Cricket Review: $45 Cell Plan With Unlimited Talk, Text & Data
Earlier this year, cell phone service provider Cricket Wireless sponsored a Wise Bread tweetchat, and our readers were very intrigued by the service. After all, the cell phone industry is notorious for customer-unfriendly policies — locking people into two-year contracts and charging people a lot of money (starting at around $90 a month for a smartphone plan). Cricket, meanwhile, has no contracts and plans starting at just $50 a month (or $45 a month if you sign up for auto pay). Our readers were understandably excited about this inexpensive service, and we wanted to check it out ourselves.
Note: While Cricket is a Wise Bread sponsor and they did lend me a phone for review purposes, I want to note that the content of this review is independent.
It's hard to beat the costs of Cricket's plans — they start at $50 a month for unlimited talk, text, data, and music downloads. Granted, that only includes 2.5 MB of full-speed data — after that, the data speeds are throttled. But according to this recent Dealnews comparison, similar plans on AT&T and Verizon are about $40 more. Cricket also has more basic, non-smartphone plans starting at $35 a month. Plus, if you decide that you don't like the service, not being in contract means that you're free to switch carriers without penalty.
The one potential downside of being out of contract is that your cell phone purchases are not subsidized. So, where you might pay $200 for an iPhone at AT&T, you have to pay full price at Cricket. But, even though your cost is lower up front with AT&T, you end up paying more in the long run due to higher service fees. And if you already have a phone, you can bring it to Cricket, and they'll format it for use on their network.
Coverage and Reception
The quality of service is great in my area of Los Angeles — I live at the base of the Hollywood Hills, and service is sometimes spotty in my apartment with my regular cell phone. But I had four bars with Cricket throughout my apartment. I do have some concerns with their coverage in rural areas, and I suggest checking out their map to make sure you're in their service area before you buy; for example, they don't currently offer service at my parents' house in rural Northern New Hampshire (granted, my parents also live in a town so small that they can't even get cable, but they do get some cell service).
Cricket has both inexpensive phones (like smartphones starting at $50) as well as the big-name cell phones you see at major carriers, like the iPhone. The phone Cricket gave me to play with is the Samsung Galaxy S4. It has a great camera and screen, and a few weird features that don't have much benefit — like tracking your finger before it actually touches the screen.
Favorite Perk: Unlimited Free Music Downloads
But perhaps the best reason to get an android phone like the Galaxy S4 on Cricket is to get their Muve Music service, which gives you unlimited music downloads. You do need a data plan in order to use it, but the song downloads do not count towards your full-speed data usage. There are a couple of quirks to the app — for example, the music would stop playing for a moment when I took pictures. If you like listening to music on your phone, though, this app gives you access to millions of songs and can potentially save you a lot of money.
Overall, I found Cricket Wireless to provide excellent cell phone service for drastically less than most of the big-name carriers. I definitely recommend checking them out.