Are Those Unlimited Phone Plans Really Unlimited?

unlimited phone plans

You’ve probably seen numerous commercials and ads for unlimited phone plans. Suddenly, data caps are going away and you’re able to stream, download, and video chat as much as you want. But, it’s important to check the fine print. Those unlimited plans may not be quite as unlimited as you think.

Understanding the Claims

Many mobile carriers used to offer unlimited data without any catches. Then, everything changed and you were lucky to even get 2 GB per month. If you went over, you were charged extra fees.

Now, most major mobile carriers are offering unlimited data plans again. The only problem is the fine print tells another story. These unlimited phone plans are only unlimited by the fact that if you go over your data limit, you’re not charged extra.

However, the carrier reserves the right to drop you if you’re a heavy data user, such as Verizon did with some rural users who’s only Internet option was mobile data. It seems as if true unlimited isn’t an option any more. But, it’s still worth the plan pricing to get all the extra data while avoiding overage fees.

Related Read: How to Use Your Smartphone as a Mobile Hotspot

Comparing Plans

Every mobile carrier has their own unique catches to their so-called unlimited phone plans. Before you buy, make sure you fully understand what you’re getting. To give you an idea of how things work, here’s a look at plans from four major U.S. mobile providers: Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile.

Another thing to consider is any apps and services that don’t use data. Different mobile carriers work out deals with certain services to offer unlimited streaming without counting towards your data limits, such as T-Mobile’s Binge On program.

Verizon’s Unlimited Phone Plans

Verizon offers two unlimited plans. On the GoUnlimited plan, your unlimited 4G LTE data can be slowed during periods of network congestion. Video streaming is usually limited to 480p and unlimited mobile hotspot speeds cap out at 600 kbps.

On BeyondUnlimited plan, data speeds may be throttled after you use 22 GB in a billing period. You also only get 15 GB of mobile hotspot data at full speeds before it’s slowed down.

Sprint’s Unlimited Phone Plans

Sprint’s Unlimited plan actually appears to be better than Verizon’s at first glance. It even shows that it’s truly unlimited when compared to the other major carriers. However, in the fine print, speeds are throttled after 23 GB. You can also be cut off completely for excess off-network roaming.

Another issue is the mobile hotspot feature is limited to 10 GB per month. As you can tell, it’s not 100% unlimited after all.

AT&T’s Unlimited Phone Plans

AT&T’s plan throttles speeds at 22 GB. Plus, video streaming is typically limited to SD quality only. As a perk, you do get free HBO for the life of your plan to stream HBO-only content to your devices.

T-Mobile’s Unlimited Phone Plans

T-Mobile actually helped reboot the unlimited plan trend. They also offer the most “unlimited” data. Speeds aren’t throttled until 50 GB. Most video streaming is in DVD quality (480p). However, if you have two lines, you get Netflix for free.

Always read the fine print before jumping into an unlimited plan contract. There could be sneaky catches that make unlimited a little more limited.

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Contribution by Crystal Crowder

About the Author

Crystal lives and breathes tech. She’s spent over a decade writing tutorials, reviews, and more on tech, business, and lifestyle sites. Her idea of fun is settling down with the latest tech and gadget news.