In 2014, Sprint replaced its previous no-contract “As You Go” Service with Sprint Prepaid, which is designed for customers who don’t want a credit check or have hit line or spending limits already. If you have poor credit, or are looking to save money on wireless service, Sprint Prepaid is a great option.
Sprint Prepaid has the following advantages:
- No credit checks.
- No activation fees.
- No deposits.
- Upfront billing with no annual contracts.
- The ability to pay for the services you want as needed.
But is it the right wireless prepaid plan for you?
Overview of Sprint Prepaid Plans
There are three Sprint Prepaid plans to choose from. All include unlimited talk and text so you choose the plan that fits your data needs. So your choice is really to decide how much data you need:
- For $35/month you get 1 GB of data.
- For $45/month you get 3 GB of data.
- For $55/month, you get 6 GB of data.
If you need more data, you can buy additional data packs at $2/100 MB, $5/500 MB, and $10/1 GB. Data packs expire 30 days from the purchase date.
For these prices, you will get the following:
- Access to Sprint's nationwide 4G LTE network.
- No annual contracts or credit checks.
- No deposits.
- Keep your phone number.
- Mobile hotspots included with select devices
- No activation fee or other hidden charges.
- Pay for service as needed with no monthly billing due dates.
- Upfront billing
One negative is that Sprint Prepaid plans are limited to approved devices. This means you may not be able to move your existing phone over to Sprint's prepaid wireless service.
One thing we do not like about Sprint Prepaid is the monthly prices aren’t quite low enough for the rather limited number of mostly lesser-known phones it supports.
Right now, Sprint Prepaid smartphone plans only support the following phones:
- HTC Desire 626s
- HTC Desire 510
- LG Tribute Duo
- LG Tribute
- LG G Stylo
- LG Volt
- Motorola Moto E
- Samsung Galaxy S4 mini
- Samsung Galaxy S3
- Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
- Alcatel OneTouch Retro*
* Does not have Mobile Hotspot
As you can see, there are no longer any Apple phones available on Sprint Prepaid, just Android phones and one basic phone (Alcatel OneTouch Retro).
How Sprint Compares
How Sprint Prepaid stacks up against the competition depends a bit on what you want the most.
If you’re interested in the lowest-cost prepaid plan, Sprint is the clear winner. Only Boost has a lower-priced prepaid plan but it does not include Hotspot and it comes with less data.
MetroPCS and Boost are most comparable to Sprint Prepaid in terms of price. Boost’s $35 prepaid plan includes 2.5 GB of data (compared to Sprint’s 3GB at $45), but it doesn’t include Hotspot. With MetroPCS, you can get 2GB of data at $40, but Hotspot is an extra $5 per month.
Depending on what you are looking for in a prepaid plan, here are some other options.
More Phone Choices
Sprint Prepaid has just 10 smartphones to choose from, most of which are lesser-known and older models. All phones are Android so you can’t get an iPhone anymore. [Editor's Note: We suspect this will change when the new iPhone is introduced in Fall 2015.]
Other carriers offer a greater selection. Boost Mobile, for example, has 41 phones to choose from, including iPhone, Android, and Blackberry phones. T-Mobile, meanwhile, has 15 phones to choose from but their plans start at $70. Verizon and AT&T also have a greater selection with plans starting at $50 and $30 respectively.
While Sprint Prepaid requires using a Prepaid-approved device, some carriers let you bring your own phone to a prepaid plan, including AT&T (read our review of AT&T prepaid plans) and Verizon (read our review of Verizon prepaid plans).
Sprint Prepaid currently offers the least expensive prepaid plans which start at $35 per month for unlimited talk and text and 1GB of 4G LTE data, with additional data packets charged at $10/1 GB. The average smartphone user in the United States uses 1.8 GB of data per month, so that 1 GB may not get you too far.
AT&T does offer a $30 GoPhone prepaid plan, but you need to purchase data as an add on at the cost of $3/100 MB.
Sprint Prepaid has very few plan options. If you don’t use a great deal of data or your needs won’t change much, this isn’t a bad thing.
If you want a more versatile plan, however, AT&T or T-Mobile may be better options. Both offer prepaid plans with rollover data so you can store data you don’t use for the coming months.
AT&T recently added data rollover to its prepaid GoPhone $45 and $60 plans as well. You can apply unused data (1.5GB and 4GB for each plan respectively) to the next month, but only the next month.
T-Mobile’s Data Stash starts you off with 10GB of free 4G LTE data and you can roll unused data over into the next month for 12 months. T-Mobile is currently the only national carrier to offer this. You need to buy a plan with 3GB or more of data, which means a plan starting at $60.
Network Speed and Reliability
According to a RootMetrics study conducted at the end of 2014, Verizon beats the other three top U.S. wireless carriers (T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint) in terms of network reliability, network speed, call performance, and data performance. AT&T finished a close second followed by Sprint then T-Mobile.
At the state level, Verizon won in 38 states and tied in 10 other states for wireless coverage in dense cities and avoiding network congestion. T-Mobile, on the other hand, wins in metro areas in terms of data speed. In metro areas, Sprint ranked fourth, although RootMetrics said that Sprint has made big improvements in network reliability in congested areas.
The bottom line here is that Sprint doesn’t win in terms of network speed or reliability. If this is a major factor for you, a Sprint Prepaid plan may not be the best choice for you. In our opinion, however, the Sprint network is good enough for almost everyone.
You can check Sprint’s network coverage at Open Signal to get an idea of network coverage in your area. Remember that price isn’t everything and not all networks are equal. While AT&T and Verizon have the best 4G LTE coverage and speeds, Sprint may have better coverage in your area.
The Bottom Line
If cost is your biggest concern, it’s hard to beat Sprint Prepaid. Unfortunately, you’re stuck with a very limited selection of Android phones. On the plus side, you do get data and Mobile Hotspot included even in the most basic plan and a rapidly improved wireless network.
If you are looking for a low cost, no credit-check plan, either to save money or because you have bad credit, we think Sprint Prepaid will serve your needs.