: January 21, 2021 5:20 AM PST
For Verizon, AT&T, T–Mobile, Sprint, Boost, Cricket, & Metro
- Pre-installed selection of Amazon apps, including the Amazon Widget, Amazon Shopping, and Amazon Alexa. Prime members have easy access to daily deals, Prime movies and TV shows, Prime Music, Amazon Photos, and more with a single sign-on experience
- Amazon Alexa: Double press the power button to just ask, and Alexa will respond. Alexa can play music, provide news updates, check the weather wherever you are and more
- 6.2" Full HD+ Max Vision display with an 18:9 aspect ratio, 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage with option to add up to 128 GB of microSD expandable memory, and Android 9
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 1.8 GHz octa-core processor and fast 4G LTE speed
- 12 MP + 5 MP dual rear cameras for studio-quality portraits and 8 MP front-facing camera with LED flash for wide-angle selfies
Posted: January 20, 2021 11:59 PM PST
Time to switch to a better carrier with a new iPhone 12 with Unlimited.. Up to $700 off iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12Pro Max 5G - AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Xfinity when you activate service and trade in select phones. Deals are way better than expected, time to upgrade and switch carriers. If you have anything older than an iPhone X, to time to upgrade.
Wireless companies are giving phones away in exchange for locking you in for 30 months of bill credits.
Unlock your credit report if you locked it to pass credit checks.
Special iPhone 12 Promotions when you Switch
- AT&T: New and existing customers get the amazing iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro max, 12 mini for $700 off with iPhone 8 or newer trade in and 30 AT&T Bill Credits.
- Verizon: Buy one, get one up to $750 off with new line, activation. These phones qualify for this offer: Apple iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 12 Pro Max. OR Get up to $440 off iPhone 12's with trade in. Expires Soon
Xfinity: $250 off iPhone 12 when you switch to Xfinity
- T-Mobile: Up To $830 Off 12 Pro Max or 12 Pro (via 30 Monthly Bill Credits) with a Qualifying Device Trade-In valid for New Lines Only/Auto Pay only.
- Verizon iPhone SE 64GB Free when you Switch. 50% off activation. Expires 1/31/2021
Some Older phones are available with less trade in. Trading in is a lot easier than selling your phone on eBay or Craigslist.
New iPhones 12:
- iPhone 12: Starts at $799 (64GB), $8749 (128GB), $949 (256GB)
- iPhone 12 Pro: Starts at $999 (128GB), $1,099 (256GB), $1,299 (512GB)
- iPhone 12 Pro Max: Starts at $1,099 (128GB), $1,199 (256GB), $1,399 (512GB)
- iPhone 12 Mini: 5.4" screen but same as iPhone 12! Starts at $699
AT&T Unlimited Starter Plan
- 1 Line $65/mon for Unlimited Talk, Text, Web, DVD Quality Streaming, Max 3Mbps data speed, No Hotspot
- 5G Access
- Standard Mobile Security
- 5 lines for $150
- Plus tax & fees
AT&T Special Trade-In Offer: Monthly Price reflects net monthly payment, after application of AT&T trade-in credit up to $800 applied over 30 months after trade-in of eligible smartphone with min. $95 trade-in value. Requires upgrade of an existing line (or activation of a new line in stores) and purchase of a new iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, or iPhone 12 Pro Max on qualifying 30 month 0% APR installment plan, subject to carrier credit qualification.
Verizon StartUnlimited Plan
- 1 Line $70 for Unlimited Talk, Text, Web, DVD Quality Streaming, Unlimited Hotspot (600kbps)
- 5G Nationwide
- Disney+ 6 month on Verizon
- Apple Music Free for 6 months
- Plus tax & fees
Verizon Special Trade-in Offer: Monthly price reflects net monthly payment, after Apple instant trade-in credit at checkout, and Verizon monthly bill credits applied over 24 months. Customer must remain in the Verizon Device Payment Program for 24 months to receive the full benefit of the Verizon bill credits. Bill credits may take 1-2 bill cycles to appear. If it takes two cycles for bill credits to appear, you’ll see the credit for the first cycle on your second bill in addition to that month’s credit. Requires purchase and activation of a new iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, or iPhone 12 Pro Max with the Verizon Device Payment Program at 0% APR for 24 months, subject to carrier credit qualification, and iPhone availability and limits.
T-Mobile Essentials Plan
- 1 line $65/month, 4 lines $105/month
- Unlimited Talk Text and Web
- DVD quality SD Streaming 480p
- 3G Mobile hotspot
- T-Mobile Tuesdays
Wireless Data Requirements
If you are a current smartphone user, check your bill to see how much data you use. Your new plan can be sized to your current usage patterns. According to Nielsen, the average person used 733MB of data in early 2013. Most people paid for a lot more, approximately 2GB. In 2014 the average smartphone user was estimated to use 2.3GB. In 2015 it is projected to be 3.2GB.
Keep in mind that most people are connected to Wi-Fi to perform data intensive operations. Roughly 70% of mobile device Internet traffic is now carried by Wi-Fi.
If you are new to smartphones, consider these guidelines:
- Email, Social Networking, News, Web Browsing – 1GB per month
- Plus music streaming or downloading, sharing photos, download apps – 3GB per month
- Plus movies, video streaming – unlimited per month
These are some rough figures to help you select the appropriate plan. Keep in mind that most unlimited plans slow down your data transfers after you pass a preset limit.
Not every phone will be available on every network. You need to decide on the handset that you will be using. The major choice is Android or iOS, after that, most wireless carriers have the same popular smartphones.
Does the carrier allow you to bring your own phone? Most of the ones that allow you to do this support GSM technology that is used by the AT&T and T-Mobile wireless networks. Those which run on Sprint or Verizon networks usually require you to buy a new smartphone. Consider this before you buy an unlocked or used phone off eBay or Craigslist.
Android – is supported by all prepaid wireless carriers.
iPhone – is not available on MetroPCS, Freedom Pop, and Republic Wireless.
Summary of No-Contract Plans for a Single Smartphone
*Unlimited Data Plans slowed to 2G-3G speeds after monthly allotment of data has been used.
** Sprint's Fine Print: "Sprint may terminate service if off-network roaming usage in a month exceeds: (1) 400 min. or a majority of min.; or (2) 100 MB or a majority of KB."
T-Mobile is one of the major four wireless carriers in the United States. They have a wide range of no contract smartphones available for purchase. They run a GSM network, allowing you to purchase an unlocked phone and use it on their network. All you need to do is buy their SIM starter kit.
Coverage - Good to very good depending on your area. Check their coverage maps
Best Plan - T-Mobile an excellent $30 per month plan with unlimited web and text, and 100 minutes. This Plan requires you to activate a new account with a New SIM. T-Mobile stores do not sell inactivated SIM cards. The first 5GB of data is available at up to 4G speeds. This plan is available for devices purchased from Walmart or devices activated on T-Mobile.com.
If you need more voice minutes, consider their $50 T-Mobile plan with unlimited talk and text. First 500MB of data at up to 4G speed.
Smartphone selection – Various, including Galaxy S4 and 5, Nokia Lumia 635, and iPhone 6 and 6 plus.
Bring your device - You can buy an unlocked GSM iPhone or Android Smartphone elsewhere and then buy their SIM starter kit to take advantage of this plan.
T-Mobile is best when:
- You are on a budget
- You want to use an existing unlocked GSM phone
- You are a Heavy Data User
- You use very few voice minutes
- Good Coverage in your local area
Virgin Mobile is a subsidiary of Sprint and uses the same CDMA technology and network. Virgin's lowest prepaid price plan offers a little more Anytime minutes than T-Mobile's but costs a few bucks more. The only downside is the throttling starts after 2.5GB. It will boil down to what you need more, Data or Minutes, and if coverage is good in your area (assuming you are using an iPhone).
Coverage - Okay to good depending on your area. Better on the East Coast than the West Coast. Check their coverage maps
Best Plan - Virgin mobile $35 per month with 300 talk minutes and unlimited text and web with 2.5 GB high speed data OR unlimited text, web, and talk with 250 MB high speed data.
Only $30 per month and more talk minutes than T-Mobile when you use an iPhone and sign up for Auto Pay.
Smartphone Selection – iPhones including 6 and 6 plus, Nokia Lumia 635 and $50 Android phones. No Samsung Galaxy phones.
Bring your device - You need to buy a phone from them. Sprint and Boost Mobile phones will not work.
Virgin Mobile is best when:
- You are a Heavy Data User
- You use Low Voice or VoIP minutes
- You want to use an iPhone
- Sprint has good coverage in your area
Boost Mobile is owned by Sprint and uses the same CDMA technology. Boost Mobile offer much better no-contract options than Sprint. They offer only a limited number of plans but lots of Smartphones are available.
Coverage – Sprint’s Network
Best Plan – Monthly Unlimited Talk, Text, and data. The cheapest of these plans is $35/month with 1GB 3G/4G Data.
Smartphone Selection –Good Variety. 42 phones including the iPhone 6 and 6 plus, the Galaxy S4 through 6, and the Moto G.
Bring Your Own – Can use some older Sprint Smartphones on Boost but not the newer ones. The best Smartphone allowed is the HTC Hero. Not worth it!
Boost Mobile is best when:
- You have reliable Sprint coverage
- Want more Smartphone variety
- Want a cheap Unlimited plan
Consumer Cellular is a no contract carrier that is often recommended by Consumer Reports. They have a 30 day risk free trial. Their products are sold in many Sears and Target stores. Family plans to share minutes. Maximum of 4GB available. For superlight users, they have a Talk only plan from $10/month. They use US based call centers.
Coverage – GSM, AT&T Network
Best Plan – Monthly Unlimited Text, and 3GB data $30/month. Need to pay more for Talk, +$50 for Unlimited minutes/month
Smartphone Selection –Not a lot of Variety. Latest iPhones, 5 lower end Android phones and no Samsung ones, and some flip phones.
Bring Your Own – Can use AT&T or T-Mobile Smartphones. Free SIM Card.
Consumer Cellular is best when:
- You have reliable AT&T coverage
- Have a phone to use or want an iPhone
- You need the flexibility to change talk, data needs - Even Monthly
- Need a family plan to share talk and data
- Want a cheap plan
- Discount for AARP members
Cricket Wireless (Parent company: Leap Wireless International) is a well known no contract wireless provider that was purchased by AT&T Wireless. In May 2014, Aio merged into Cricket Wireless after AT&T bought Leap Wireless. (Cricket) They will be moving from CDMA Sprint Network to GSM AT&T shortly.
Cricket has a variety of Smartphones from the latest Samsung Galaxy to very inexpensive Android and Windows and Nokia Phone Smartphones. They have their own stores and also sell their products in major retailers. The have a good selection of iPhones.
There's also a Bring Your Own Phone option for $9.99.
Monthly Cell phone plans start at $40 for unlimited talk, text, and web. (first 2.5 GB at 4G LTE speed) Cricket uses the nationwide AT&T Network. Additional lines are discounted more on their family plans.
Cricket throttles 4G LTE speeds to 8Mbps and 4G HSPDA speeds to 4Mbps before you hit your cap. Hot spot access costs extra.
Metro PCS has one of the lowest prices for Unlimited Voice, Text, and Data. However, data speed throttling starts after 500MB (MegaBytes). Be sure to keep the network coverage into consideration, so you can get the best experience. Metro PCS is under T-Mobile's network, as they were acquired last year.
Coverage - Okay at best on the T-Mobile network
Best Plan - $30 per month unlimited talk, text, and web with first 1GB of data at up to 4G LTE speeds.
Smartphone Selection - Very Limited but Metro PCS offers the popular Samsung Galaxy S6 and some inexpensive Microsoft and LG phones. No iPhones.
Bring your device - Purchase a SIM card and pop it into your GSM phone.
Metro PCS is best when:
- You are use a lot voice minutes
- You don't care if data is 2G or 3G speed
- Need Lowest Price for unlimited talk, text, and data
- T-Mobile has good coverage in your area
Tracfone owns NET10 and Straight Talk. Straight Talk is a little more expensive than other pre-paid wireless providers, but it utilizes both CDMA and GSM technology used on the AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint network. This network will favor T-Mobile and Sprint in most areas even though AT&T has a better LTE coverage than T-Mobile and Sprint. Straight Talk also sells SIM cards available for the T-Mobile network.
Coverage - Okay to good depending on your area. Check their coverage maps.
Best Plan - $45 per month for unlimited talk, text, and web for a No contract Smartphone plan. First 5GB Data at high speed.
Smartphone Selection - They offer the older Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 6, 6 plus. There are also very inexpensive reconditioned Android phones.
Bring your device – Unlocked GSM or locked T-Mobile phone or Non-LTE Verizon phones; Just buy a SIM Card
Preferred Network Based on Phone:
- iPhone 5c, 5, 5s – Verizon
- iPhone 6, 6 plus– AT&T
- Samsung Galaxy S5 or 6 – T-Mobile
You can check for compatibility with Straight Talk's guide here.
Straight Talk is best when:
- You want Unlimited Talk, Text, and 2.5GB LTE speed
- You want one of the lowest price Unlimited plans on AT&T's Network
- AT&T or T-Mobile has good coverage in your area