Find and compare the best cell phone plans in Illinois at Wirefly. Which cell phone carrier has the best coverage in your area? Click the carrier logos below to launch their coverage maps. Then, use our tool below to compare the price and features of each carrier’s plans. Smaller carriers and MVNOs typically run on the networks of one of the big four carriers you see below.
Choosing the cell phone plan that's best for Illinois
There are a multitude of cell phone plans available to everyone nowadays, as well as the different wireless carriers who provide them. Figuring out which one is best for yourself or your family can be difficult, but not impossible if you know what you are looking for going in. You need to know exactly what you need in a phone before you sign up for a plan, especially if you are signing a one or two-year contract. While many plans are very similar, a few differences can make the difference between saving money and wasting it. You may be paying more for one feature with one carrier that is exactly the same with another when you don't need to. Use Wirefly to view and compare all the different rates and plans that are available from different carriers. We are here to make sure you don't find yourself trapped in a one to two-year plan that isn't satisfactory.
Illinois cell phone coverage and reception
Coverage varies across the country, so a key factor in your decision making should be finding a cell phone plan that offers the best coverage for Illinois. You may really love the features, benefits and price of a plan, but it's important to make sure you're going to get great coverage in Illinois. Everyone has encountered the frustrating experience of bad connections, so be sure to avoid those experiences by comparing each carrier's coverage map. Most carriers now have coverage everywhere, but the maps tell you how reliable that coverage will be.
Choosing a plan structure: three compelling options available
Even though the mobile industry has changed in dramatic ways since the turn of the century, the basic plan structure offered by all major carriers remains roughly the same. In fact, this structure hasn't changed in more than two decades. Currently, there are three ways to get wireless service in Illinois. Plan types include: individual plans, family plans, and no-commitment prepaid plans.
So, what separates each plan type from the pack? First and foremost, the big choice to make when selecting a new plan or carrier is whether to opt for an individual or family plan. Family plans are easily the most popular option at all four major carriers, and they're even an increasingly popular offering at no-commitment MVNO carriers. A family plan's popularity largely comes from its distribution of the cost. By bringing more lines together under a single account, you're able to cut the per-line cost of talk, text, and data services. Carriers also like these plans because they're 'stickier.' It's simply harder to move multiple lines to a new carrier than it is to move just one.
Individual plans still have their merits. First and foremost, they're the only option available to people who don't have multiple family members that want to split the cost of mobile service. They're also a great option for people who don't want to be the 'bill collector' in a group of friends or family members, collecting each person's monthly portion of shared service. Individual plans are typically much more expensive than family plans, which is important to keep in mind when comparison shopping.
No-commitment prepaid plans offer you the ability to get a more affordable plan, with even more data, either as an individual or with up to four additional family members. The main draw of these plans, which some people consider a drawback, is that they don't offer device financing plans. On the other hand, they also have no explicit or implied service contract, which makes it easy to hop between prepaid carriers for the best combination of price and features.
Cell phone plans in Illinois: better than ever before
Renewed competition in the American wireless industry means good things for consumers. In 2016, the price for a gigabyte of data declined drastically and unlimited data plans made a big comeback at major carriers and MVNOs alike. Now that coverage is relatively equal throughout the Illinois area, you can shop in entirely new ways, including by price, features, data buckets, or the availability of totally unlimited service.
When shopping for new plans, make sure to fully understand the terms and conditions associated with any offer, including promotional terms, billing credits, device financing restrictions, and other carrier-specific policies that may be in place. While these restrictions are uncommon, it's always better to understand their impact while shopping instead of when the 30-day buyer's remorse period has concluded.
Finding the best cell phone plan for your needs
Now that you know which kind of cell phone plan you want, it's now time to make another important decision: what do you need each month in terms of minutes, text messages, and data? This used to be a slightly complex decision to have to make, but that is no longer the case due to changes in the wireless industry. Current cell phone plans have almost all dropped limits on calling minutes and texts messages. Postpaid family plans and individual plans at Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, all include unlimited talk and text. Only a small number of no contract prepaid plans still enforce limits.
The good news is that you can choose to look at only the amount of data that you need on a monthly basis. Two of the major carriers make this decision pretty simple, while two of the other major carriers require a bit more decision making before choosing a plan. Here's what to keep in mind when selecting a cell phone plan in Illinois:
Like T-Mobile, Sprint recently unveiled a flat-rate, all-unlimited mobile plan for new and existing subscribers. Customers who prefer not to get an unlimited plan can opt for a 'shared' amount of data that can be used by all lines attached to the account. By default, data speeds on limited plans slow down after all data has been used. Customers can buy a high-speed pass if they wish to have more full-speed data until the end of the month, however.
The Un-Carrier, as T-Mobile has dubbed itself, recently made a move toward unlimited data for all. The company added to its Simple Choice plan lineup with T-Mobile ONE, an unlimited, single plan for individuals or families. T-Mobile Simple Choice plans are still available for customers who prefer them, however. These plans feature data rollover and no overage charges, so there's no extra fees added to the bill based on your usage.
Verizon got rid of overages early in 2016 and started offering rollover data for its shared data plans. Verizon's plans are similar to AT&T's, however an unlimited data option is not available to new customers at all.
AT&T offers unlimited data only to customers who also have DIRECTV or AT&T Internet. Otherwise, customers have shared data plans with every line on their account. In 2016, AT&T introduced a no-overages policy that throttles data to 2G speeds when a data bucket is exhausted. The company also has its 'Stream Saver' service in 2016, which reduces the quality of all streaming video and uses data more slowly as a result.
Smaller prepaid carriers, called Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), usually operate on one of the four above networks and resell services to no-commitment customers. These plans cover Illinois and change very frequently, but they do often represent a good savings each month.
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