Find and compare the best cell phone plans in Virginia at Wirefly. Which cell phone carrier has the best coverage in your area? Click the carrier logos below to launch their coverage maps. Then, use our tool below to compare the price and features of each carrier’s plans. Smaller carriers and MVNOs typically run on the networks of one of the big four carriers you see below.
For a long time, the technology in smartphones was evolving faster than the 'Big Four' wireless carriers in the United States. As phones grew into high-powered, pocket-sized computing devices, carriers enacted limited data plans, limits on voice minutes, and costly charges for exceeding a monthly limit of text messages. Now, this is no longer the case. Over the past few years, the wireless industry has gotten far more competitive and the end result is good for the consumer. Due to the price wars between carriers, there has never been a better time to shop for a new cell phone plan plan, or an entirely new carrier in Virginia. If you want to find the best plan for you, there is a lot to think about before purchasing a new plan.
Coverage is still king: a few things to keep in mind
Coverage has gotten dramatically better for all carriers in the last few years, especially for Sprint and T-Mobile. While the country's two smallest carriers often had their coverage compared to Swiss cheese in the early 2000s, their LTE networks today are fully modernized, dense, and ready to perform well even during times of peak demand. With that said, it's a good idea to take a look at independent test results that show the strengths of each network. These tests, performed by RootMetrics, will help clarify which carrier is best for clear calls, fast data, or consistent texting.
Best for Calls: For the third time in two years, RootMetrics testing found that all four major carriers are almost the same in Virginia when it comes to 'call performance.' This indicates that all four carriers have crystal clear calls, and that all four carriers rarely drop a call that has been initiated. That's great news if your main area of usage each month is wireless minutes.
Best for Texting: During the second half of 2016, RootMetrics testing found that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile were tied for first place in overall texting performance. All three carriers had a near-100-percent success rate in sending and delivering texts. Sprint's texting performance was just a bit shy of making this metric a four-way tie.
Best for Data-Heavy Usage: This category is a bit more nuanced than the others. Overall, Verizon's LTE network delivered both the fastest speeds and the most reliable connections to customers in Virginia. T-Mobile's average data speed increased dramatically in 2016, however, and AT&T showed improvement in average speeds as well.
Breadth of Coverage: All four carriers have an extremely broad network in Virginia, with coverage almost everywhere. Sprint, which is still expanding its LTE network, has slightly less high-speed coverage. Even so, it has the high-density city and suburban areas covered very well.
Types of wireless service plans
Typically, many of the people in Virginia prefer a cell phone plan where they receive the right amount of minutes, receive text messages and use data on the go. Choosing a wireless service depends on the quality of coverage for each of these factors.
This is particularly true for people whose cell phone is their primary or only communication device. Having a wireless plan that suits their needs becomes much more important. Using the Wirefly service, users can look up plan details for multiple carriers to see how much they can actually save compared to their current wireless plan.
Basically, three categories exist for wireless plans: family plans, individual plans, and no contract plans.
Family plans give customers a phone line for each family member. With some carriers, devices and plan offerings are provided based on individual need although each line is part of one plan. Family plans come with a higher price tag, obviously, but it is still the best deal for a person who has more than one line. Comparing the total cost per phone is much cheaper than single plan pricing. With some family plans, calls, text messages and data are shared, which means the plan will need to cover everyone's individual needs.
An individual plan is a one line, one rate cell phone plan that does not include other devices or phones. People who are not married or do not have children should choose this type of cell phone plan.
No contract plans, also known as pay-as-you-go, prepaid or month-to-month provide flexible pricing and payment options. This type of cell phone plan has evolved from its original prepaid cell phone card days. Typically, prepaid phones can be picked up from any department store in Virginia. These phones do not require activation; they are ready for immediate use.
Although customers who get the no contract plan only pays for what they want to use, there are usually additional fees for this type of convenience. Additionally, prices for cell phones under this type of plan might be much higher than a family or individual plan unless a simple style is chosen.
Prepaid plans are attractive to people who do not want the obligation of a contract. A person must sign up for cell phone service with a specific carrier for at least one or two years. Monthly payments are made, but there is also an early termination fee if the customer cancels before the term of the agreement ends.
The best wireless plan
Consider all the different features that are important when you are looking for the right plan. There are three factors to keep in mind when choosing the best one for you or your family in Virginia: minutes, text messages, and data.
Cheaper cell phone plans often allow you to set a limit on the number of minutes you can talk and the number of text messages you can send. This is good for someone who doesn't use their phone a lot. But if you do, you'll want to look for a plan with unlimited talk and text. Luckily, most cell phone carriers offer this as a basic option, so you won't be paying much more for it when you choose it. With a contract plan, you'll use a wireless card to load minutes onto your phone for talking and texting. When you need more minutes, you simply purchase more. No contract phones cannot charge you for overages, as you simply cannot cause them.
If you plan to use a good deal of data in Virginia, be sure to look for a plan that offers you higher gigabyte plans. Cheaper plans come with two to five gigabytes for the month, which may be all you need if you can always connect to Wi-Fi. Higher plans offer anywhere from ten to 20 gigabytes per month and are great for consumers who may be using their device in places without Wi-Fi to connect to. You'll also want to check if the company will charge you for overages, as many will charge for every gigabyte you go over per month, which can really make your bill skyrocket if you aren't careful.
Texts, minutes, and data: which option is best for you?
Now that you know which type of plan you'll be shopping for, it's time to make another important consideration: What do you need each month in terms of voice minutes, texts and data? While this used to be a pretty complex decision to make, especially for family plan members who were splitting each of these three things, that's no longer the case due to shifts in the industry. Current wireless industry plans have almost all dropped limits on voice minutes and texts. Postpaid family plans and individual plans at Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, all include unlimited talking and texting. Only a select number of no-commitment prepaid plans still enforce limits on these use cases.
The good news is that you can focus only on the amount of data that you need on a monthly basis. Two carriers make this decision easy, while two others will require a bit of careful consideration before selecting a plan. Here's what to know when selecting a cell phone plan in Virginia:
The Un-Carrier, as it's known, recently made a bold push toward unlimited data for all. The company replaced its Simple Choice plan lineup with T-Mobile ONE, an all-unlimited, single plan that it offers to individuals and families alike. The company's Simple Choice plans, which feature 2GB, 6GB, or 10GB of data, are still available for customers who prefer them, however. These plans feature 12-month data rollover and no overages, so there's no extra cost added to the bill based on usage.
Like T-Mobile, Sprint recently unveiled a flat-rate, all-unlimited mobile plan for new and existing subscribers. Customers who prefer not to get an unlimited plan can opt for a 'shared' amount of data that can be used by all lines attached to the account. By default, data speeds on limited plans slow down after all data has been used. Customers can buy a high-speed pass if they wish to have more full-speed data until the end of the month, however.
AT&T offers unlimited data only to customers who also have its DirecTV satellite television service or U-Verse IPTV service. Otherwise, customers will be sharing data buckets with every line on their account. In 2016, AT&T introduced a no-overages policy that slows data to 2G speeds when a data bucket is exhausted. The company also has its 'Stream Saver' service in 2016, which reduces the quality of all streaming video and uses data more slowly as a result.
Verizon eliminated overages early in 2016 and, later in the year, introduced rollover data for its shared data buckets. The company's plans mirror AT&T's, though an unlimited data option is not available to new customers at all.
Smaller prepaid carriers, called MVNOs, typically use one of the four above networks and resell services to no-commitment customers. These plans cover Virginia and change very frequently, but they do often represent a significant savings each month.
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