PROS / Taking into account its autopay savings, Boost's prices are the most affordable among the carriers we reviewed.
CONS / Its device selection is limited to Android and iOS phones – no Windows Phones, BlackBerrys or tablets here.
VERDICT / Boost's prices are as low as they come. If you already own a Sprint device and want cheap service, it's tough to beat.
Like no other cell phone carrier on our lineup, Boost Mobile leaves us torn. On one hand, it's incredibly affordable, with some of the cheapest full-featured cell phone plans on the market. It offers discounts if you sign up for automatic payment plans (which you'd do anyway if you picked one of the Big Four carriers), and it even has an unlimited 4G LTE data plan that's cheaper than what's offered by its direct competitor, Cricket Wireless.
On the other hand, Boost Mobile operates on Sprint's network, the weakest of the four major carriers. Our sister site, Tom's Guide's, speed tests proved that Boost's overall performance trailed behind other prepaid carriers like Virgin Mobile and MetroPCS.
Boost recorded average download and upload speeds of 16.8 Mbps and 6.7 Mbps, respectively – close to the results Sprint turned in, though not as close as what we saw from Virgin Mobile (which uses the same network). Boost had the slowest app-download average, a sluggish 2 minutes and 17 seconds.
Boost Mobile has a limited device selection and is extremely restrictive about what phones you can and can't bring to the service, again because of its allegiance to Sprint and the restrictions Sprint has put in place. Most people have to buy a new phone from Boost if they want to use its cell phone service, and once they do, they can't easily transfer to another provider if they're unhappy.
From a budgetary standpoint, of course, Boost is incredibly attractive. The company's main plan for smartphones costs $35. For that, you get unlimited talk, text, 411 directory assistance and all the extra features you'd expect from your provider, plus 3GB of high-speed data. Should you go over that limit, you still have access to the web; you are merely throttled down to 2G speeds. If you don't want to deal with slower speeds, Boost also has a $50 per month plan with unlimited data that slows down after 23 GB of usage.
The best cell phone plans are the ones that minimize restrictions on you, which is why the $50 unlimited data plan is so enticing – and it's just $45 if you sign up for automatic payments. For a family of four, an unlimited plan costs $135. You might not need it, though, since Boost has joined a growing list of cell phone companies that offer free music streaming that doesn't count toward your data cap. The downside: Only a handful of streaming apps have partnered with Boost. Apple Music and Google Play Music aren't among them; fortunately, Spotify and Pandora are though. As for video, Boost will stream your shows in 480p quality. It costs an additional $20 each month if you want high definition streams.
If you don't need unlimited data, you can get a family plan for $120 for four people, which includes 2GB of data per person and unlimited talk and text. If you need extra data, it costs just $5 for each gigabyte.
We were surprised by the diversity of Android and iOS phones available from Boost Mobile, but the selection ends at those two operating systems. Fans of Windows Phones and BlackBerry devices will be disappointed. Boost carries a wealth of cheap preowned devices, so if you're on a budget, you can still find something. If you purchase a phone though Boost Mobile, you don't have to pay an activation fee, but if you bring your own it'll cost you $10.
If the best cell phone carriers are the ones that are most affordable, then Boost Mobile deserves recognition. Its cheap prices and welcome discounts give you superb value for money. You don't have the same degree of choice as other cell phone service providers when it comes to picking your phone, and its coverage can be spotty in some areas thanks to its reliance on the Sprint network. If you just want cheap cell phone service, though, Boost could well be your best bet.