People hate their wireless carriers, yet we put up with them anyway. Alongside death, taxes, and the Star Wars prequels, wireless carriers are something we must accept. While they’re trying to repent their ways with new plans, deals, and enticing features, carriers in America are still capable of displeasing their customers. But if you look at wireless companies in other countries, and the actions of our carriers from a few years ago, you start to realize something: U.S. carriers are charging less than they were before, and they’re more in line with their European and Asian counterparts.
So, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon; listen up. You’ve got a relatively good thing going now, but we know you can still do better.
U.S. carrier plans are more reasonably priced
It shouldn’t cost more than $100 a month to own a smartphone, and it shouldn’t cost up to $70 a month for a basic phone either.
The price for wireless service anywhere still varies greatly due to a number of reasons, but let’s start with something simple that should be pretty inexpensive: A smartphone plan with a few gigabytes of data, a lot of minutes, and unlimited messaging. This is a wireless plan that’s pretty typical with all the necessities covered whether you love your iPhone or your Galaxy S8.
If you’re in America, you can choose between any of the Big Four and pay anywhere from $35 to $60 a month depending on your carrier of choice, and any additional features like HD streaming. Verizon has the cheapest base plan at $35 a month for 2GB data, and unlimited talk and text, but if you go for its Unlimited plan, which has unlimited data, talk, text, and HD video streaming, prices start at $60 (not counting line pricing). When comparing the Big Four’s Unlimited plans, there’s about a $10 difference between all of them.
Price of basic smartphone plans in the United States
|Verizon (S Plan)||$35||2GB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|Verizon (Prepaid)||$40||2GB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|AT&T (Unlimited Choice Plan)||$60||Unlimited||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|AT&T (Prepaid)||$30||$5 per 250MB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|Sprint (Unlimited Freedom Plan)||$60||Unlimited||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|Sprint (Prepaid)||$40||3GB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|T-Mobile (One Unlimited Plan)||$70||Unlimited||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|T-Mobile (Prepaid)||$45||4GB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
In the UK, there are still a handful of carriers, and their prices cover a wide range. Vodafone, Orange, and Everything & Everywhere (EE) — a collaboration between Orange and T-Mobile — dominate the cellular scene there. All three carriers are cheaper for similar service to each of the four U.S. carriers, ranging from $25 a month for 2GB of data on (EE), to $27 a month (Orange), to $37 a month for 4GB of data (Vodafone).
Orange (in France) sells a wireless plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 2GB of data for $27 a month. A major carrier in Spain, Telefónica offers a plan with 3GB of high speed data, unlimited calls, and texting for about $65 a month. That’s not bad, but considering AT&T can do unlimited data, talks, and text for $5 cheaper, Telefonica still has room for improvement.
Let’s not forget about Hong Kong and Japan. In Hong Kong, Hutchinson (also known as ‘Three’) will give you a 2.5GB high speed wireless plan with plenty of minutes for $52 a month. A similar, yet slightly better deal comes from Softbank in Japan, which will charge you $55 for unlimited 3G data and texting, and free calling to other Softbank users and landlines.
Price of basic smartphone plans around the world
|Carrier||Price||Data||Minutes / Texts|
|Everything & Everywhere (UK)||$25||2GB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|Vodafone (UK)||$37||4GB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|Telefonica (Spain)||$65||3GB||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|Softbank (Japan)||$55||Unlimited||Unlimited / Unlimited|
|Hutchinson (Hong Kong)||$52||2.5GB||2500 mins / Unlimited|
|*Prices converted on 4-20-2017|
While we’re just talking about a simple smartphone plan here, the fact remains that just about any plan you can find in Europe, the UK, Hong Kong, or Japan, more than likely has a similar counterpart in the U.S. What international carriers have over American plans, however, are the amount of minutes and data you can get; people have more options if they don’t want to pay more for unlimited.
2-year contracts are (thankfully) a thing of the past
What could you do in two years? While most of us can’t see two weeks ahead, let alone two years, it eventually became a magic number for American carriers to pair with new plans. Until recently, it was plain silly and not in the consumer’s best interest.
Thankfully, 2-year contracts aren’t what they used to be, to the point that the four main carriers in the U.S. have stopped using them. AT&T did away with such contracts last year, and Sprint did the same. Verizon began moving away from them in 2015, and completely removed them in January. T-Mobile started the trend.
Across the Atlantic, many of the biggest mobile operators in Europe and the UK have made similar changes. Once upon a time, carriers would push 1-year contracts, 1.5 year contracts, or offer an incentive of some kind to go for the 2-year lock-in. Now, they offer and emphasize a variety of monthly phone, data, and pay as you go plans, which also leave customers open to upgrading their phones when they get the urge, just like the U.S.