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10 alternative carriers that can save you serious cash on your smartphone bill

Ian Paul | Feb. 3, 2015
When it comes time to choose a wireless carrier, most Americans just go with AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon. Recently, more and more people have been tempted by T-Mobile's cost-slashing "Uncarrier" moves, but that's about where it ends: the four major carriers.

2. Republic Wireless

  • Carrier: Sprint
  • BYOD: No
  • Cost: $5-$40 per month
  • LTE: Yes

Republic Wireless is one of several carriers that integrates Wi-Fi, reverting to a cellular connection only when Wi-Fi isn't available. In fact, if you live in an urban environment and are daring enough, you can pay just $5 per month for a Wi-Fi-only plan. The bad news is that if you aren't connected to Wi-Fi your phone won't work. Nevertheless, this might be an ideal plan for a university student who lives on campus.

You can't bring your own device to Republic Wireless, but the company does offer Motorola phones such as the Moto X.

After the Wi-Fi plan, how much you pay really depends on what you need. For $40 per month you can get unlimited talk, text, and data on 4G and Wi-Fi, though the data is throttled after 5GB/mo. There's also a $10 plan that's talk and text on cell and Wi-Fi, plus Wi-Fi only data. Whichever plan you choose, Republic phones default to Wi-Fi whenever possible.

3. FreedomPop

  • Carrier: Sprint
  • BYOD: Yes
  • Cost: Free to $80 per year
  • LTE: Yes

Another Wi-Fi centric carrier similar to Republic, FreedomPop offers a $5 Wi-Fi-only plan. You can also get unlimited voice, text, and 500MB of data for $11 per month, or you can pay $80 up-front for an entire year of the same plan. There's also a $20 monthly plan that offers unlimited everything over Sprint's 4G network, but data is downgraded to 3G speeds after the first gigabyte.

4. Scratch Wireless

  • Carrier: Sprint
  • BYOD: No
  • Cost: $2 to $4 per day, $25 to $40 per month
  • LTE: Yes

Scratch Wireless takes another interesting pay-as-you-go approach like Ting. Instead of buckets, Scratch uses a "passes" concept. You can get a daily pass for $2 offering unlimited voice, and pay another $2 for unlimited data for a day. If you need a monthly pass, Scratch offers $25 for unlimited data and another $15 gets you a month of unlimited voice. Scratch does not charge for SMS, which is free under all its plans.

Like other MVNOs in this list, Scratch opts for Wi-Fi whenever possible.

5. MetroPCS

  • Carrier: T-Mobile
  • BYOD: Yes
  • Cost: $40-$60 per month
  • LTE: Yes

An actual part of T-Mobile, MetroPCS offers standard prepaid packages similar to the mainstream carriers. You can still save some money, however, as MetroPCS offers unlimited talk and text along with 2GB of LTE and unlimited data at "average MetroPCS network speeds" beyond that for $40 per month. Plans with 4GB of LTE and unlimited LTE cost $50 and $60 per month, respectively.

6. Brightspot

  • Carrier: T-Mobile
  • BYOD: Yes
  • Cost: $30-$55 per month
  • LTE: Yes

Target's MVNO Brightspot offers a number of basic plans. If you're not a big talker, you can get a $35 plan that includes unlimited text, up to 3GB of data at 4G speeds, and 300 minutes of voice.

 

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