Which unlimited plan should you buy: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon?

All four major carriers in the U.S. offer unlimited data plans. But which is the best?

This post was updated February 27, 2017 with the latest information.

With Verizon bringing back an unlimited data plan, the big four networks in the United States (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon) all carry an unlimited data plan now. That's important for power users as well as anyone who uses their mobile broadband internet as their sole way to stay in touch or for entertainment. The cost of data overages means that unlimited data is a must for many of us.

But just because everyone offers unlimited data doesn't mean that all plans are equal. Pricing is important as are "extras" like tethering and the hidden data cap that pushes you back to slower 3G speeds when you reach it. And of course, zero-rating means we have to pay attention to what unlimited means when it comes to the quality of streaming media as well as the source.

We took a look at what each carrier has to offer so we can decide who delivers the very best unlimited data package. Let's start with a look at the details for each carrier.

AT&T

Unlimited Plus

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • 10 GB mobile hotspot (tethering)
  • Unlimited talk and text to Canada and Mexico
  • Advanced messaging between compatible phones on the AT&T network
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico with free Roam North America Feature (if more than 50% of use is outside the U.S. the plan can be terminated)
  • Unlimited music and video streaming with optional Stream Saver for less data use
  • $25 monthly credit for DirecTV services
  • One line of service on an AT&T Unlimited Plus plan is $90
  • Two lines of service for $145
  • Up to eight additional lines (includes any phone, LTE tablets, LTE hotspots and connected cars) for $20 per line
  • Add a wearable for $10 per month

Unlimited Choice

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Data speeds capped at 3Mbps
  • Standard definition video streaming
  • One line of service on an AT&T Unlimited Choice plan is $60
  • Two lines of service for $115
  • Up to eight additional lines (includes any phone, LTE tablets, LTE hotspots and connected cars) for $20 per line
  • Add a wearable for $10 per month

Everything you need to know about AT&T's unlimited plans

Sprint Unlimited Freedom plan

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data (with certain restrictions)
  • Unlimited data for streaming video up to 1080p
  • Unlimited data for gaming up to 8Mbps
  • Unlimited data for streaming music up to 1.5Mbps
  • 10GB high-speed mobile hotspot with VPN and P2P support
  • Add a tablet with unlimited data for $25 per month
  • One line of service is $50
  • Two lines of service is $90
  • Three lines of service is $90
  • Four lines of service is $90

Everything you neeed to know about Sprint's Unlimited Freedom Plan

T-Mobile

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data with 200MB of roaming data
  • Unlimited talk, text, and data in Canada and Mexico
  • One hour of free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi and unlimited texting on enabled flights
  • Unlimited data and texting in over 140 locations at 2x speed (264kbps) (limited time offer)
  • Unlimited music and HD video streaming (limited time offer, applies only in the U.S.)
  • 10GB high-speed mobile hotspot use (limited time offer)
  • One line of service on a T-Mobile ONE plan is $70
  • Two lines of service for $100
  • Three lines of service for $140
  • Four lines is $160 and each additional line adds $20 to the total

A promotion starting March 1, 2017 allows post-paid customers with two or more lines to add another line free. This offer applies to T-Mobile ONE, Simple Choice and Simple Choice No Credit plans

Everything you need to know about T-Mobile's unlimited plans

Verizon

  • Unlimited talk, text, and data
  • Unlimited HD streaming video (see Verizon's Video Optimization Deployment page)
  • 10GB high-speed mobile hotspot
  • Add a tablet with unlimited data for $20 per month
  • Add a connected device for $5 per month
  • Unlimited calling and texting to and from Canada and Mexico
  • One line of service is $80
  • Two lines of service is $140
  • Three lines of service is $162
  • Four lines of service is $180

Everything you need to know about Verizon's unlimited plan

The best unlimited data plan

Update Fevruary 27, 2017 Because of the way all four companies have rapidly changed their plans and pricing since this article was originally written, we no longer recommend one carrier over any other. Use the company who provides you the best service and ignore the small differences in pricing.

The original article text is below.

As always, you have to choose the carrier that provides you the best coverage in the places you spend your time. Saving a few dollars for better perks is not worth struggling to find a signal. What works for someone else who might be hundreds or thousands of miles away should have little influence on your decision. Since everyone's coverage will be different, we have to treat each carrier equal on that front and base the decision on other criteria.

T-Mobile offers the best unlimited data plan in the U.S.

This is based on cost, data available for tethering and the "real" monthly allotment before you are throttled. One important thing puts it ahead of Verizon, and that's the notion that an $80 plan should cost $80. Not $80 with added fees and taxes. It sounds like a gimmick, but two lines on T-Mobile is going to cost about the same (or less) as a single line with a $5 connected device because of those fees. If we focus only on cost — which you should if you have equally good coverage — T-Mobile wins.

T-Mobile also beats Sprint's promotional plan because Sprint limits your ability to stream HD. We think a good data plan has to be able to entertain us in all ways, so we have to disregard anything that doesn't allow us to do just that. AT&T's offerings simply fall short and we hope recent changes from Verizon and T-Mobile get them to follow suit.

iPhones

If you have equally good coverage from all carriers and want to get the most value from your phone company you only have two real choices right now: T-Mobile or Verizon.

Recent user-data through Open Signal suggests that there is little difference in network speeds or total coverage, and pricing is very similar now, too. These two companies want your business and have been bickering for a while. They've also been adjusting their policies and rates to "out-do" each other which is awesome for us as consumers.

See plans at T-Mobile

See plans at Verizon

See plans at AT&T

See plans at Sprint

Your turn

What carrier do you subscribe to, and are you thinking of switching to either T-Mobile or Verizon? Let us know in the comments!