Both network carriers say this is a way to stay competitive in the race to have the fastest 5G network. If approved, Sprint will be absorbed into T-Mobile.
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — The average monthly unlimited rate for a family plan from the big carriers starts at around $100, so a lot of heads turned when Sprint had a better offer: $60 for a family plan, or $15 for one line.
The pricing is so unprecedented that it warrants a look at what else you can get from the competition for $15 to $20. (Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T charge $160 monthly for their family plans, although T-Mobile has military and senior discount plans available at $40 a line.)
Rick Broida, who writes the Cheapskate column for CNET, calls Sprint’s offer “amazing” and unlike any he has seen from a major carrier. “For someone looking to get service on the cheap, this is unheard of.”
But there are limitations, namely that it’s on the Sprint network, which historically is weaker than competitors — one reason Sprint and No. 3 carrier T-Mobile have proposed merging. And the deal is for a limited time, although Sprint hasn’t specified dates.
Looking for alternatives? Here’s what else is out there.
*FreedomPop also has a $15 unlimited monthly plan, but details are sketchy. Called “Unreal Mobile,” it will be available by the end of June, with unlimited talk, text and data, but only some of that will be high-speed data. CNET reported it will be just 1 GB of high speed data, but FreedomPop CEO Stephen Sokols told USA TODAY it will be way more and “competitive” with Sprint. He says he will release more details when the plan launches.
FreedomPop, which also offers a free service of talk, text and data (500 minutes, 200 texts, 500 megabytes of data) has been dogged by complaints about its customer service online. Sokols admits its service has “historically been poor,” but he’s invested in recent months to get it up to speed. He adds that subscribers to what’s considered FreedomPop’s “premium” service will be able to reach human beings with customer issues.
Wireless service for Unreal will be provided by Sprint and AT&T, and customers are encouraged to bring their phones or buy low-cost phones from FreedomPop, with what Sokols says will be as low as $50.
*TextNow: Like FreedomPop, TextNow also has a free, Wi-Fi-only plan for free calls and texts. But you’ll need a new phone number for the service TextNow provides. For $19.99, you can get unlimited talk and texts and just 2 GB of data. This might work if you use your phone in Wi-Fi most of the time, like at work or school, but in the field those YouTube videos, Facebook messages and constant looks at email will eat up fast.
*MintMobile: The $15 deal will get you unlimited talk and text and 2 GB of data per month. To get the $15 rate, you need to commit to multimonth pricing.
*Republic Wireless: Here you’ll pay $25 for unlimited talk, text and 2 GB of data. Add $5 for each extra 1 GB of data.
*Virgin Mobile: If you’re interested in a great short-term rate, Virgin offers $1 monthly, but only for six months. The unlimited talk, text and data then goes to $50 monthly. A year’s service would cost you just more than $300, a good deal more than 12 months with Sprint at $180.
All three a virtual tie, but each had questions they couldn’t answer. Tune in to find out where Apple, Google and Amazon fell down.
In other tech news this week
*For your talking TV: Amazon and Sonos both introduced new devices this week to turn you into the remote control. Amazon’s Cube is the Echo speaker for TVs, a streaming player with no physical remote control. Designed for the TV, the $89 device lets you operate the TV with your voice and play music as well. The Sonos Beam is a compact $399 sound bar for bringing better sound to the TV and letting you operate it via voice as well.
*The iOS12 update: At the Worldwide Developers Conference, Apple previewed iOS12, the mobile operating system update that will be released in the fall. Key features include parental controls and notifications when websites such as Facebook are snooping on you. What it didn’t do is use the WWDC to announce an overhaul of Siri, the Apple personal assistant that has fallen behind Alexa and Google in terms of smarts.
*BlackBerry keeps trying: The Key2 is the latest attempt from the veteran wireless company to revive its brand. The $649 phone sports a physical Qwerty keyboard, industrial-strength security and long battery life.
*Goodbye Yahoo Messenger: Oath, the company that now owns Yahoo, shut down Yahoo Messenger, one of the earliest instant messenger platforms. Earlier, it said goodbye to the even older AIM from AOL.
*Which has better music smarts, Siri, Alexa or Google? We posed 40 questions and a bonus round of 10 for songs based on lyrics. Click here to find out which is best.
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
Sonos, we love you. We lay out our reasons why the Sonos One is hands down the best buy for anyone who loves music and is interested in a connected speaker.
Our Siri v. Alexa v. Google music smackdown. We reveal the winner in this podcast.
Apple iOS12 update. The latest from the WWDC.
Why Apple wants Facebook to stop tracking you. New security tools coming in iOS12 and macOS Mojave.
Can we really kick tech addiction? USA TODAY’s Edward C. Baig joins me to weigh in.
All about the Bird: Why we think the Bird scooter, and the technology that operates it, makes it hands down the coolest gadget of 2018, so far.
Alexa, change the channel. A preview of new products from Amazon and Sonos to change the channel with our voices.
Follow USA TODAY’s Jefferson Graham (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
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