Sprint Review: The Empire Strikes Back (in Yellow)


WhistleOut
04 April 2017

Sprint Review

Sprint is 117 years old. Okay, the Sprint that we know today isn’t 117 years old, but it has origins dating back to 1899. As far as we're concerned, anything that started before the turn of the century (the last one, not 2000) is worthy of a Netflix special or at the very least, a solid, unbiased review from WhistleOut. Let’s pretend this is a hip documentary for a moment and dive into the super amazing opening credits. We see the typography (maybe retro, maybe typeface, up to you) appear across a rural Kansas town in 1899. The words read: "Sprint: A Cell Phone Carrier’s Journey." Do you see it?

What began as Brown Telephone Company in 1899 is now called the Sprint Corporation and has 30,000 employees. Sprint is the fourth largest mobile network operator in the United States and serves 60.2 million customers. They offer wireless voice, messaging, and broadband services through Boost, Virgin, and Assurance Wireless.

There are now four major carriers in the US and they are household names: Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. You probably have an opinion of each as their advertising is ubiquitous. However, if you haven't checked in a while, you probably didn't know that Sprint has changed. A lot. 

Sprint Today

Both Sprint and T-Mobile are under new leadership and are shaking up the wireless industry. Marcelo Claure is leading the Sprint turnaround and talking about Sprint's re-invention on Twitter or on TV as the greatest value player in the wireless market. Sprint's turnaround has been impressive. Their message is clear: 'we can provide a great service for the greatest price'. 

The strategy is working. Sprint is re-invogorated, customers are heading towards Sprint and Sprint wants your business (see below). 

It makes a lot of sense to be talking about value for customers in wireless, especially in this time of rising costs with everything from healthcare to gas. Keep reading to learn about the changes Sprint's made recently and how they size up against their competition. Don't forget to check out the review from a real WhistleOut staff member who is on the Sprint network. 

Sprint Breakdown

Strengths
  • Great phone selection
  • Most competitive pricing of the Big 4 carriers
  • No more 2-year contracts
  • Improved coverage
  • Best price on unlimited data
Weaknesses
  • Still considered the weakest (right now) of the Big 4 in rural areas
  • If you on an older phone you are not getting the best of Sprint
  • Promotional prices end after 2 years
  • Many phones from AT&T and T-Mobile can't be taken across to Sprint (you'll need get a new phone)
Value for Money
9/10
90%
Coverage & Speed
94/100
94%

How Sprint compares on pricing

There's no question that Sprint is the most competitive of the big four wireless carriers. Sprint wants to knock out the other carriers with aggressive pricing and it does that very well, coming up with new ways to stay on top. 

Sprint's pricing on their plans (excluding their taxes and fees of course) is where we at WhistleOut feel wireless pricing should be. We'd happily pay $60 for an unlimited plan for a single line any day of the week.  As far as AT&T and Verizon are concerned, they don't want an unlimited price that looks anything like $60/mo. This type of competition between the carriers is good and only serves us as consumers. 

Let's keep comparing below.

Here's a promotional 5 line comparison (note prices change everyday - for current 5 line pricing, click here).

Unlimited Data Comparison
Carrier Single Line Pricing
Sprint Unlimited Data (video at 480p DVD quality) $60/mo
T-Mobile Unlimited Data (video at 480p DVD quality) $70/mo
Verizon Unlimited Data (video at 480p DVD quality) $80/mo
AT&T Unlimited Data (must have a Direct TV account) $100/mo

Sprint is the clear winner for unlimited data pricing among the Big 4 carriers. However, like all major carriers (excluding T-Mobile) Sprint adds on the taxes and other charges. This can be 17% of your monthly bill and anyone signing up with Sprint should be aware that pricing varies. 

  • Unlimited Data Plan for Single Line is $60/mo + $10.20 (17%) in taxes and charges = $70.20/mo

Sprint rotates through promotions, and their pricing is quite custom. Right now if you are with Verizon or AT&T you can still get 50% off your current rate plan by switching to Sprint. Sprint's promotions are the most impressive in the market. At the time of writing this guide, the stand out comparison was the 5 line comparsion as seen below. 

5 Line Comparison
Carrier Lines Pricing
Sprint 5 lines with Unlimited Data $100/mo
T-Mobile 5 lines with Unlimited Data $180/mo
Verizon 5 lines with 18GB of Data to share  $180/mo
AT&T 5 lines with 10GB $180/mo

Again, Sprint is the clear winner in the 5-line comparison space. 

Two of the features that makes Sprint unique is the iPhone Forever program and the 30 Day Satisfaction Guarantee program. 

iPhone Forever is a program for the iPhone lover who wants to upgrade every time there is a new iPhone. It's a lease program where you pay a lower monthly amount for your phone so that whenever the new iPhone is releases, you trade in your old one. As a lease program you don't actually own the iPhone; rather, you are leasing it from Sprint and you just lease a new one. 

Feature Comparison

Sprint Verizon T-Mobile AT&T
Overages No NoNo No
iPhone Forever Yes No Yes (similar) No
Calls to Mexico + Canada Yes Yes Yes Yes
30 Day Guarantee Yes No No No

Every situation is different and this is just a snapshot of one of Sprint's plans. For a comparison across wireless carriers, including Sprint, for your own personal situation we recommend you use our comparison tool.

Sprint coverage has improved 

Sprint's coverage scores from Nielsen

Are you getting left behind with Sprint's coverage? No. 

Sprint is well served in all the major markets. In some markets, Sprint actually has the very best coverage scores in independent tests.

Outside of Metro areas (i.e. rural areas or those along interstate highways) Sprint's coverage is behind Verizon and AT&T. This is something that's hard to argue with, however, as the sheer scale of coverage that these two carriers have built over years of growth simply can't be beat overnight.

To understand if Sprint is right for you, it helps to think like Sprint. They think that for most people, in most places, they are very well covered. The data supplied but 3rd party analysts let us know that in a city like LA or Chicago, this is not the difference between first class and coach on Sprint and Verizon -  this is the difference between the types of peanuts and sodas served on the flight.

Sprint will tell you that their network performance is a 1% difference to AT&T and Verizon and that you'd never notice that 1% difference, therefore you should not pay 50% more on your bill with Verizon and AT&T. You can't argue with the math on that. However, there are three things that you need to know to ensure you get all the facts before choosing Sprint:

  1. This reported 1% difference is a metro area percentage difference. The gap is not reported in rural / remote areas
  2. Sprint's advertisements only use one source of data to calculate the 1%
  3. Every carrier always hails the success of their own network and trashes their competitors so let's not ever trust a carrier's claims 100%

To get a quick truth test on Sprint's claims (pictured above), we can in fact compare this against other 3rd party groups who track coverage to provide some cross-checking. 

Nielsen (quoted in Sprint's ads)

  • A -1% difference for Sprint in Metro markets against Verizon and AT&T

RootMetrics (3rd party network testing company) whose 2016 scores reported

  • A -3.6% difference for Sprint against Verizon and -2.4% against AT&T in 280 metro areas

In summary, you might notice a difference of up to 3%. Or, you might not. We certainly didn't and we had great Sprint coverage in our tests. 

Coverage Comparison

Wireless coverage in each market differs with each carrier. 3rd party tests have scored Sprint as the leader in markets like Denver CO, Houston TX, and markets in Tennessee. The national coverage scores below show that no carrier has perfect coverage all the time.

Lastly, the latest phones always get the best coverage as they can tap into Sprint's newest network, Spark. Remember, wireless coverage is a combination of the network from the carrier (towers, antennas, infrastructure) AND your phone. 

Things to Consider with Sprint

Sprint wants to make their service as enticing as possible to current and future subscribers. By offering new and easier ways to keep their customers happy they just might inch their way back to a happy placement within the Big 4. 

1) Hot spot

With the Sprint Unlimited plan you now get 5GB of mobile hotstpot (tethering) included in the plan. This was not previously included on earlier unlimited plans so if you are on an older plan, switch! 

2) Phone Leasing (iPhone Forever)

Unless you are truly obsessed with the latest iPhone and must have it every year, our tip is to use the installment pricing option where you are paying off your phone on a 0% APR and own it at the end. Most phone leasing terms are 24 months but with iPhone forever, you get to upgrade to the very latest iPhone every year. However with iPhone forever, you will be leasing the phone instead of owning it. To upgrade iPhones as part of the iPhone forever program, you need to hand in your old iPhone. 

3) To get the best of Sprint, you need a new phone. 

Sprint has a variety of phones and cater to a variety of lifestyles. If you're switching over from another carrier you can try to bring your own phone but there's no guarantee your phone will work on the Sprint network. If you do have to buy a new phone, that's great. Just choose one that works with your type of credit (anything from good credit to no credit check is available at Sprint). There are pre-owned phones, new phones, leased and prepaid options for the mobile device that works best with you.

4) 30 Day Guarantee

Beginning January 2017, Sprint is standing behind their service and products by allowing a 30-day window to return or walk away from Sprint without any problems. Just return your device in good condition and walk away with a complete refund. It really is that simple.

Your friends might have just switched to Sprint

Customers are leaving AT&T and Verizon in droves for Sprint and T-Mobile. If you haven't looked for a while and you thought Verizon and AT&T were the only games in town, then you'd be surprised to know that both of these carriers are losing customers every quarter. It's only Sprint and T-Mobile who are adding customers right now which means that the market is vouching for Sprint. 

In July to September of 2016 Sprint added a net gain of 344k customers, whilst Verizon lost 36k customers and AT&T lost 268k customers. 

The crowd is moving. Switching has never been easier for ANY carrier, but Sprint should definitely be a contender. 

Sprint and T-Mobile are the new cool places to be in Wireless. Get your head out of the sand and stop lining the pockets of major corporations -- if you can get a similar service for cheaper, then do it! The smart money in wireless today is chasing value. The market is saturated and mature, so Sprint suits the value shopper better than any other Big 4 carriers right now. 

How Much Should You Expect To Pay?
From $60/mo (Video at 480p)
Compare
Prepaid From $35/mo (1GB data) Compare
PrePaid Brands from Sprint (Boost / Virgin) From $30/mo (2GB) Compare
Data Add Tablet Only SIMs From $20/mo Compare
Want to contact Sprint?
Twitter @Sprint
Facebook facebook.com/sprint
Phone
Sales
866-866-7509 (8am-9pm, Monday to Friday. 9am-to-7pm, Saturday and Sunday)
Service
866-866-7509 (8am-9pm, Monday to Friday. 9am-to-7pm, Saturday and Sunday)
Websitesprint.com/support
Contact Page sprint.com/contact
Support Apps iPhone, Android

WhistleOut Staff Review

Michelle Robinson
Writer at WhistleOut in California
Uses the Sprint 4GB Family Plan (3 lines)
“Long term Sprint customer”

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE SPRINT?

I didn't choose the Sprint life. The Sprint life chose me. My brother grandfathered himself into Sprint decades ago and I sort of ended up with a phone and service without much thought. Kind of like a one-night-stand that turns into a long-term relationship. We get along well enough but I wonder what it would be like to be with some one else. 

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE?

I've had some issues with slower data from time to time. That was annoying but happened so infrequently that I could forgive. My calls never drop and my experience has been good overall. 

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

I love that there are no overage charges. I also love the iPhone forever feature they offer. 

WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

Since I'm on a family plan with unlimited data and text, I have no real complaints. I just think that I'd save a bit more money with Sprint as an individual as their plans seem better suited to individuals starting at just $40. I would try to make the family plans with unlimited data more affordable so large families can benefit.

WHO WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS TO?

I'd recommend this to anyone who is just looking for a decent plan with good coverage. If you're looking for something greater than the reliable basics, there are other carriers out there to explore. 

FAQs
Sprint no longer has overage charges. What they do is throttle down the speed of your data if you go over your data cap limit. This is if you have data caps. If you have an unlimited data plan, you are able to enjoy without speed throttling or extra fees.
Yes, you can always keep your number when switching to a different provider.
Sprint coverage is good throughout the United States but there are rural areas and some interstates that can be patchy.
Sprint is on the CDMA network and now covers more than 300 million LTE service.
Sprint offers 3G, 4G LTE, and LTE Plus coverage in all of the United States with some exceptions in rural spots.
U.S. customers have access to International Value Roaming and now have the ability to text and go online at 2G speeds for no extra charge in 15 countries. Subscribers can also make international calls from these countries for $0.20 per minute. 

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WhistleOut maintains a broad list of service providers and we endeavour to include at least the top ten service providers in every category so that you can make a transparent choice. When you see a 'promoted product' or a product with a 'go to site' button it means that WhistleOut is earning a transaction click fee for the referral. We audit the prices in our database regularly and we don't alter the ranking of products in our organic search based on any commercial relationship. Find out more here