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Best Cell Phone Companies

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by ConsumerAffairs Research Team

Modern cell phones are accessible, intuitive and affordable. The growing abundance of cell phones and their modes of communication like calls, video chat, emails and texts have changed how people interact with each other.

Cell phones, of course, are now much more than communication devices. With access to the Internet and numerous applications, cell phones can function as portable entertainment devices. Today, buying a cell phone can mean more than just picking up a phone to stay in touch.

Compare Reviews for Top Cell Phone Companies

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Pure TalkUSA
Read 349 Reviews

Pure TalkUSA, founded in 2004, offers prepaid cell phone service. It has multiple plans for consumers to choose from, including unlimited plans. The company’s headquarters are in Georgia, and all customer service is U.S.-based.

Jitterbug Smart
Read 899 Reviews

At $149.99 apiece, this simplified smartphone has pre-installed urgent care apps. It can switch to the standard Android platform and integrate with GreatCall’s 5Star Urgent Response to send medical alerts.

Jitterbug Flip
Read 1103 Reviews

Priced at $99.99, this phone has a large screen, large text, backlit keypad, big buttons, reading magnifier with LED flashlight and powerful speaker. It is easy to navigate and has a 5Star button.

Verizon Wireless
Read 5567 Reviews

Verizon Wireless is an American wireless telecommunications company that was founded in 2000. Verizon operates a 4G network that covers at least 98 percent of the United States and offers a variety of devices and services.

AT&T Wireless
Read 5685 Reviews

Founded in 1983 and headquartered in Dallas, AT&T is one of the largest providers of cell phones and service in the United States. AT&T Wireless offers flexible payment plans and a full stock of cell phones to consumers.

T-Mobile
Read 5019 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.

Sprint PCS
Read 5559 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.

Apple iPhone
Read 809 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.

Samsung Cell Phones
Read 701 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.

Metro PCS
Read 1530 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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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 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 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 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.

Compare Reviews for Top Cell Phone Companies

TracFone
Read 2226 Reviews

Founded in 1996, TracFone is a United States prepaid wireless service provider. Consumers purchase airtime on a number of cell phone models, and plans can be refilled as needed. TracFone offers nationwide coverage in each plan.

Straight Talk Wireless
Read 2005 Reviews

Straight Talk wireless offers cell phones and plans with no contracts. Plans are refillable, ensuring that users only pay for the minutes and data they want. Straight Talk products can be purchased online or at Walmart.

Cricket Wireless
Read 1434 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.

Boost Mobile
Read 879 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.

LG Cell Phones
Read 455 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.

Virgin Mobile
Read 1134 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.

U.S. Cellular
Read 646 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.

Safelink Wireless
Read 630 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.

Walmart Family Mobile
Read 650 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.

Motorola
Read 353 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.

Telus
Read 291 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.

Assurant Phone Insurance
Read 303 Reviews

In business since 2004, Assurant Phone Insurance offers tablet and smartphone insurance across North and South America and Europe. Pocket Geek, the company’s app, provides helpful data on your device’s performance and security.

HTC
Read 277 Reviews

HTC is a Taiwanese electronic company that manufactures devices like cell phones and tablets. HTC manufactures smartphones designed to run Windows Mobile OS and the Android OS, which are available through multiple carriers.

NET10 Wireless
Read 644 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.

Google Pixel
Read 9 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.

Xfinity Mobile
Read 13 Reviews

A subsidiary of Comcast, this mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) uses Verizon’s network and retails name-brand flagship devices. Plans start at $12/month for unlimited talk/text and 1G. Unlimited data plans start at $45/month.

Page Plus Cellular
Read 204 Reviews

Cellular Country
Read 93 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.

airtel Prepaid
Read 62 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.

C Spire Wireless (formerly Cellular South)
Read 76 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.

Sony Mobile
Read 101 Reviews

Part of the Sony Corporation, Sony Mobile is an international innovator in mobile devices and cellular phone design. The Xperia is Sony Mobile’s mobile phone model. It boasts a state-of-the-art compact camera and runs on Android.

Samsung Tablets
Read 75 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.

Nokia
Read 66 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.

Vodacom
Read 31 Reviews

Vodacom is a mobile communications company headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa. With operations across 40 countries, Vodacom provides cell phones and plans to people and businesses across Africa.

Simply Sellular
Read 53 Reviews

Simply Sellular is an online service that purchases consumers’ cell phones to dispose of them in an environmentally-friendly way. Simply Sellular sends consumers a prepaid envelope for them to ship their phone and receive payment.

Digicel
Read 25 Reviews

Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica, Digicel is a communication service provider with operations in the Caribbean, Central America and Oceania regions. The company offers numerous plans and devices to consumers.

Firefly
Read 9 Reviews

Firefly phones are cell phones designed for young children. These devices can store up to 48 numbers, and these can only be added after entering a PIN, usually set by the parent. They have few buttons and options to simplify use.

Mobal Communications
Read 5 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.

Simply Wireless
Read 46 Reviews

Founded in 1997, Simply Wireless is a United States multi-channel wireless distributor. Its subsidiary brands like Shop Cell Deals, Simply Prepaid and mobileNOW offer a full range of wireless services and solutions to consumers.

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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.