We’re diving into the detailed UScellular plans comparison and much more.
UScellular is the fourth-largest postpaid carrier in the United States, sitting behind only AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Its network coverage is limited to select parts of the United States (primarily the Midwest, but with footprints in the Northwest, Northeast, and Southeast as well). UScellular is a good fit for customers living in one of its footprints who are looking for a more inexpensive plan than the Big three typically offers that also contains fewer features and slower data speeds.
Customers shopping at UScellular can typically expect slightly lower plan prices than they would see at larger postpaid wireless operators and in return, receive slower data speeds, fewer included features and a lower hotspot data allocation than they would receive at a carrier that operates at a higher price point.
Check out our UScellular plan widget to find yours in seconds, or learn more in our plan breakdowns below!
Before we take a deeper look at the different UScellular unlimited data plans and the options available to you, it’s important to note a couple of the key ingredients that differentiate one plan from another. At a high level, there are five things to think about when you’re evaluating plans (before you get to the sticker price of the plan you want):
Unfortunately, just because a plan says “unlimited” doesn’t always mean the data you use is truly unlimited. You should be aware of three different types of data: premium data, deprioritized data and 3G data. Here’s how they’re different:
Premium data: also called priority data or high-speed data, gives you the best 5G or 4G network speed a carrier can deliver wherever you are. With premium data, you’ll get the very best network coverage UScellular can deliver without worrying about your speeds and coverage dropping for any reason other than poor signal.
Deprioritized data: also called basic data, means you’ll have access to 5G and 4G network speed like premium data, but if the network gets too congested (too many users on the same network at the same time), you’ll experience temporarily slower data speeds. This can slow your data speeds by up to 30% until the network you’re on frees up, but for most people, this drop in speed is actually unnoticeable.
3G data: also called 600kbps data, means that your data has access only to 3G network speed (or the equivalent). 3G network speed is very slow and most people would recognize it immediately.
Carriers don’t make it easy to know which type of data is available for each plan. The general rule of thumb is that the more premium data a plan offers, the more expensive it will be. The top-of-the-line plans that give you truly unlimited premium data offered by the big three (AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile) are:
Other unlimited data plans offer a mixture of premium data and deprioritized data. Typically that means you’ll have an allotment of premium data (say 25GB each month) and, after your premium data is spent, you’ll get unlimited deprioritized data for the rest of the month. For example, AT&T's Unlimited Extra plan provides 50GB of premium data followed by an unlimited quantity of deprioritized data.
Keep in mind that most wireless customers use less than 10GB of data per month and that the vast majority of people won’t know the difference between premium and deprioritized data.
The cheaper unlimited data plans offer only deprioritized data. For example, Verizon’s Unlimited Welcome plan offers users unlimited deprioritized data 100% of the time. But there are a few unlimited data plans providing an allotment of deprioritized data each month and, if you use up that allotment, the rest of the month you’ll be on unlimited 3G data. For example, Xfinity’s Unlimited plan offers 20GB of deprioritized data, followed by unlimited data at the equivalent of 3G speeds.
Each unlimited data plan is a mixture of either premium data, deprioritized data or 3G data.
Most users could not tell the difference between premium data and deprioritized data. But most users could tell the difference between premium data or deprioritized data and 3G data.
Most users (95%) consume less than 10GB of data per month.
Carriers’ unlimited data plans support different levels of video resolution, from as high as 2160p down to 480p. Most Top of the Line plans offer users video resolution at the 2160p level. Most lower end unlimited data plans offer users video resolution at the 480p level.
If you use your phone to watch movies (or you are a gamer), you might want to consider a plan that supports video resolution at the 720p level or higher.
For most other users a lower video resolution will be sufficient.
Hotspot data allows consumers to connect a computer or other WiFi capable device to the Internet through their smartphone and their wireless carrier. Most users do not need any hotspot data, but that is changing as more and more people recognize its benefits.
Carriers offer hotspot data at 5G, 4G or 3G speeds. Keep in mind that 3G hotspot data speed is equivalent to “dial up” from the 1990s (and is really not a practical option).
Carriers that offer 5G and 4G hotspot data cap the amount that a user can consume each month. Of course, the more expensive unlimited data plans offer the largest hotspot data allotment.
Since most people don’t use hotspot data very often, it is difficult for them to know what, say, 50GB of hotspot data really means. Typically, 50GB of hotspot data would allow a user to surf the web from their desktop computer (through their phone) for about 100 hours.
All 5G and 4G hotspot data is capped – so you should know how much you’re likely to use a hotspot.
Hotspot at 3G speed is vastly inferior.
While most wireless users do not have a need for a hotspot, it is becoming more popular as people see the benefit of having it as a part of their unlimited data plan.
Depending on the type of unlimited plan you choose, you’ll likely get access to added features and perks that are bundled into your unlimited data plan. These might include subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, international connectivity like being able to make calls and text and have access to the internet while you’re traveling abroad, and, in some cases, odd additions like meal delivery services and data protection services. The most common add-on services are streaming services.
Given the popularity of streaming services, including them in service plan pricing offers a good way for consumers to offset the cost of subscribing to these services a la carte.
For some wireless users, international calling features can also be a very important determinant of finding the right unlimited data plan as a la carte international calling charges can be very expensive.
For some consumers, Add-On Features (especially streaming services) could offer a way to save $10 per month or more.
For business travelers, international calling features could also save significant amounts of money.
Some carriers include taxes and fees in their advertised “top line” price and others do not. Taxes and fees will generally add 10% to the overall cost of your plan if it’s not integrated into the plan’s “top line” price. For example, T-Mobile’s Go5G Plus has a “top line” price of $90/month for a single line, and that price is inclusive of the taxes and fees. Conversely, AT&T’s Unlimited Premium has a top line price of $85/month for a single line plus taxes and fees making the real price more like $94 per line, depending on where you live.
“Top line” advertised price can include or not include taxes and fees. Be aware of this if you are trying to compare plans on an equal basis.
The most important consideration of an unlimited data plan is having the right amount and the right type of data. Everyone wants to feel confident that they will not run out of 5G or 4G data or face unexpected charges from their carrier.
For the vast majority of users, deprioritized data is more than sufficient to provide a high-quality wireless experience. If you’re a gamer or you stream movies on cell phone all the time, then you might opt for an unlimited data plan with an allotment of premium data and one with 720p or higher video resolution.
All the other elements of an unlimited data plan, such as streaming services or hotspot data, are very specific to an individual’s unique needs. So, while they’re important in their own right, they are best thought of as tie breakers.
UScellular has the reputation of having slightly lower prices than major postpaid carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Its plans also tend to have fewer add-ons like streaming services, smaller core data allotments, and middle-of-the-road international features, suggesting that UScellular plans are a good fit for users looking for good (but not great) plan features at a highly competitive plan price.
All these plans have:
Lower single-line prices than equivalent offerings at Big 3 carriers
Few included perks like add-ons or streaming services.
UScellular’s plans are best served for customers who are primarily interested in deprioritized data and relatively low price points for the postpaid market.
Everyday Unlimited is UScellular’s second most expensive plan. As a result it sits in the middle of UScellular’s offerings vis-a-vis data and other features. Everyday Unlimited serves the needs of the average data consumer, who consumes less than 25GB/month of data and would rarely notice the speed difference between deprioritized and premium data.
The plan also includes unlimited talk, text, and LTE data in Canada and Mexico, so users traveling abroad in North America are covered, and it includes one free RedBox movie rental per month. Contrast this included perk to 2 free rentals per month included in its most expensive offering, Even Better Unlimited, which is $5/month more expensive.
Even Better Unlimited is UScellular’s most expensive and feature-packed plan. Even Better Unlimited meets or exceeds the needs of all but the absolute heaviest data users in the country. It sits in the range of $5-$15 per line cheaper than the most expensive offerings at the Big 3 carriers. With unlimited talk, text, and LTE data in Canada and Mexico, subscribers traveling abroad in North America are covered as well.
Basic Unlimited is UScellular’s leanest offering, sporting the lowest price of its three unlimited offerings and also the fewest features. At a comparatively low price point and containing fewer features than other postpaid offerings, UScellular’s Basic Unlimited is a good fit for customers who are only looking for unlimited data with no frills or additional services that they won’t use attached to their service plan.
If you live in an area where UScellular provides service and are looking for a plan at a lower price point with fewer bells and whistles than the ones offered by the Big 3, one of UScellular’s postpaid unlimited plans may be right for you. Keeping in mind data type, features/perks, video/streaming quality, hotspot data, and taxes/fees will help you score the best phone plan deal for your needs.