Prepaid Cell Phone Plans: Ratings of Sources
This press release details the results of the latest J.D. Power and Associates survey of user satisfaction with their carrier's customer care. It finds that Consumer Cellular, an MVNO that uses the AT&T and T-Mobile networks, scores highest among prepaid providers. The carrier finishes first overall, and above the industry average in all the contact channels it surveys -- the quality of its customer service representatives, automated response system, retail store experience and online (website, chat and social media). The survey is based on responses from more than 2,500 non-contract wireless customers.
The 2016 J.D. Power and Associates' Wireless Purchase Satisfaction Study lets survey participants rate their purchase experience over the phone, in-store and online. According to the press release announcing the study results, Consumer Cellular ranks first among non-contract providers. "Consumer Cellular performs particularly well across all six purchase experience factors, especially in offerings and promotions and cost of service," J.D. Power and Associates reports.
ConsumerReports.org polls more than 100,000 cell phone users, asking prepaid and traditional wireless customers to rate their services for voice quality, text performance, data performance, customer support, and value. Editors then rank services from best to worst.
This reader survey of cell phone users includes both prepaid and postpaid services. Google Project Fi and Consumer Cellular (a postpaid provider) tie for first place and are co-Reader's Choice winners. Details are provided on the areas in which providers do well, and where there's still room for improvement in their users' eyes.
PCMag.com identifies 11 less-well-known carriers that are worth considering for cell phone service. Sascha Segan doesn't pick a favorite, but he briefly describes each plan and its pros and cons. Picks are broken out by carriers for different needs, such as lower cost, large network, international calling, and best for seniors.
In this report, RootMetrics looks at mobile network performance in metropolitan areas, rural areas, while driving and indoors and outdoors. Testing is comprehensive in scope, and while RootMetrics only tests the four major nationwide cellphone networks, nearly all prepaid carriers provide service using the same ones.
As part of its larger coverage of cellphone plans, Tom's Guide looks at postpaid carriers in this article to find the best choices for individuals and families. Stewart Wolpin and Philip Michaels consider plan costs and value as well as network coverage and performance. Network performance ratings include limited testing the site conducts itself on the underlying carriers each service uses. Elsewhere on the site, you can find articles that assess the customer support of prepaid and postpaid carriers and that investigate whether prepaid carriers deliver the same performance as the nationwide networks they use to deliver service.
PrepaidPhoneNews.com offers prepaid provider profiles, plus coverage of deals and plans for users interested in voice and text only services, for mobile data users, and for visitors from other countries looking to use their phones in the U.S. Coverage is continuously updated, and helpful information -- such as which carrier is providing service -- is included. Lists name the providers that site owner Dennis Bournique considers to have the best deals, but specific recommendations are not provided.
While TopTenReviews.com considers network performance -- assessing testing by RootMetrics, feedback from crowdsourced reporting sites such as OpenSignal and Sensorly (see below), and its own experience -- picks here are primarily based on a value calculation, that is how much bang you get for your buck. Reviewer Dan Tennant also names the best pick for most people, the best value provider, and which provider offers the most rock-bottom deal.
HowardForums.com is a news and discussion site with active user forums covering prepaid cell phone plans. Several popular carriers get their own subforums, while a larger general subforum will find some threads dealing with nearly every prepaid carrier.
OpenSignal provides crowd sourced coverage maps based on feedback from Android and iOS (iPhone) apps users have downloaded and installed on their devices. Only the major nationwide cell phone networks are listed, but these are the same ones that most prepaid providers depend on for service.
Sensorly also gets its data from apps downloaded by users. It lists several major prepaid providers in addition to the major networks, though coverage maps for those is typically sparse and better information can be found looking at the coverage maps of the national providers instead.