Best 5G cell phone plan Android Central 2021
5G is moving quickly, with coverage finally reaching more people thanks to Sub-6 5G. As a result, every major carrier has some of the best 5G plans available for their customers. Each major carrier now offers 5G, but T-Mobile stands apart with 5G included with all of its plans, including old plans. T-Mobile has a commanding lead in coverage, but AT&T and Verizon are working fast to catch up. The best overall plan for 5G is T-Mobile's Magenta plan with unlimited data, Netflix, and great family savings.
- Best overall: T-Mobile Magenta
- Best value: Mint Mobile 4GB
- Best value for streamers: Visible
- Best international: Google Fi Flexible
- Best on AT&T: AT&T Unlimited Extra
- Best mmWave network: Verizon Play More Unlimited
Best overall: T-Mobile Magenta
Unlike other carriers, T-Mobile offers 5G on all of its plans, so if you upgrade to a 5G capable device, you can get connected with no hassle. T-Mobile's 5G network isn't the fastest right now, but it has the most coverage by far, and the continued expansion of its 2.5GHz coverage is adding more speed all the time. Even so, the speeds on T-Mobile 5G should be plenty for normal phone usage. With that in mind, the Magenta plan is one of the best values on T-Mobile thanks to its unlimited data with deprioritization at 100GB and Netflix included.
This plan only includes 5GB of LTE hotspot, so it may be worth it to step up to the Magenta Max plan for $15 more if you use a lot of data on your other devices. Similarly, you can drop down to the Essentials plan if you only need the basics. This makes T-Mobile one of the easiest ways to try out 5G without going for the most expensive plan. If you're bringing the family, you can get your third line for free.
- All plans get 5G
- low-band, mid-band, and mmWave on one network
- Netflix included is with multiple lines
- 5GB in Canada and Mexico
- Unlimited 3G speed hotspot
- SD streaming
- Only 5GB of high-speed hotspot data
Best value: Mint Mobile 4GB
Mint Mobile has larger plans than its entry-level 4GB plan, including an unlimited plan, but a lot of people don't need that much data. Even so, if you find you need more data than you signed up for with Mint, you can upgrade mid-cycle to the 10GB, 15GB, or unlimited plan. This is a great thing because you need to buy at least three months of service upfront. Mint Mobile is available in three-month, six-month, and 12-month terms with greater savings when you buy the whole year. The 3GB plan, for example, comes down to just $15 per month for 12 months.
Mint Mobile uses T- Mobile's network, including 5G, so for the best results, you should have a 5G phone that supports both band 71 and band 41. You can try out your first three months at a discounted rate, so you don't have to commit to the full year at first.
Remember that Mint Mobile does not offer any savings for multiple lines, so if you want to get the whole family connected, there are better options.
- Save by buying more months
- Easily upgrade to a large data package
- Most unlocked 5G phones will work
- Data can be used as a hotspot
- Must buy at least 3 months
- No multi-line savings
Best value for streamers: Visible
Visible is a prepaid carrier operating exclusively on Verizon's digital network. This means that Visible only uses LTE or 5G and will have no access to the older 3G and analog towers. Still, for most people, the Verizon LTE network offers excellent coverage, speed, and the addition of 5G only sweetens the deal. This is also the full Verizon 5G network, including mmWave Ultra Wideband, though your download speeds will be capped to 200Mbps. This is fast enough for anything you need to do on your phone and shouldn't be a concern to most people.
Visible's plan is truly unlimited, with no hidden data caps reducing your speed. Visible traffic is a lower priority than Verizon traffic, so you may see your speeds decrease if you're in a busy area. Still, overall, the experience will be comparable as we found in our review. If you use more than 50GB of data in a month, your prioritization may be further decreased though if there's enough capacity, you won't hit a hard speed cap. Keep in mind that Visible supports fewer phone models than T-Mobile, with only a handful working with 5G. However, this includes the most popular 5G devices like iPhone 12, the Galaxy S20/S21 series, and 5G Pixel phones.
One of the biggest draws to Visible is its price, and at $40 per month, it's a great value. To save even more, you simply need to join a Visible Party on the Visible community board on its website. This can bring your bill down to $25 per month if you join a party with at least four people.
- Unlimited data, calls, and texts
- Party Pay savings
- Unlimited 5Mbps hotspot
- No hidden data cap
- Video streams at 480p
- No 3G support
- Only a handful of supported 5G phones
Best international: Google Fi Flexible
If you have a phone that works with T-Mobile's 5G network, you can get it connected with Google Fi. Google Fi's main flexible plan comes with unlimited calls and texts in the U.S. for $20 per month. Data comes in at $10 per gigabyte, but Google Fi stops charging you at 6GB of usage. After this, your data is unlimited, but it's significantly slowed down at 15GB. Still, if you make use of Wi-Fi points, this is enough for most people.
If you need more, Google Fi has an unlimited plan available that slows down at 22GB. All of Google Fi's plans come with hotspot capability, which shares your standard data. One of Google Fi's most remarkable features is data roaming at the same cost in over 200 countries worldwide. This makes Google Fi a great option for frequent travelers. Google Fi Unlimited also has a cheaper option without international roaming.
A few phones work with Google Fi's full network and include 5G, such as the Pixel 5 and Samsung Galaxy S21 series. You can bring other unlocked 5G phones to Google Fi, but they will only support the T-Mobile network. Google Fi's network switching alongside other great features such as a VPN connection, you can be sure your connection is secure whether you're on Wi-Fi or 5G in the U.S. or abroad.
- Only pay for what your use
- Same price for international data
- Hotspot included
- Bill protection at 6GB
- Data throttled at 15GB
- Not all 5G phones get the full Fi network
Best on AT&T: AT&T Unlimited Extra
AT&T has both a low-band 5G network and a substantial 5G+ network based on mmWave. AT&T is also working on adding DSS 5G to areas that need extra capacity. This is different from AT&T's 5GE service, which was more of a well-developed LTE network. This is real 5G.
5G access is included with all of AT&T's unlimited plans, including prepaid, but the Unlimited Extra plan will let customers make the most of the network. 50GB of premium data, as well as 15GB of hotspot data, will be enough for even heavy users. The plan also comes with unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico. Streaming, however, is limited to SD quality, making streaming less compelling on this plan.
It's worth remembering that the price per line comes down quite a bit with multiple lines. For example, with four lines, the price comes down to $40 per month per line.
- Growing low-band and DSS 5G network
- Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
- 50GB of premium data
- SD video streaming
Best mmWave network: Verizon Play More Unlimited
Verizon has an impressive 5G network with a growing mmWave network it calls Ultra-Wideband and a newer nationwide 5G network quickly making its way around the nation. Though the current coverage area isn't as dense as other carriers, Verizon's Ultra Wideband 5G speeds will outclass the Sub-6 networks — that is, until you go inside. Still, with a solid LTE network to fall back on, most people will have more than enough speed.
If you connect to Ultra Wideband, you get truly unlimited data, hotspot, and streaming quality. If you're on nationwide 5G, your plan and limits match the LTE service. The Play More Unlimited plan is a great fit to make the most of 5G, thanks to its Premium Network Access feature with 720p video streaming and 50GB of premium data. This goes well with the include Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu package.
- Unlimited everything on Ultra-Wideband
- 50GB of premium data is enough for most people
- Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu are included
- 15GB of mobile hotspot
- 4G and Nationwide 5G Deprioritization at 50GB
- Still the smallest 5G network
- 720 video streaming must be manually enabled
All 5G networks in the U.S. are growing rapidly with new cities being added all the time. And with most carriers, all you need is a great 5G phone to get access. There's a good chance that if you already have one of the best cell phone plans, 5G access is included. While the speeds available on sub-6 5G aren't as great as some expected from 5G, as the network matures, it will offer more speed and consistency as mobile data usage increases.
If you're ready to upgrade to 5G, T-Mobile has one of the most robust 5G solutions so far, and it's only improving with consistent updates, 2.5GHz mid-band coverage rapidly growing, and millimeter-wave and C-band capacity ready to deploy when more people hop on 5G. T-Mobile considers 5G to be a normal part of its network and, luckily for you, doesn't charge a premium to use it. T-Mobile Magenta is the best way to experience 5G today at a reasonable price, Netflix included, and the largest 5G network by far.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Samuel Contreras When Samuel is not writing about networking, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.
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