Virgin Mobile offers an unmatched selection of advanced smartphones, including 12 for their unlimited Beyond Talk plans. Smartphones choices include the Apple iPhone 4S (*Est. $650) and the Samsung Galaxy Reverb (*Est. $250). There's a choice of five phones with the PayLo pay-as-you-go scheme -- Samsung and Kyocera models ranging in price from $15 to $50.
The Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk Unlimited plan (*Est. $35 per month and up) isn't the cheapest prepaid plan available for unlimited talk, text and data. But if you're more likely to text or tweet than place a voice call, try Virgin Mobile's $45- or $35-per-month prepaid plans, which knock the voice minutes down to 1,200 or 300 but keep unlimited text and data.
Virgin Mobile earns average ratings for voice quality and customer service at J.D. Power and Associates, PCMag.com and other respected customer surveys. Virgin Mobile piggybacks on the Sprint network, so coverage may be an issue.
A close competitor is Boost Mobile (*Est. $50 per month and up) , which is the favorite prepaid cell phone provider of the over 6,400 customers in J.D. Power's survey, and also of editors at TopTenReviews.com and PrepaidReviews.com. Recently, Boost Mobile has added more advanced Android smartphones to its stable, and it offers a nice cost cut for customers who buy its unlimited plan (talk, text, web, 411, instant message, email and walkie-talkie): For every six months of on-time payments, Boost Mobile slices $5 off the bill to a maximum of $15. Its unlimited monthly plan starts at $50, but after 18 months of on-time payments you'll pay only $35. Boost Mobile uses the Sprint network, and according to The New York Times' Bob Tedeschi coverage can be "a bit patchy."
Verizon Wireless Prepaid (*Est. $50 per month and up) features a network that blankets most of the United States. However, prepaid cell phone plans from Verizon Wireless (*Est. $50 per month and up) and AT&T GoPhone (*Est. $25 per month and up) aren't highly recommended in reviews. Neither ranks above average overall, and AT&T's fees, voice quality, customer service and coverage drive it to the bottom of the prepaid ranks in major nationwide customer surveys, including J.D. Power and Associates' and PCMag.com's latest studies.
If you're within the regional coverage area of MetroPCS, this carrier is a solid choice as it offers low-cost service and simple, unlimited voice plans. MetroPCS offers a range of basic phones and smartphones, and rates highly in customer surveys.