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Cricket Wireless Review
Bottom Line

Owned by AT&T and using its network, Cricket has better coverage, especially in rural areas than most rival prepaid cell phone plans, something that's especially important to those who want to be sure their phones work in areas away from big cities and major roads.

Pros
  • Affordable plans
  • Generous data allotments
  • Great coverage
  • Family plans
Cons
  • Data speeds limited to 8 Mbps
  • Hot spot usage an extra charge

Breaking it down

Plans and flexibility

Major carrier coverage for less than major carrier prices. Cricket's plans for individuals offer good value and include unlimited talk and text for as little as $25 per month. Plans with data start at $30 per month for 1 GB of LTE data, and larger plans ($40 per month for 2.5 GB of LTE data and up) offer a $5 discount if you sign up to pay your bill automatically. Data is unlimited, but exceed your plan's high-speed cap and things slow down to a crawl (2G speeds says Cricket's web site). Step up plans, starting at $50 per month for 8 GB of high-speed data, also include unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada, roaming while in those countries, and unlimited international texting. Cricket also offers a totally unlimited plan for $70 per month. For those looking for a prepaid monthly plan for their family (or other group), each line added to an account (you can have up to five) gets a discount, starting at $10 for the second line to $40 for the fifth. Like most prepaid carriers, the selection of phones isn't extensive, but you will find the latest Samsung and Apple flagship devices, such as the iPhone 7 and 7 plus. In addition, Cricket welcomes any unlocked, compatible phone bought elsewhere, such as at Amazon.com.

Performance

Nationwide coverage. Cricket is owned by AT&T and uses that carrier's network to provide coverage, and that's very good news. Though public perception says one thing, independent testing by organizations such as RootMetrics reveals that AT&T is second only to Verizon -- and not by all that much -- when it comes to providing excellent performance in the most areas, including rural areas where phones from some rival carriers won't work at all. One caveat is that speed is capped at 8 Mbps, much less than the native AT&T network can deliver in many areas. However, experts and users say that the speed delivered is still more than ample for most activities, including streaming. Another negative is that if you plan to use your phone as a mobile hot spot, that capability is only allowed with data plans that have 5 GB of high speed data, or more, and costs $10 per month.

Customer service

Could be better, could be a lot worse. When it comes to surveys that measure customer service, Cricket does better than many prepaid cell phone plans. It finishes in second place in the latest J.D. Power and Associates survey of customer care among non-contract providers, well above the industry average and only topped by Consumer Cellular, a postpaid non-contract provider profiled in our report on traditional cell phone plans. It also finished fourth in the latest PCMag.com Readers' Choice poll, which also includes traditional cell phone plans, and again puts it above the industry average for all providers.

Our Sources

1. J.D. Power & Associates

U.S. Wireless Customer Care Study Vol. 2 (2016) -- Non-contract Channels, Via Mobile Devices, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, July 28, 2016

J.D. Power and Associates' survey of customer care offered by prepaid cell phone plans gives Cricket a fairly good score. It earns 4 circles (one step below the top grade) and a second place finish that still places it well above the average of its competitors.

2. J.D. Power and Associates

Wireless Purchase Experience Satisfaction Study Vol.2 (2016) -- Non-contract, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Aug. 11, 2016

Cricket's scores for the customer experience when buying service and phones is also above average. The J.D. Power and Associates survey for that measure again grants Cricket 4 circles, a second place finish and a score that's above the average for prepaid providers.

3. ConsumerReports.org

U.S. Cell Phone Carriers, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, September 2016

ConsumerReports.org includes Cricket wireless in its survey of more than 100,000 cell phone users. The service is rated for voice quality, text performance, data performance, customer support, and value.

4. PCMag.com

Readers' Choice Awards 2016: Smartphones and Carriers, Ben Gottesman, March 15, 2016

PCMag.com lumps prepaid and traditional cell phone plan providers together in its Readers' Choice poll. Cricket finishes in fourth place, with a score that's just above the average among all cell phone providers.

5. PrepaidPhoneNews.com

Updated: The Best US Prepaid Phone Plans For Data Users, Dennis Bournique, Dec. 3, 2016

Dennis Bournique lists the best prepaid deals for users interested in data voice and text services. There aren't a lot of details, but Cricket is named among top choices for those that need "unlimited voice and messaging combined with a sizable amount of high-speed data."

6. RootMetrics

Mobile Network Performance in the US: A Special Report , Dave Andersen, Aug. 22, 2016

RootMetrics provides twice annual performance reports of mobile networks, looking at cities, rural areas, along highways and more. Cricket is not addressed directly, but AT&T is named the second best nationwide network, bested by Verizon by only a tiny margin.

7. TomsGuide.com

Tested: Cricket, MetroPCS Much Slower Than Parent Networks, Philip Michaels, Sept. 8, 2015

Though limited in scope compared to nationwide tests such as those done by RootMetrics and others, Tom's Guide finds that prepaid carriers typically deliver slower speeds than the networks that they use. The gap between Cricket and AT&T is especially large, though keep in mind that Cricket caps speeds at 8 Mbps.

8. TopTenReviews.com

Cricket Review, Dan Tennant, Jan. 7, 2017

Cricket finishes in third place at TopTenReviews.com, good enough for the site's Bronze award. Dan Tennant finds a lot to like with Cricket -- including unlimited data on the AT&T network -- but says satisfaction is dragged down by some annoying fees, such as the fee for hot spot use.

9. HowardForums.com

Cricket/AIO, Contributors to HowardForums.com, As of January 2017

Cricket gets its own subforum at HowardForums.com, a cell phone plan news and discussion site. The site is fairly active, with threads that cover user questions along with mini reviews, reports of issues, and success stories.