Cricket vs Metro, Straight Talk, Boost and Project Fi prepaid plan features and pricing
It used to be that going the virtual carrier (MVNO) route was the only way to get unlimited data at reasonable pricing on your favorite carrier of choice. Today's prepaid fight, however, is fought by the major carriers - Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint - leaving scraps for their MVNO offshoots.
Still, they have reinvented themselves, and each is targeting a certain niche, either geographically, or with unorthodox amounts of data at rock bottom prices, too, in a way to differentiate from the big four. Well, the little guys usually ditch a few added features in the process, but those are of the type you might not be using on a regular basis anyway.
We've compared the current offerings from a few major MVNOs (virtual operators that piggyback on the big four networks), and found out that in most cases there is a niche that is still unoccupied by the big players, and maybe there is one for you, too, so check out the current prepaid plan prices of MetroPCS, Cricket, Straight Talk, Boost, and Google's Project Fi, for easier comparison when you shop around.
Cricket Wireless - AT&T at a discount
Piggybacking on the second-largest US network, Cricket made a name for itself for offering what AT&T does in terms of coverage at cheaper pricing, but with some important omissions that may or may not be your cup of tea. To reach the $55 price of its unlimited data plan, for instance, compared to $80 at AT&T, Cricket limits video streaming to SD quality.
Metro by T-Mobile - the stepchild
T-Mobile prides itself on having a slightly faster 4G network than Verizon on average, though with much fewer users on it, compared to Big Red. That's good news for Metro by T-Mobile, as it relies on the latter for its call and data duties.
The virtual career gives you unlimited for $60, compared $80 at T-Mo, and with 15GB hotspot to boot, but at times of network congestion, T-Mobile customers will have a priority. On the plus side, Metro's unlimited plans offer Amazon Prime media streaming, and 100GB Google One cloud storage for free.
Straight Talk - the Walmart darling piggybacks from all big four
This one is an odd bird - owned by the largest US MVNO, TracFone, it has agreements with all four major networks, and, since the service has become synonymous with Walmart, whose stores carry it, is extremely popular as far as prepaid goes. Not only is Straight Talk cross-platform, but its $55 unlimited can hardly be beaten, plus it comes with a very high 60GB throttling cap, compared to the other offerings.
Boost - Sprint on a budget
Boost is a Sprint offshoot, and pretty popular one at that, using the carrier's network to offer a $60 unlimited plan with the whopping 20GB of hotspot data at full speed to boot. Then, again, it's Sprint's network, so if it has good coverage in your area or the places you frequent when traveling, you are golden.
Project Fi - Google's calling all globetrotters
Google's collective uses a strange mix of bedfellows to rely on, relying on T-Mobile, Sprint and US Cellular networks for coverage, depending on the area. While it may be paying less in fees this way, that certainly doesn't translate to the pricing very well, as it has one line of unlimited for $80. There are a lot of perks that come with Fi, though, especially if you are traveling internationally, or using wireless hotspots on a regular basis.