Cricket draws kudos for delivering high-value plans for individuals and, especially, families. Owned by AT&T and using its network, Cricket also has better coverage than most rival 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. Downsides are few -- most notably a top LTE speed of 8 Mbps, though that's still fast enough for anything most people would want to do with their phone, including seamless streaming of video or music.
The best prepaid plan for families. 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 $40 per month, with a $5 discount if you sign up to pay your bill automatically. Data is unlimited, with generous allotments of high-speed data -- 2.5 GB for the cheapest plan -- 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 5 GB of high-speed data, also include unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada, roaming while in those countries, and unlimited international texting. Things get especially attractive 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. That makes it one of the best prepaid family plans available according to the experts at Money magazine and Tom's Guide. Like most prepaid carriers, the selection of phones isn't extensive, but Cricket welcomes any unlocked, compatible phone bought elsewhere, such as Amazon.com.
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. Also, 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.
Could be better, could be worse. Cricket doesn't win any awards when it comes to measures of customer service, but it also does better than many prepaid cell phone plans. It finishes in third place in the latest J.D. Power and Associates survey of customer care, but still well above average among prepaid providers. It also finished in the middle of the pack in the latest PCMag.com Readers' Choice poll, which also includes traditional cell phone plans (covered in their own report).
1. J.D. Power & Associates
J.D. Power and Associates' survey of customer care offered by prepaid cell phone plans gives Cricket a good, though not great, score. It earns 4 circles (one step below the top grade) and a third place finish that still places it above the average of its competitors.
Review: Overall Satisfaction with Wireless Customer Care Service Is Lower among Customers with Device Payment Plans, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, July 30, 2015
2. J.D. Power and Associates
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 third place finish and a score that's above the average for prepaid providers.
Review: Wireless Carrier Sales Reps Play Key Role Delivering a Satisfying Purchase Experience to Tablet and Smartphone Shoppers, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Feb. 19, 2015
PCMag.com lumps prepaid and traditional cell phone plan providers together in its Readers' Choice poll. Cricket finishes mid-pack, with a score that's just below the average among all cell phone providers.
Review: Readers' Choice Awards 2015: Smartphones and Mobile Carriers, Ben Gottesman, March 19, 2015
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."
Review: Updated: The Best US Prepaid Phone Plans For Data Users, Dennis Bournique, July 29, 2015
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.
Review: First Half 2015 Mobile Network Performance in the US, Dave Andersen, Aug. 18, 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.
Review: Tested: Cricket, MetroPCS Much Slower Than Parent Networks, Philip Michaels, July 17, 2015
7. Money Magazine
Money magazine names the best cell phone for different users and different budgets. Costs are based on two years of service, and on price, features and user ratings for service and satisfaction. Cricket emerges as the best choice for typical users and for typical families.
Review: The Best Cellphone Plans of 2015, Kara Brandeisky and Jackie Zimmermann, June 15, 2015
Stewart Wolpin names Cricket as the best prepaid family plan. Performance isn't as fast as some other providers, however Wolpin says that Cricket's "monthly savings are too compelling to overlook, especially for families on a budget."
Review: Best Cellphone Plans 2015, Stewart Wolpin, Aug. 10, 2015
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.
Review: Cricket/AIO, Contributors to HowardForums.com, As of September 2015