Sprint has the weakest network of the Big Four cell phone providers. It places below the other three (and one budget carrier) in our evaluations, but its less expensive plans and expanding 4G network make it a contender in certain markets.
When we spoke with Allan Samson, Sprint’s vice president of acquisition marketing, he pushed the point that Sprint is the “price leader.” True, Sprint does offer less expensive plans than the other three major providers (Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile). But touting low prices only works in comparison with those companies, as Sprint still charges more than budget carriers like MetroPCS. There are advantages, of course, over an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator – a company like MetroPCS that uses someone else’s network). Sprint customers don’t have to worry about data deprioritization during network congestion at the beginning of their billing cycle, for example.
Even though Sprint is more expensive than budget carriers and has less coverage than the best networks, it is a decent option if you live well within Sprint’s coverage area. Its Unlimited Freedom plan is well-crafted. We like that Sprint doesn’t have tiered unlimited plans; it just has the one option that includes everything. The plan includes unlimited talk, text and data (4G LTE up to 23GB) with a mobile hotspot and HD streaming. It costs $60 a month with discounts for additional lines.
The catch is that Sprint’s network truly is weaker than other carriers. It is rated the slowest network in the U.S. by RootMetrics, OpenSignal, Ookla and Tom’s Guide. Sprint is working to play catch-up by expanding and upgrading its network, but it currently still lags behind other networks, even with its recent improvements. There are a few areas where the network shines, however. Each report we read listed Sprint as first or tied for first place in at least one market.
Our main advice when considering Sprint is to check coverage maps – both Sprint’s and third-party ones – to make sure you're solidly covered. The best phone carrier is the one that works where you user your phone, and if Sprint performs well in your area, it's a decent choice. We also recommend looking for deals, as Sprint is fairly generous with promotional offers.