Comparing data, to minutes, to cost, to perks, which carrier is right for your family?
Wireless carriers don't necessarily make it easy for you to compare between their services. They all offer data, and minutes, and messaging, but the small details between them can mean a big difference on your monthly bill.
Choosing a shared plan for your family is a big decision. When you're shopping between AT&T and Sprint it's important to know how much data you need, how many devices will be on your account, and how much data you expect to use.
What sharing plans are available from AT&T and Sprint?
Sharing plans allow you to purchase one big chunk of data and divvy it up between all the phones and devices on your account.
AT&T offers their Mobile Share Value plans. These plans are different sizes and allow you to choose exactly how much data you and your family need to share each month.
Sprint used to offer something called the Family Share Pack, but have now eliminated that program in favor of a more simplified plan for individuals and families called the Better Choice plans, which allow you to share data between multiple devices, just like a familiy plan.
How many devices are allowed on a shared plan?
With both AT&T and Sprint you are charged for each device on your plan. Adding smartphones to your plan costs more than adding tablets or wearables, so knowing how many devices you want to share data with will impact your total bill each month.
AT&T cost per device
AT&T allows up to 10 devices to be on one of their shared plans. The cost of adding a device depends on how many GB of data you are sharing.
- $25/month/smartphone (on plans with 5 GB or less of data)
- $15/month/smartphone (on plans with 15 GB of data or more)
- $10/month/tablet (no data restrictions)
- $10/month/wearable (no data restrictions)
- $20/month/laptop or hotspot device
Sprint cost per device
With Sprint, the price per device depends on whether you lease your phone or pay in monthly installments, or if you're on a two-year service agreement.
- $20/month/smartphone for non-discounted phones
- $40/month/smartphone on a two-year service agreement
- $10/month/tablet (at least one activated phone required)
- $10/month/mobile broadband device (at least one activated phone required)
Remember, if you're not bringing your own phone, your carrier will also charge you a monthly fee to purchase one of their phones. Costs vary, but if you want the most up-to-date phone, you'll be looking at about $25-$30 per month until the device is paid off.
How does data work on a shared plan with AT&T and Sprint?
Both AT&T and Sprint let you choose a set, monthly data amount for your family to share. If you go over your monthly allotment, you will be charged an overage fee with AT&T, but not with Sprint.
AT&T monthly data rates
- 300 mb, $20
- 2 GB, $30
- 5 GB, $50
- 15 GB, $100
- 20 GB, $140
- 25 GB, $175
- 30 GB, $225
- 40 GB, $300
- 50 GB, $375
Overage Charges: If you go over your allotted data on one of these plans you will be charged an additional $20/300 mb on the 300 mb plan, or $15/1 GB on all other plans.
Rollover Data: Unused data is rolled over into the next month and expires one month after rolling over.
Sprint monthly data rates
- 1 GB $20
- 3 GB $30
- 6 GB $45
- 12 GB $60
- 24 GB $80
- 40 GB $100
Sprint also offers an unlimited plan but the pricing structure is a little different than other plans. You pay $75 per month for unlimited data and a decreasing amount for each line you want to add bottoming out after your fifth line at $30 for each additional line added. While your data is unlimited, if you go over 22 GB on a particular device in a billing cycle your data speeds may slow down, or be reduced during peak times.
Overage Charges: All Sprint plans come with unlimited 2G data after you have used up your high speed allotment for the month. This means you will not be charged overage fees, but your data speed will slow way down if you go over your allotment.
Rollover Data: Sprint does not let you rollover your high speed data into the next billing cycle.
How do talk and text work on a shared plan on AT&T and Sprint?
Both AT&T and Sprint include unlimited talk and text with their shared plans.
With AT&T if you purchase a 15 GB or higher plan, you also get free talk and text to for Mexico and Canada.
Sprint offers free calling to Mexico and Canada when you're in the U.S. Additionally, you can add the Open World plan to your account for free. This gives you unlimited calling and text while travelling in Mexico and Canada (as well as a few other countries) plus you get 1 GB of high-speed data while roaming.
What perks come with a shared plan from AT&T and Sprint?
Sometimes it's tough to decide between one carrier or another, so each provider will offer something to sweeten the pot and hopefully make you choose them over someone else.
AT&T offers a popular TV service called DIRECTV, giving you access to local and network shows as well as a DVR. If you subscribe to this TV service, AT&T will give you unlimited data on for your cell phone, which could save you a lot of money each month depending on how much data your family uses. However, AT&T will slow down your connection if you use more than 22 GB of data between your mobile devices.
Sprint doesn't have any perks comparable to AT&T, but if you have family living outside of the U.S. their above-mentioned Open World plan has some advantages.
Which carrier's shared plan is right for your family?
There are a few important factors that will ultimately help you decide which carrier will get your business when it's time to choose a shared plan for your family.
For comparison we'll judge AT&T and Sprint on plans that share two smartphones and two tablets.
If you want the absolute cheapest plan, that can be built with Sprint. This plan would only come with 1 GB of data to share, but if we're talking rock-bottom price for your family, Sprint has got it.
If you want the plan with most high speed data, you can get that with AT&T, but you're going to pay through the nose for it.
If you want the best value for your data Sprint has some really great options whether you only need a little data or a lot.
If you have many devices consider Sprint as their cost/device added to your account is low (though this is dependent on whether you are leasing your phone or paying for it in instalments).
If you are concerned about overage fees then Sprint is the winner since they don't have overage fees, your data just slows down.
If you're primarily concerned with talk and text from your provider, Sprint has an advantage but only if you frequently talk to people outside of Canada and the U.S. and want that service for free. Otherwise their talk and text plans are both unlimited in the U.S.
If you already pay for TV service in your home you might find more value with AT&T since Sprint doesn't offer any kind of bundling services.
Keep calm and carrier on
Ultimately choosing a shared plan for your family comes down to how many people are in your home, what devices they use, and what they use them for. AT&T and Sprint have slight advantages between each other depending on what category you look at.
Overall Sprint's plan is the most straight-forward of the two and has really good value for the amount of data. Their rates and plans are dependent on you being in an area within their coverage map, so make sure to check that first, otherwise you would be charged fees for roaming on other carrier's networks.