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Find the Best Cell Phone Companies

by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Buying a cell phone means more than just picking up a phone to stay in touch. Read our guide to research and discover the best cell phone company for you. We explain what to look for when considering the growing number of cell phones and their modes of communication, including calls, video chat, emails and texts. 

Modern cell phones are accessible, intuitive and affordable. Cell phones are now much more than communication devices. Companies offer cell phones for seniors that have emergency help buttons. And, with access to the Internet and numerous applications, cell phones often serve as portable entertainment devices.

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    AUTHORIZED PARTNER
    Available in 10014
    Pure Talk
    Read 2,289 Reviews

    Offers affordable, basic cell service plans. Low-data plans ideal for seniors. No contracts and no hidden fees. Offered throughout the U.S., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Uses the AT&T carrier network.

    Straight Talk Wireless
    Read 2,450 Reviews

    No-contract cellphone provider that offers basic cellphone coverage and features. Has a 99% coverage rate. Offers budget friendly options, discounted cellphones and easy add-on features.

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      AUTHORIZED PARTNER
      Available in 10014
      Lively Flip
      Read 1,235 Reviews

      Cellular phone with an urgent response button. Plans start at $19.99 a month. Must purchase minutes and texts. Works with Amazon Alexa. Does not offer fall detection. No long-term contract required.

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        AUTHORIZED PARTNER
        Available in 10014
        Jitterbug Smart
        Read 990 Reviews

        Smartphone devices equipped with 5Star Urgent Response service. Rates start at $14.99 a month. Urgent safety response packages start at $19.99. Discounts on minutes, text and data if enrolled in the Health & Safety plan.

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        Xfinity Mobile
        Read 283 Reviews

        Offers 5G mobile network. No activation fees required. Control and edit data options within the included app. Data options start at $15 a month. Unlimited data available for $45 a month.

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        Verizon Wireless
        Read 6,897 Reviews

        Provides 5G cell service in 35 cities with more added daily. Global coverage available. Offers Samsung, Apple, Motorola and Google devices, or bring your own.

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        T-Mobile
        Read 5,855 Reviews

        T-Mobile is a United States cell phone and wireless service provider that is headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. Founded in 1994, T-Mobile offers numerous phones and plans to consumers and businesses.

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        Apple iPhone
        Read 1,198 Reviews

        The Apple iPhone is a line of smartphones from Apple Inc. The first iPhone launched in 2007 and the iPhone is currently on its seventh generation. The iPhone is one of the most popular cell phones on the market.

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        AT&T Wireless
        Read 6,833 Reviews

        Sells wireless cell plans. Has excellent coverage. Can buy phones online or use their own device with plans. Prepaid options available. Unlimited talk, text and data plans available. 5G access with a compatible device.

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        Sprint
        Read 6,640 Reviews

        Sprint is one of the largest mobile network operators in the United States. It also offers internet and wireless voice, broadband and messaging services through its brands, Boost Mobile, Virgin, i-wireless and Assurance Wireless.

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        Cell phone features that matter most

        What communication options are available?

        Cell phones are primarily used for communication, and getting the most out of your new phone means knowing exactly what communication options are available.

        • Calls: At their core, cell phones are built for direct conversation. Making sure your phone has a good, clear speaker and receiver should be a priority, especially if you plan on making a lot of calls.
        • Text messages: Nowadays, it seems more people communicate through text messaging than actual calls. Text messaging allows for quick communication and comes standard on most phones.
        • Video chats: Most smartphones are capable of video chat, either as a standard feature or a downloadable application.
        • Emails: Phones capable of internet access can usually receive email.

        What kind of hardware do I need on my phone?

        Not all cell phones come with the same hardware. Depending on how you plan to use your phone, you’ll want to make sure the phone has the right components to match your needs.

        • Storage space: The more apps you want to run on your phone, the more storage space you will need. Storage on smartphones is measured in gigabytes (GB). If you plan on using your phone for games and media, you will want to find a cell phone with at least 16 GB of space.
        • Processor: Now that phones are capable of running applications and games, processor speed, measured in gigahertz, has become an important point of cell phone hardware comparison. If you plan to run games or video, make sure your phone’s processor is capable of running at a speed of at least 1.1 gigahertz.
        • Display: If you’re looking to play video on your phone, you’ll want a good display. Resolution is measured by how many pixels can appear on the screen, calculated horizontally and vertically. The higher the resolution, the clearer your picture will be. A high definition display, for example, usually has 1920 by 1080 pixels. You will also want to take screen size into account as well. A larger screen can make video and gaming easier to see.
        • Camera: Today, many phones have cameras that can rival some of the more expensive digital cameras on the market. Camera resolution is measured in megapixels, and more megapixels means a clearer picture. The current high standard for camera phones is about 12 megapixels. If you plan on using your phone for taking pictures and video, look for a phone with a good camera.
        • Aux hookup: Most smartphones have an auxiliary headphone jack to connect your phone to speakers, headphones or headsets.
        • Bluetooth: Phones use Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to other phones, tablets and computers or to peripherals like headphones and headsets.

        Which operating system should I use?

        All cell phones have operating systems (OS), but some models, especially smartphones, have more complex operating systems that offer different benefits. When choosing a phone, make sure you have a chance to test multiple operating systems to find the right one for you.

        • iOS: Apple’s iPhone line of smartphones runs on Apple’s iOS. It is a touch-based OS designed to be as intuitive as possible. Its interconnectivity with other Apple products and services make it an attractive prospect for users who already own Apple laptops or tablets.
        • Android OS: The Android mobile OS was developed by Google. It is a touchscreen OS that is used on a number of cell phone models and is capable of running many different applications. More phones run on Android than any other OS.
        • Windows Phone: A successor to Microsoft’s Windows Mobile, Windows Phones is a touch-based operating system for Microsoft’s smartphones. It hosts numerous features like Microsoft Office Mobile, connectivity to Microsoft’s Xbox game systems and access to many different applications.
        • Basic phone OS: The most basic standard cell phone has an OS capable of calling, text messaging, running a few games and, sometimes, basic email. There are various versions of these types of systems, but they are all designed to focus on simple, efficient communication.

        Which smartphone applications are available?

        If you’re deciding between a smartphone and a basic cell phone, knowing which applications are available for each phone may be a deciding factor.

        • Social media: Apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn allow users to stay in touch with friends, family and colleagues. If you’re looking to stay connected to an online community, make sure your phone can use various social media apps.
        • Media: Media apps like Netflix and Spotify can play video and music from your smartphone. If you intend to play media on your phone, make sure your phone has enough hard drive space and is capable of running the software you want.
        • Games: Mobile gaming has become a big contender in the world of entertainment. While basic smartphones will run some simple games, smartphones can run high-end, more complex games. If you want to use your phone for mobile gaming, make sure your phone has enough storage space and a powerful enough processor to run games smoothly.
        • News: Most major magazines and newspapers have apps that allow you to receive current and breaking news updates directly to your phone.
        • Business and finances: If you do a lot of mobile business or mobile banking, apps can allow you to monitor your business or finances remotely.

        What type of cell phone plan do I need?

        Buying a phone is the first step, but in order to use it, you will have to subscribe to some sort of plan for minutes, messaging and data. Whether you want to pay-as-you-go, set up a time for a limited plan or sign a contract for multiple years, cell phone carriers can usually find a plan right for you.

        • Contracts: Most cell phone companies offer their services on a contract. Signing a contract can often get you a discount on a phone. The length of the average contract is often one or two years.
        • Prepaid Phone: Prepaid phones are disposable numbers for temporary plans. Prepaid phones are set with a certain amount of minutes, and they can usually be canceled anytime.
        • Pay-as-you-go: Some prepaid phones can be upgraded with a pay-as-you-go plan. These plans allow you to pay money only as long as you wish to continue using the phone. This plan is best if you want the option to continue service without tying yourself to a particular carrier.

        Types of cell phones

        Standard cell phones

        The standard, classic cell phones, sometimes called “brick” phones, are conventional models designed for simple calling and texting. Some basic phones may be able to access the internet and email, but most are designed to keep communication simple and direct.

        Smartphones

        Smartphones are cell phones that also function as multimedia devices. Smartphones can connect to the internet, access social networks, play high-end games, stream music and video, take photos and more. These phones require data plans to use online features.

        Feature phones

        Less common than basic cell phones and smartphones, feature phones have a limited OS that can open up access to a few select features like email, GPS services and Internet access. Feature phones are adequate middle-ground devices that can do more than a basic phone but lack the more robust abilities of a smartphone.

        Flip phones

        Flip phones are standard or feature phones that fold and unfold for compact portability. They are generally made for simple communication purposes.

        Rugged phones

        Rugged cell phones are standard phones capable of use in harsh conditions. These devices are usually waterproof and are available as standard phones and flip phones.

        People who use cell phones

        Families

        Families of all sizes who want to stay in touch will need to have cell phones. Cell phones allow family members to communicate with each other no matter the distance between them. You can talk to family around the world with cell phones, often without paying long-distance fees.

        Mobile workers

        If you’re constantly on the road for business, you likely need a cell phone to keep in contact with clients and coworkers.

        Social media users

        Smartphones grant you constant access to your social media profiles. If you’re someone who likes to update their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter profiles on the go, you’ll want a smartphone capable of hosting social media apps.

        Tech enthusiasts

        The cell phone landscape is changing constantly. Staying current means investing in new tech as it becomes available.

        Gamers

        Mobile gaming has become a driving force in game development. Having a phone capable of running mobile games is a good way to feed your gaming habits.

        Movie and music lovers

        With cell phones, you can take music and movies with you wherever to go. If you’re a subscriber to streaming services like Netflix or Spotify, you can use those services via apps for your smartphone.

        Not sure how to choose?

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          Compare Reviews for Top Cell Phone Companies

          Samsung Cell Phones
          Read 901 Reviews

          A leading designer and manufacturer of electronic devices, Samsung developed its first smartphone in 1999. Now, the Samsung Galaxy is the company’s flagship smartphone, though basic flip phones are still available.

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          Boost Mobile
          Read 1,358 Reviews

          Founded in Australia in 2000 and expanding worldwide a year later, Boost Mobile is a telecommunications network service that offers phones and services with no binding contracts. Boost Mobile is owned by Sprint Corporation.

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          Cricket Wireless
          Read 1,903 Reviews

          Founded in 1999, Cricket Wireless is a cell phone carrier and network service. Cricket offers a number of cell phones along with a service that can include unlimited talk and text, prepaid phones and nationwide 4G LTE coverage.

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          Metro PCS
          Read 1,900 Reviews

          Headquartered in Richardson, Texas, MetroPCS is a prepaid wireless service that was founded in 1994. It is part of T-Mobile US, Inc. and allows users to access unlimited wireless communication options for a flat-rate fee.

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          Telus
          Read 484 Reviews

          Founded in 1984, Telus is a Canadian telecommunications company that provides products and services to consumers and businesses. Telus Mobility, the company’s line of wireless services, is headquartered in Vancouver.

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          TracFone Wireless
          Read 2,571 Reviews

          Offers nationwide coverage, no extra costs and unlimited monthly minute carryover. Works with dependable 4G networks. Offers three basic plans ranging from $20 to $30 a month. Does not require contracts.

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          Motorola
          Read 431 Reviews

          Motorola is a cell phone provider with a company history that stretches back to 1928. Motorola Mobility is the company’s smartphone manufacturing division, building the Moto line of cell phones and smartwatches.

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          U.S. Cellular
          Read 770 Reviews

          U.S. Cellular offers prepaid basic phones and smartphones without a contract. Plans have unlimited talk and text. The company has been in business since 1983 and is one of the nation’s largest wireless providers.

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          Google Pixel
          Read 85 Reviews

          Google Pixel is a line of cell phones running the Android operating system. The first Pixel launched in 2016 and the phone is in its second generation. The Pixel contains Google Assistant, a virtual personal assistant.

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          LG Cell Phones
          Read 523 Reviews

          Multinational technology company LG Electronics is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea and was founded in 1958. LG’s series of Optimus smartphones run on the Android OS and are available from multiple wireless service providers.

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          Safelink Wireless
          Read 795 Reviews

          Safelink Wireless is a program that helps eligible households afford cell phone service. Safelink is provided by TracFone, a no-contract cellular service. Only households that meet their state’s poverty guidelines are eligible.

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          NET10 Wireless
          Read 696 Reviews

          Net10 Wireless provides no-contract plans and phones to consumers. Net10 has partnered with some the United States’ most popular carriers to build their wireless network. Net10 focuses on affordability and custom plans.

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          airtel Prepaid
          Read 141 Reviews

          Headquartered in New Delhi, Airtel is an international telecommunications company that operates in over 20 Asian and African countries. The Airtel Red is the company’s flagship smartphone and runs on the Android operating system.

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          Walmart Family Mobile
          Read 766 Reviews

          Walmart Family Mobile is a family wireless service powered by T-Mobile. Consumers can choose from a number of plans and devices from Nokia, iPhone, Samsung and other manufacturers. These plans are designed to keep prices low.

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          Page Plus Cellular
          Read 249 Reviews

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          Nokia
          Read 89 Reviews

          Nokia is a global technology and communication company headquartered in Finland. Nokia phones are designed to be durable, simple and intuitive. Nokia plans on launching a smartphone that runs on Android in 2017.

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          C Spire Wireless
          Read 107 Reviews

          Originally founded in 1988 as Cellular South, C Spire Wireless provides cell phones and service to Mississippi, Alabama, the Memphis metropolitan area and the Florida Panhandle. C Spire is headquartered in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

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          Samsung Tablets
          Read 91 Reviews

          Safelink Wireless is a program that helps eligible households afford cell phone service. Safelink is provided by TracFone, a no-contract cellular service. Only households that meet their state’s poverty guidelines are eligible.

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          Cellular Country
          Read 107 Reviews

          Based in Orange County, California, Cellular Country is a seller of used phones. Cellular Country offers an extensive stock of used cell phones and each phone comes with a charger, same-day shipping and a 100 percent guarantee.

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          Mobal Communications
          Read 8 Reviews

          Mobal Communications provides international solutions for cell phones, SIM cards and satellite phones. Consumers can choose from a number of packages and devices to purchase or rent a phone for international use.

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          Virgin Mobile
          Read 1,304 Reviews

          Virgin Mobile is a worldwide wireless communication company. Virgin offers a wide range of phones and plans, emphasizing consumer choice for contract and prepaid plans. Virgin Mobile USA is a subsidiary of Sprint.

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          by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

          The ConsumerAffairs Research Team believes everyone deserves to make smart decisions. We aim to provide readers with the most up-to-date information available about today's consumer products and services.

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