1 - Plans from $35/mo.
You may be looking for a Sprint prepaid phone because you think they provide the best coverage or call quality in your area.
You may be surprised to learn that for many years Sprint/Nextel did not offer their own prepaid service. Instead, they allowed other companies to use their network to build their own Sprint-based prepaid wireless services. Since then, they've bought Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile, but operate them as separate brands.
Still, the company finally introduced their own monthly prepaid plans which range from $35 to $55 a month. They offer mostly smartphones and one or two flip-style feature phones that can be used with these plans.
So let's look at the details ....
Sprint appears to have simplified their plans. The main plan is $40 per month for unlimited talk, text and 4GB data. You get a $5 auto-pay discount starting on the second month. This plan includes unlimited international texting and allows use as mobile hotspot.
Here are the amounts of data that you get:
The main restriction is that video streaming is limited to 3G speeds. Other stuff can be accessed at higher speed (on 4G phones). In general, this means that although the data limits are a strict allotment, you will probably be okay.
If you run out of data, you can upgrade your plan or buy add-on packages. These packages cost as follows:
All data access has to be through Sprint's network as there is no data roaming.
The best way to refill your account is online. You can add to your balance anytime, and the monthly cost is deducted on the service date. Note, if there are any additional fees those also have to be covered.
If you let your service run out, you have 120 days to refill your account before you lose your phone number. That's pretty good. Of course, your phone is inactive on the cellular network (for calls, texts and data) until you put money back into it.
Yes, you are allow to use most of these phones as mobile hotspots! Of course, it does count towards your data allotment. However, this feature is now pretty rare among prepaid providers, so this is pretty cool.
Apparently, the only phones you're not allow to use this feature are the Galaxy S5 or the Alcatel Flip phone - most expensive and cheapest phones. Go figure.
There are four prepaid smartphones available:
Check out the phones here.
If you have (or had) a Sprint phone on a standard contract, you CANNOT bring it to the prepaid plan. However, if you really want to use that phone, you can bring it to other companies such as Tracfone and i-Wireless.
These are pretty good monthly plans. Sprint's weak link has usually been coverage, but if you're in a reasonably well-serviced area and looking for unlimited talk and text with good helpings of data, then you should consider this plan.
Yes, this is really a prepaid plan, so you have to pay for your month's service in advance. In exchange, there are the usual advantages:
You can shop online directly or go to your neighborhood Best Buy, Target or Radio Shack store.
You could also consider other companies on their network.
So here are some of the top prepaid companies that rely on the Sprint network.
Virgin Mobile USA is perhaps the biggest Sprint-based prepaid company. Their phones and plans are marketed heavily to the younger crowd. Hence there is an emphasis on texting and data. With their new Android phones, you now have full web access and the ability to run all those apps.
Boost Mobile is also targeted at the younger crowd. Their unlimited plans can shrink to as low as $30 a month if you stay with them long enough.
There is a newer company that combines WiFi and cellular. This allows Republic Wireless to offer unlimited plans at good prices.
Kajeet cell phones are meant for boys and girls between 8 and 12 years-old. There are a couple of nice phones with a well-thought out set of controls so parents can monitor and limit their children's usage as well as help teach them responsibility.
Straight Talk phones use all the major network carriers, but some of their Android phones rely on the Sprint network. Their unlimited plan costs $45 per month including data.
In addition to these high-visibility phone companies, there are prepaid providers with less visible profiles that also provide attractive rates and services.
i-Wireless is sold online and through Kroger supermarkets and other stores. You can earn airtime credits by shopping at these stores.
STi Mobile’s minutes never expire. They have a couple of prepaid rate plans and a couple of no-contract plans that offer free nights and weekends. Their choice of phones is limited but improving.
Yes. While Tracfone doesn't usually sell phones that run on this network, they do offer a BYOP option where you can activate a used device with their affordable plans.
Another plan that also offers this option is Red Pocket.
Liberty Wireless offers a free LG prepaid phone when you buy 500 minutes of airtime for $20. They also have a no-contract plan and offer a free Motorola Q when you sign up for their $50 for 28 days unlimited plan.
There are a few other providers, but I recommend sticking with the list above. You can see the full list of Sprint prepaid and other alternative providers here.
This site concentrates on the plans more than the carriers, so we have not made it a point to cover phones by which network they run on. Nevertheless, here are a couple of reviews of phones that run on the Sprint network.
The Samsung Galaxy Precedent was the first Android phone on the Straight Talk unlimited plan. It is still available at a discount. The big thing about these phones was that they offered apparently unlimited data at a low monthly rate.
The Kyocera Kona from Virgin Mobile is a flip phone with 2MP camera that's eligible for both the PayLo and BeyondTalk plans. The fit and finish of this phone is pretty good with a nice keypad and camera making this a good phone with a couple of minor annoyances.
Of course you don't have to get a Sprint-based phone. Many of the other prepaid and no-contract providers run on the AT&T, T-Mobile and (more rarely) Verizon networks.
Plans that use the AT&T network include Consumer Cellular and Red Pocket.
Plans that use the T-Mobile network include Simple Mobile and PlatinumTel (PTel).
There are fewer plans that use Verizon other than the Tracfone. NET10, Straight Talk family. A notable one is the GreatCall plan which offers easy to use phones and services.