Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk looks a lot like a traditional cell phone plan -- only it's cheaper, with no contract and no commitment. Reviewers say it's one prepaid carrier that goes beyond basics. Virgin Mobile has a great selection of the latest cell phones, including the iPhone, and some basic phones for those who just want to talk and text.
Similar features to contract cell phone plans. Reviewers enthuse about Virgin Mobile's range of prepaid cell phone plans, saying that the plans look like an expensive contract plan. After analyzing the costs of seven competitors, About.com's former cell phones guide Adam Fendelman concludes that Virgin Mobile offers the best prepaid wireless plans overall. Editors at TopTenReviews.com praise Virgin Mobile for its fees, as the company doesn't charge activation or roaming fees for its prepaid service. In addition, domestic long distance is included in its pay-as-you-go and monthly plans.
Virgin Mobile's Beyond Talk plans start at $35 per month for unlimited text, email, data and web, with 300 voice minutes; $45 raises the voice minutes to 1,200, and it's $55 for unlimited service. There is no expiration to these minutes. T-Mobile Prepaid also offers smartphones, but its monthly plans have limits on data usage (web surfing, etc.).
As an alternative to the Beyond talk plans, SavvySenior.org columnist Jim Miller says Virgin Mobile's inexpensive PayLo talk and text plan is a great choice for seniors or others who just want a cell phone for emergency or occasional calls. The PayLo plans only come with basic flip or candy-bar phones. Prices for these plans start at $20 per month for 400 minutes of talk; text and data cost extra. The monthly $40 PayLo plan provides unlimited talk and text and 50 MB of data.
Piggybacks onto the Sprint network. Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk service uses the Sprint network, and reviewers say coverage may be an issue. Virgin Mobile's prepaid coverage map shows holes over less populated regions of the eastern United States, as well as much of the West. The carrier earns average ratings for voice quality at J.D. Power and Associates, PCMag.com and other respected customer surveys.
Average ratings and geared toward young customers. Virgin Mobile receives average ratings for its customer service in large customer surveys at PCMag.com and J.D. Power and Associates. Traditionally geared toward young customers, Virgin Mobile's website can be "hard to navigate and understand if you're over the age of 20," PrepaidReviews.com editors say. Although the editors at PrepaidReviews.com give Virgin Mobile 4 out of 5 stars, users aren't as enthusiastic, especially about customer service. Over 1,700 user reviewers at this site award an average of 2 out of 5 stars to this carrier.
Great selection of advanced phones. Virgin Mobile has an extensive selection of phones for its Beyond Talk plans, starting with a basic Venture model (*Est. $30). Virgin Mobile offers one of the most advanced prepaid phones out there: the LG Optimus Elite (*Est. $130), a touch-screen smartphone running Android 2.2. You could also choose the Samsung Intercept (*Est. $100) Android phone or the iPhone 4 or 4S. However, the selection for PayLo talk and text is limited to five Samsung and Kyocera phones.
Review Credibility: Excellent ConsumerReports.org ranks six prepaid wireless providers -- including Virgin Mobile -- from best to worst, based on feedback from more than 66,000 cell phone users. Editors discuss the pros and cons of each service.
Review: Prepaid Cell Phone Service Ratings, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, January 2011
2. J.D. Power & Associates
Review Credibility: Excellent In this survey of about 6,400 prepaid wireless cell phone users, Virgin Mobile rates just above the industry average overall, but falls squarely in the middle of the pack of nine prepaid cell phone carriers reviewed.
Review: 2011 Wireless Non-Contract Customer Satisfaction Index Study, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, March 31, 2011
Review Credibility: Good Virgin Mobile receives the Bronze award from the editors of TopTenReviews.com. Editors praise the company particularly for its fees, as Virgin Mobile doesn't charge activation or roaming fees for its prepaid service. In addition, domestic long distance is included in its pay-as-you-go and monthly plans. Note that TopTenReviews.com's evaluation of prepaid cell phone providers is based only on features, and doesn't look at how each phone service performs.
Review: 2013 Prepaid Cell Phones Comparisons, Editors of TopTenReviews.com, As of December 2012
Review Credibility: Good After analyzing the costs of seven competitors, About.com's former cell phones guide Adam Fendelman concludes that Virgin Mobile offers the best prepaid wireless plans overall. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Is Prepaid Wireless or a Monthly Contract Cheaper?, Adam Fendelman, Oct. 12, 2009
Review Credibility: Good Although editors at PrepaidReviews.com give Virgin Mobile 4 out of 5 stars, users aren't as enthusiastic, especially about customer service. Over 1,700 user reviewers award an average of 2 out of 5 stars to this carrier. Editors say Virgin Mobile's prepaid wireless plans are confusing, and its website "can be hard to navigate and understand if you're over the age of 20."
Review: Virgin Mobile Prepaid Phone Service, Editors of and Contributors to PrepaidReviews.com, As of December 2012
6. Savvy Senior
Review Credibility: Fair For seniors who want a cell phone for emergency or occasional calls, Virgin Mobile's pay-as-you-go PayLo plan is a good option, according to this syndicated column.
Review: Best Cell Phone Options for Seldom Calling Seniors, Jim Miller, March 7, 2011