Want to be as free as the open road when it comes to your data? Same.
The best unlimited data plans mean you don't have to worry about overage charges, you can stream music and video endlessly, and you can be anywhere.
For most people, having unlimited data is more important than texting or talking. Apps like WhatsApp and Skype (apps that allow talk, text, and video call over the internet), make it apparent to most carriers that offering more data and unlimited data plans is the way to go for their customers.
Compare unlimited data plans first. You'll always want to know what the options are for data plans before you decide on unlimited. How do you know if you need Unlimited? Read on.
Is Unlimited Data easy to purchase and compare? The market is always changing and every amazing and we capture all the changes as they happen. In August, a new Carrier (Rok) introduced unlimited data and Verizon updated all of their unlimited data options.
Here’s why you’ll want unlimited data in the first place:
You stream music constantly. If you’re someone who automatically turns their phone on in the morning and streams Spotify or Pandora throughout the entire day, you’ll need unlimited data without interruptions.
You generally use more than 6GB a month. The average person uses about 2GB of data a month per device. If you are anything but average and stay online all day, then unlimited might be for you.
You travel and need constant access to your emails and websites. Tethering and hotspots galore. Never ask anyone what their WiFi password is again. Ever.
Best Unlimited Data: T-Mobile
Why we like it: T-Mobile is our pick for best but it was a close one. On their ONE plan, you get unlimited data, calls, and texts--with HD streaming included. The cost is $70 and includes taxes and fees. Sprint offers similar features with their Unlimited Freedom Plan for $60 but this doesn't include taxes and fees. With most carriers, overage fees are all but gone completely. Just know that streaming is optimized to 480p after a certain data threshold is reached. Another reason why the ONE plan is great is that Sprint offers the ONE plan 55+, also. This is essentially the same as the ONE plan but anyone 55+ can get TWO lines for $60. The ONE line of plans seem to get better and better with each rollout.
Best Prepaid Unlimited Data: Sprint Forward
Why we like it: This prepaid offering allows you to pick up an "entry-level" device outright for 50% off, or a higher-end device for 25% off. Some of the devices that fall into the former category include the Samsung Galaxy J3 Emerge, the LG Tribute HD, and the ZTE Max XL; you'll be shelling out $145 upfront for one of these phones. Devices in the latter category include a pre-owned iPhone 6s, the Samsung Galaxy J7 Perx, and the LG Stylo, all of which will cost you $270 after the discount.
Learn more about the Sprint Forward plan here.
Cheapest Unlimited Data: Rok Mobile
Why we like it: If you're looking for cheap unlimited data, check out ROK Mobile. Their Unlimited plan's price isn't part of a promotion that will expire after a year. Virgin Mobile and Sprint's Unlimited data plan offers are great, but they'll expire once the promotional period is over. With Rok Mobile, this is it. Unlimited Gigs for $45 running on the Sprint network. Good to know: ROK has just launched GSM plans to match their CDMA plans. This means you can bring your own phone and not worry if it's compatible or not. They have networks that use both now!
At the time of writing this, we think this is the best cell phone deal in the market today.
Best Unlimited Data for Hotspot Tethering: T-Mobile
Why we like it: T-Mobile One plan nails it. Why? The best kept secret of T-Mobile One's Binge-On feature which allows you to tether high quality video (HBO and Netflix included) without it counting towards your mobile hotspot data allotment. End result: very happy tethered devices with access to streams and streams of video at yes, standard definition, but we checked it out and the picture's great.
It's also worth noting here that Sprint got dinged right away because it drops you down to 2G speeds ( which would make anything beyond texting and emailing painfully slow) once you've gone over your mobile hotspot allotment, and Verizon and AT&T both charge more for their plans for just offering plain vanilla hotspots.
Check out the full list of unlimited data plans and their current prices below. Click on the jump here for more information on prepaid unlimited data plans.
How to Buy Unlimited Data Plans
There was a strange moment in time when carriers stopped offering unlimited data plans. Unless you were grandfathered into an unlimited data plan, you were kind of stuck with tiers. Unlimited data plans are making a comeback. But here's a secret: there’s a limit to your unlimited data plan. Most people just never reach it.
Here are some options to be aware of with unlimited data plans: postpaid, prepaid, or mobile hotspot.
Postpaid plans are plans with a recurring monthly cycle, and a monthly bill to match. These are great for those of us who want to use a lot of data and don’t really want to do any math about gigabytes. With carriers like Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile offering postpaid options for those already in the know about what kind of data user they are, it makes sense to go this route.
Sprint seems a bit more affordable than the rest at $60 for their Unlimited Freedom plan. This plan gives you unlimited text, talk, and data with 5GB for tethering. Verizon doesn’t offer unlimited data but you can get 4GB starting at $70. Again, you can get data with any carrier. Just be aware of how much data you actually need.
Prepaid unlimited data plans are affordable if you can shell out for your phone and prepaid plan all at once. The great thing is that you don’t have a contract, you don’t need to do a credit check, and you don’t have to pay an activation fee. The only negative thing about the prepaid option is that you’d have to pay cold hard cash at the time of purchase while postpaid allows payments (comes in handy when buying a new phone). Some great options are MetroPCS, Booth, and Cricket.
Mobile hotspots are growing in popularity as more people want to avoid jumping on WiFi that seems a bit dodgy (prisoncantholdme666 is an available network but do we want to use it?)
Unlimited data options are great for those who just want more WiFi without having to ask a barista what the password is. T-Mobile has a pretty good plan called One. You get unlimited data with 10GB of 4G LTE speed for hotspot. Sprint offers mobile hotspots with unlimited data for $60. See below for details on more carriers.
Is Unlimited Data Really Unlimited?
The truth is there is always a limit. It’s just that the technical threshold is so big that it feels unlimited. If you do reach that "unlimited" data cap (it varies from carrier to carrier) something called deprioritization happens. You can still access high-speed data, but if the network is congested your carrier will preference other customers who don't use as much data as you do.
It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when it was actually unlimited. Here’s the backstory:
In 2010 carriers ended up selling way more smartphones than they could have imagined. They didn’t think they’d sell as many so the unlimited data plans they offered grew to be more unlimited than even they could have envisioned. They initially thought, “Sure. Unlimited data. No big deal. No one is going to use it all that much.”
Turns out, everyone wanted to use it. All. That. Much.
Carrier networks have a limited capacity. Too many concurrent users, and you get congestion. Get congestion and you get slow internet access and data drop-outs. Kill the internet and you get very unhappy customers.
That’s when carriers began to pull back on the unlimited data plans, offering tiers of data with caps and overage charges. Some people are still grandfathered into these old school unlimited data plans and their carriers are still honoring them. If you sign up with a carrier today, however, you’ll be able to choose from unlimited data plans with certain restrictions. The reason for this is the above mentioned limit on unlimited. That is to say that everyone deserves the super fast speed they pay for, so if you go over that threshold that we do not speak of, carriers will slow down speeds and prioritize users in order to keep the flow of data free of congestion.
Heard enough? Go here now to compare unlimited data plans.