"Wireless service to smile about." And, it's certainly easy to smile about the small price tag on the big service found at Cricket Wireless.
Who is Cricket Wireless?
Cricket has been one of the fastest growing small carriers in recent years.
The entire US is covered and Cricket offers 3G, 4G LTE and LTE Plus coverages.
The carrier is a prepaid mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, established in 1999. In other words, the customer pays the month in advance before service is available on the device and then chooses to continue service on a month-by-month basis.
Compare Cricket Wireless plans and alternatives below, or read on for the rest of the review.
Unlimited 4G LTE Data (may be slowed during network congestion)
$60/mo+ $9.99 Upfront
Link not provided
A lot of consumers prefer prepaid devices because it allows them to budget and calculate their expensive upfront, avoid overages, have flexibility if plan needs fluctuate, and forgo contracts and leases.
Prepaid carriers also particularly helpful to those with low or no credit because prepaid doesn't require the consumer to undergo a credit check.
AT&T, with a network consistently ranked second in the nation, purchased the company in 2014. This means customers get the same extensive 4G LTE network and use the same towers as parent company AT&T provides its customers... just at a much smaller price tag. Talk about bang for the buck.
Cricket uses AT&T band 17 and band 5 (700Mhz, 850Mhz), band 2 and 4 (1900Mhz, 1700/2100Mhz). Cricket's 4G HSPA and HSPA+use band 5 and 2 (850Mhz, 1900Mhz).
Shared fancy AT&T infrastructure aside, Cricket is all about simplicity and clarity in service, plans, & pricing. All of Cricket's price and plan options are concise, clear, and easy to navigate online. Best of all, there aren't any surprise taxes or hidden fees since all the pricing is laid out to be all inclusive.
Let's Talk Price And Coverage
Most consumers list price and coverage as the two most important features when they're selecting a cellular carrier and plan for themselves and/or family.
Cricket is sporting an A in both categories.
Single line plans with 1 GB of data begin at $30 a month. Nothing shocking about that price since other carriers of similar size offer alike pricing.
Where the difference comes in is that these other small carriers run off networks owned by T-Mobile or Sprint. Cricket, on the other hand, runs off major carrier AT&T. RootMetrics ranks AT&T at 96.3 for coverage and reliability, second only to Verizon at 97.5.
Bottom line is that T-Mobile and Sprint networks may be comparable in coverage to AT&T, but they simply can't compare to its vast infrastructure and reliability.
It's a great security to know that Cricket's coverage reaches 99% of the US population.
Even better is to know that the coverage will be strong and have solid reception in both rural and urban areas.
One of the most common complaints about a consumer's mobile coverage is the "can you hear me?" in areas with poor coverage. Cricket has its cons, but solid reception and reliability aren't among them.
Again, Cricket's pricing includes all fees, taxes, etc, making it easier to compare and budget.
Nationwide unlimited text and calling are standard with all of Cricket's individual and family plans.
Cricket's Smart Plans and Pro Plans include unlimited talk and text to and from Canada and Mexico and unlimited international texting.
Unlimited calling and picture/ video messages from the US to 36 countries can also be purchased as an add-on for other plans.
International roaming options are rather sparse with Cricket Wireless. Frequent international travelers certainly want to take this into consideration and speak with a Cricket representative to determine the exact options.
How Do Cricket's Family Plans Stack Up?
Compared to competitors, multiple lines through Cricket's group saving plan is affordable and offers a fair amount of data per line. 2.5 GB of data per line (10GB) for four lines starts at $100. This is an attractive deal for those looking to get a moderate amount of data for multiple lines.
Similar plans with AT&T can exceed $160 per month. Boost, with 2 GB per line for four lines is priced at $120.
The only caveat is that Cricket does not have the family roll over option so popular with larger carriers. This is a feature which allows unused data to move along to the next month. Considering said rollover data expires after just a single month, drawing the red data line in the sand for the family and taking the savings through Cricket may be more appealing than big carrier perks like shared data and rollover.
What About Speed?
It's a fact that AT&T LTE network speeds are up to five times faster. Speeds with Cricket are capped at eight Mbps, giving room for internet-obsessed critics to complain. Speeds also will be slowed after the allotted amount per plan is surpassed. Normal speed will be reinstated upon the next billing cycle.
That said, the causal internet user should find themselves perfectly content with eight Mbps. After all, it only takes 0.5Mbps speed and 3.0 Mbps for good picture quality when streaming with Netflix.
It comes down to what's a priority for each consumer - speed or price?
Phones, Phones, And More Phones
Unlocked and eligible GSM phones that support AT&T's LTE bands can be brought into Cricket to check eligibility. If eligible, these phones can be used instead of purchasing a new device.
Do keep in mind that older model phones may not have the technological capabilities to connect with 4G frequency towers and therefore will not be able to receive a signal for use. Make sure to check eligibility before planning to use an existing device.
Cricket also sells a large selection of phones at MSRP (manufacturer suggested retail price) online and at over 10,000 retail stores nationwide. While these require payment in full at the time of purchase, the buyer will own the phone and not be under any service contract or lease agreement. This is an important consideration for consumers not needing or wanting long obligations to a carrier.
Economy handheld devices are also available. These work well for parents doing a test run for a child's first phone or helping an elderly relative out with a phone.
Existing numbers can be transferred to Cricket devices.
Connect laptops and handheld devices to the internet with Cricket's mobile hotspot for an additional charge.
Pros and Cons of Cricket Wireless
Excellent coverage and reliability
Attractive, clear pricing and value
No billing surprises
No credit check
Flexibility to alter plans and devices as needed without fees and charges
Own new devices free and clear
Easy to transfer existing phone
No contract, lease, or obligation
Existing numbers can be transferred to Cricket devices
Limited add-on bells and whistles like shared data and rollover
Limited international roaming
Slower speeds than major carriers
Slower speed may impact audio and visual quality
Speed will be slowed after the plan's data allotment has been used
Must pay manufacturer price for devices upfront and in full before service begins
Good things really can come in small packages. For those looking for a carrier with reliable coverage; value-driven plans; and clear, flexible billing, Cricket Wireless is certainly worth investigating. Jump to top
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