If you’re struggling to know which is the best cell phone provider for you in 2023, we’re here to help you decide. The best gaming phones are only getting smarter and faster, and you need a network that can keep up with your data needs for streaming, working and playing games on the go. Our comparisons of providers below are valid even if you’re not a mobile gamer, though – we’ll take an expert look at network coverage, plans, value for money and customer service.
With so many cell phone carriers in the US to choose from, there are a number of ways to break down your options. First, consider how much you want to spend each month, and how you want to pay. Some network providers ask you to lock into a monthly plan for a set period, while others offer pay-as-you-go or prepaid contracts, which can work out cheaper overall.
Once you’ve got your budget sussed, find out what network coverage is available in your area, as there’s no point paying more for a 5G plan if it’s unavailable, or unsupported by your current phone. Nowadays, some networks (including US Mobile and Consumer Cellular) offer a free trial, so you can test the network before you commit. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your cell phone plan to get one the best 5G phones or save money by going on a cheaper plan, we’ve made it easy for you to find the best American cell phone provider for you below.
These are the best cell phone providers today:
- Verizon – best provider overall
- Mint Mobile – best affordable provider
- T-Mobile – fastest data speeds
- AT&T wireless – good US coverage overall
- US Mobile – best for 5G coverage
- Cricket Wireless – affordable prepaid rates
- Visible – best cheap cell phone plans
- Consumer Cellular – high customer satisfaction
Best cell phone provider overall in the US
- Reliable and fast 5G coverage
- Easy to customize plans
- Not the cheapest
- Fastest 5G not available everywhere
We’ve picked Verizon as the best cell phone provider in the US because it has a wide variety of simple plans and the most reliable 5G coverage. If you bring your phone, plans start at $25/per month for the Unlimited Welcome line or $30 for an extra 30GB of premium hotspot data – perfect for playing the best mobile games or streaming on the go. Verizon offers all the latest devices if you do want a new phone, and its plans are easy to customize to your needs so you don’t pay over the odds. You can also choose phone bundles, which include subscriptions to services like Disney Plus and Walmart+.
Unfortunately, Verizon’s customer reviews average 1.2 out of 5 stars on Trust Pilot. However, all the cell phone carriers on this list generally receive bad scores (under 2 stars), suggesting that most customers only leave a rating when they’ve had a bad experience and the score isn’t a fair appraisal of the provider’s service overall.
Verizon isn’t the cheapest cell phone provider here, but its 5G coverage is impressive; the company rolled out C-Band 5G early last year, to offer faster mid-band 5G to millions of consumers across the country. RootMetrics recently reported that Verizon had the best 5G reliability of any carrier, so if data is important to you, we think it’s worth paying a little more.
2. Mint Mobile
Affordable plans if you pay upfront
- Affordable unlimited data plans
- Uses reliable T-Mobile network
- Few bonus packages
- Low prices are for a yearly contract
Mint Mobile became famous for having Ryan Reynolds as a major shareholder, but now that the Canadian actor has sold his stake to T-Mobile, is it still worth considering as a cell phone provider? In short, yes. Mint uses T-Mobile’s network for coverage, and it swaps between 5G and 4G LTE coverage (whichever is stronger in your area) for reliable and fast speeds. Mint Mobile also offers some of the most affordable prepaid phone plans, with extra discounts on family plans.
The lowest prices apply when you take out at least a 12-month contract, but Mint usually offers promotions to new customers that give you months of free service. All Mint Mobile plans unlimited calls and texts, 5G and 4G LTE coverage (whichever is stronger in your areas), free calls to Canada and Mexico, and free mobile hotspots up to 10GB. The price you pay each month depends on how much data you need: on a 12-month plan, $15 a month gets you 5GB of data, while 40GB of 5G data is $30.
Best 5G coverage and massive data plans
- Powerful unlimited plans
- Good perks with pricier contracts
- Excellent coverage
- Not the cheapest
T-Mobile offers excellent phone plans and solid 5G coverage, although it’s not generally as affordable as Mint Mobile. We like that T-Mobile makes it easy to check 5G and 4G LTE coverage in your area with its coverage map, giving you peace of mind before you take out a contract.
T-Mobile’s Go5G plans are ideal for the most data-hungry users and those who want the best performance from their phones. The Essentials Savings plan starts at $50 per month for 50GB of data, while the Magenta Max plan ($85 a month) gives you Unlimited Data, a free Netflix account, and a 40GB mobile hotspot. Unlike some carriers, all the taxes and fees are included in this price. T-mobile offers discounts when you take out multiple lines at the same time (great for families) as well as for those aged over 55, military personnel, veterans, and first responders.
4. AT&T Wireless
A good range of plans if you don’t mind browsing
- 5G coverage is extensive
- Physical stores
- Physical stores
- Plan pricing isn’t as clear as others
AT&T Wireless is one of the three major cell phone carriers in the US, owning and looking after its own cell towers rather than piggybacking on them as smaller networks do. Cell phone reception is still top-notch, but we haven’t rated AT&T higher in this guide because T-Mobile has better customer reviews, and Verizon provides better coverage generally.
AT&T Wireless has so many plans to choose from, with discounts for students and multiple lines. If you bring your own phone AT&T Wireless will give you $250 in bill credits, but if you do want a new device, the payment plans are reasonable. Once you’ve paid off your phone, it will be unlocked for use on any cell phone carrier in the future.
Unlike Visible Wireless below, AT&T is one of the providers to have physical stores, which means you can visit should you have a query, or want to talk to someone about your contract. It’s also easy to check AT&T’s wireless coverage across the US.
5. US Mobile
Get a 100-day free trial of its 5G contract and student discounts
- Lots of customization
- Excellent 5G speeds
- Fewer phones than some
US Mobile has a fun website, but it also has exceptional 5G speeds. If you’re a keen mobile gamer or video streamer and you want to change your plan regularly, it could be the ideal cell phone provider for you.
If you run out of data, texts, or talk minutes before your next month, for example, you can add Top Ups to refill your balance. US Mobile also has an Autopilot AI service, which essentially looks over your previous typical phone usage and finds the best plan for you – not the most expensive one. The Unlimited Basic package starts at $35 per month, while Unlimited Premium is $45 (which gives you 10GB of international data and 50GB of hotspot data).
6. Cricket Wireless
Best small prepaid wireless service provider
- Service trial using free app
- HBO Max on some plans
- No contracts
In the same way that Visible is owned by Verizon, Cricket Wireless is owned by AT&T. According to Wikipedia, it supplies ten million subscribers in the United States, which makes it one of the smaller carriers on our list. With a range of prepaid plans, you know exactly what you’re spending, and you get access to Cricket’s nationwide 5G network as standard on each plan.
Cricket’s cheapest plan is $30 per month (for 5GB data) and the most expensive is Unlimited Premium with 15 GB Mobile Hotspot data at $60 monthly. If you wanted to buy several family lines, you can get 4 for $25 each month. Cricket also offers bonuses for the more expensive plans, including the ability to stream HBO Max with ads.
If you’ve got an iPhone, it’s possible to trial Cricket Wireless with the tryCricket app, which has an average rating of 4.7 stars out of 5. We’d suggest taking advantage of this free trial and checking Cricket’s network coverage to ensure you’ll be covered in your area.
A cheap cell phone provider for unlimited data plans
- Affordable unlimited data
- Just two simple plans
- Slowed speeds during busy periods
- No physical stores or call centers
Visible isn’t the most well-known cell phone carrier in the US, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time or trust. The carrier is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) and uses Verizon’s network, which we’ve already said is very reliable – however, on some plans, if the network gets congested you can see speeds slowing down.
Visible has two simple contract plans; the standard Visible plan ($25/month) offers “all the basics” – unlimited calls, texts, and data, an unlimited data hotspot, plus unlimited calls and texts to Mexico and Canada. The Visible+ plan ($45/month) gives you all of this, plus 5G Ultra Wideband, the Premium Network Experience – meaning your speeds won’t slow down during congested periods – and International Calling to over 30 countries. There aren’t any hidden extra fees here, and adding an Apple Watch costs you an extra $5/month.
Visible only offered iPhones when it started out, but now you can get the latest and best Android phones from Samsung and Google. Visible saves money by not having a storefront or call centers (it does have 24/7 online chat support). If you don’t mind that and want to save money on an unlimited plan, this is the best cell phone carrier for you.
8. Consumer Cellular
Best cell phone provider for seniors
- Good higher data plans
- Discount for seniors
- Expensive for low data plans
The Consumer Cellular website isn’t as sleek as some providers, but there are some good value deals if you know where to look. As far as pricing goes, what you get at the lowest end isn’t as generous as other providers in this list. For example, $25 a month includes unlimited talk and text but only 5GB of data (it’s unlimited on Verizon’s basic plan).
However, Consumer Cellular should appeal to you if you want a monthly plan without a contract, and it’s been going for over 25 years as a US-based company (with US-based customer service centers).
Consumer Cellular gives AARP members a 5 per cent discount, which has seen it become popular among seniors. As an MVNO, the carrier relies on T-Mobile and AT&T networks for coverage, so you should get as good a coverage as those wherever you are in the country. Like many providers, you can check your postcode on the website to make sure.