PROS / Device purchases at U.S. Cellular are very flexible: You can buy phones upfront, in installments or even on contract.
CONS / Pricing is on par with Verizon or AT&T, despite offering staggeringly limited 4G LTE coverage.
VERDICT / U.S. Cellular is the carrier you go with if you have limited options. Its regional coverage sometimes outpaces the bigger cell phone companies, but it's only worth it if you never need to travel beyond its coverage area.
U.S. Cellular is one of the oldest cell phone carriers in the United States, but it's far from the best. It operates the fifth-largest independently owned network in the country, yet that network only covers a fraction of Americans – just 23 states. To cover the country, U.S. Cellular relies on roaming agreements from other carriers. Currently, 90 percent of U.S. Cellular's customers access to 4G LTE coverage across the nation thanks to partnerships with other carriers.
If you live within the company’s coverage area, U.S. Cellular is a solid carrier choice. It offers decent plans, great call quality and some of the best customer service around. Its smartphone selection is varied, with top-tier flagships like the iPhone 7, the Galaxy S8 and the LG V20. You can also buy cheap, good-quality feature phones and second-tier smartphones.
In terms of pricing and features, U.S. Cellular's cell phone plans are comparable to those of other carriers, though they’re not as cheap. You can get unlimited talk and text and 6GB of data for $50 a month or a four-line family plan with 2GB of data per person for $120. These plans don’t come with free music or video streaming, but they’re straightforward and let you buy new phones in either a lump sum or in monthly installments.
U.S. Cellular recently started offering an unlimited data plan, but it isn't as much of a value as similar plans with other cell phone service providers. The individual unlimited data plan, which includes unlimited talk, text and 22GB of high speed LTE data, costs $70 per month. A family of four can expect to pay $160 for an unlimited data plan. Unfortunately, U.S. Cellular doesn't include HD streaming video with its unlimited plan. Instead, when you stream video you'll get a lower 480p resolution, which is about the same quality of a DVD video. Access to 720p high-definition video streams costs an additional $20 each month.
Assuming you live within U.S. Cellular's primary coverage area, the company provides a solid alternative to some of the bigger names in mobile. It doesn't have the best cell phone plans or service around, but it's well known for customer service and satisfaction. If you want to sign up with a sizable cell carrier that still has a small-town feel, U.S. Cellular is a decent choice.