There over a dozen Sprint MVNOs, many more than with any other operator. Most of them seem to be pretty small and uninteresting with pricey pay as you go, no Bring Your Own Sprint Device (BYOSD) program and only a dreary selection of old refurbished feature phones to choose from.
Rather than trying to cover every Sprint MVNO, which would make this post very long and boring, I’ve limited it to listing the most interesting and/or best value ones. Except as noted, plan prices include all taxes and fees except state sales tax.
Sprint itself is a huge player in the prepaid market with its Boost and Virgin Mobile brands. I’ve included their plans in the table below. For more information about Sprint’s prepaid brands see Prepaid Phone News’ Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile profile pages.
Chit Chat Mobile (855-440-3464) launched in the fall of 2012. They have BYOSD with the usual caveats (no Palm, BlackBerry, Boost, Virgin or PTT phones). Chit Chat is notable for its $19.99 unlimited plan. However that low price is marred by high fees including a $15 activation fee and about $3 month in additional monthly taxes and fees on the $19.99 plan. Plans do not include data but data addons are available. WiMAX is available with any data addon. LTE is available only with $35 data addon.
EcoMobile (855-825-8855) is another relative newcomer, going live in Oct. 2012. They have BYOSD with the usual limitations. EcoMobile is able to activate Sprint WiMax and LTE phones. LTE works on EcoMobile’s $60/month plan, WiMAX did at one tome but reportedly doesn’t anymore. EcoMobile has a wide range of plans including a pay as you go plan with good rates, 5¢ voice minutes, 2¢ texts and 10¢/MB data. Unlimited voice messaging and 2.5GB of 3G data is $50/month. EcoMobile’s $60/month plan includes 5GB of 4G LTE. For more about EcoMobile see, Ecomobile Revamps Monthly Plans – No More Unlimited Data
Español Mobile (866-265-9473) is one of the newest Sprint MVNOs launching in Nov. 2014. Español Mobile offers a range of monthly plans and has US based customer support in English or Spanish. LTE data is available with all plans.
FreedomPop’s FreedomPhone (no phone support) is a fremium phone service. The free plan includes 500MB of 3G or WiMAX data, 200 voice minutes and 500 texts. Paid options with more minutes, data and texts are available.
FreedomPhone is actually a data only service. Voice calls use VOIP, which uses the network’s data transport rather than the voice channel. A FreedomPop messaging app handles texting. MMS picture messaging is not supported. FreedomPop supports sells refurbished older Sprint WiMAX models like the HTC EVO 4G for $99.99 and also offer BYOP of several Boost phones.
Real Mobile ( 877-316-0493) launched Sprint based service in 2013, supports BYOSD with 4G LTE and WiMax available on all plans.
Red Pocket Mobile (888-993-3888 – English, Spanish, Chinese and Filipino support) which has been an AT&T MVNO since 2006, added Sprint service in December, 2013. It’s BYOSD only with support for bringing your own Sprint phone with the usual restrictions. LTE is available, WiMAX is not.
Republic Wireless (email only support) which launched in late 2011, is notable for unlimited voice, SMS and data, including off-network voice and data roaming, starting at $25/month plus about $7.50/month in taxes and fees. The low price is made possible in part by custom phone firmware which shifts voice, SMS and data traffic to WiFi, if it’s available. Initially the technology had some limitations, call quality on WiFi was generally inferior to cellular calls, WiFi calls dropped if you move out of WiFi range and MMS didn’t work on WiFi or cellular.
In Nov, 2013 Republic launched a new phone, the $299 (plus $10 shipping) Motorola Moto X with updated firmware which enables MMS, WiFi to cellular handoffs and also improves WiFi call quality. The Moto X requires new plans which run from $5/month for WiFi access only to $40/month for unlimited talk, text and data including LTE. Add about 10-30% to plan prices for taxes and fees. Data is unlimited but speeds are throttled after 5GB/month.
Republic doesn’t offer BYOSD and there’s no phone support, only email and a user forum.
RingPlus (310-919-0915) launched in August, 2013 as a BYOSD-only operator with a unique free ad-supported plan. Early adopters got 300 minutes and 50 texts per month free “for life” in return for listing to ads instead of the usual ringing tones during the time between when a call is placed and the called party or voicemail answers. The free plan is no longer available to new users.
RingPlus’ regular plans, which start at $1.99/month (plus taxes averaging 15%) are a good value Inexpensive promotional plans that include unlimited calling and international call credit are offered frequently. RingPlus supports LTE but not WiMAX.
The table below lists only RingPlus’ regular plans, for current promotional plans check the RingPlus site or Prepaid Phone News’ Current Refill and Plan Deals tracker.
Sprint Prepaid (866-866-7509) is sold through Sprint branded stores, big box retailers like BestBuy and Sprint telesales. Plan choices are similar to those of Boost and Virgin Mobile. The top plan includes unlimited voice and messaging and 6GB of data for $55/month. There’s no BYOSD option and handset choices are limited.
Ting (855-846-4389) Launched Feb 2012. BYOSD is available. Sprint WiMAX and LTE phones can be activated with working WiMAX or LTE. Ting also sells LTE phones with working LTE at prices starting around $300. Ting also offers “iconic” devices like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3 that can’t be BYOSD’ed. No-extra cost voice and SMS roaming is included and there is no extra charge for international texts.
Ting is a no-contract, postpaid operator with an unusual pricing model that’s sort of a hybrid between pay as you go and a monthly plans. There’s a $6 monthly fee plus separate buckets (Ting calls them tiers) of voice minutes, messages and data. There are five tiers for each type of usage. Minute tiers run from $3 for 100 minutes to $52 for 3000. Data tiers are from $3 for 100 MB to $60 for 3 GB. Prices average around 2¢/minute, 1¢/text and 5¢/MB. Ting is a good value for moderate users. The sweet spot seems to be about 75-1000 minutes, 75-1000 messages and under 500 MB of data which costs between $15 and $41 before taxes and fees which run between $1 and $10/month. For more information including details of the Ting pricing model see the Ting site or Prepaid Phone News’ Ting Operator Profile.
Here are tables comparing all the plans offered by the operators mentioned.
|FreedomPop||Free||yes, limited||200||500||N/A||500 MB, overage 2.5¢/MB 14|
|Ring Plus Kate||$1.99+ 17||yes||50 overage 4¢/ea||10, overage 4¢/ea||9¢/ea||4¢/MB LTE|
|Kajeet $4.99||$4.99+ 1||yes||10 (overage 10¢)||10¢||25¢||$1/MB 2 LTE|
|Ring Plus Harrison||$4.99+ 17||yes||100 overage 3¢/ea||100, overage 3¢/ea||8¢/ea||3¢/MB LTE|
|Español Mobile||$4.99+ 19||yes||30||30||5¢/ea||add-on 20|
|Ting||$6 and up + 3 fees||yes||2¢ 4||1¢ 4, 16||Text + data cost||5¢ / MB 4|
|RingPlus Hazel||$7.99+ 17||yes||300 overage 2¢/min||300 overage 2¢/ea||7¢/ea||100MB, overage 2¢/MB LTE|
|FreedomPop||$7.99||no||500||unlimited||500 MB, overage 2.5¢/MB 14|
|RingPlus James||$8.99+ 17||yes||50 overage 2¢/min||200 overage 2¢/ea||7¢/ea||300 MB LTE, overage 2¢/MB|
|RingPlus Bella||$9.99+ 17||yes||400 overage 2¢/min||400 overage 2¢/ea||6¢/ea||300 MB LTE, overage 2¢/MB|
|Chit Chat Basic||$9.99+ 5||yes||250||unlimited||unlimited $3/mo 13||$5/100MB WiMAX,|
$10/250MB WiMAX, $20/600MB WiMAX, $30/3GB WiMAX,
|Republic Wireless||$10+ 6||no||unlimited||unlimited||none||none|
|Español Mobile||$10+ 19||yes||100||100||5¢/ea||add-on 20|
|FreedomPop||$10.99||no||unlimited||unlimited||none||500 MB, overage 2.5¢/MB 14|
|Kajeet 14.99||$14.99+ 1||yes||60||unlimited||25¢||$1/MB 2 LTE|
|RingPlus Andrea||$14.99+ 17||yes||600||600||6¢/ea||400 MB LTE, overage 2¢/MB|
|Español Mobile||$17+ 19||yes||400||unlimited||5¢/ea||add-on 20|
|RingPlus Noelani||$17.99+ 17||yes||unlimited||unlimited||6¢/ea||400 MB LTE, overage 2¢/MB|
|Expo Mobile||$19||yes||500||unlimited 16||none||N/A|
|Republic Wireless||$19+ 6||no||unlimited||unlimited||none||unlimited, throttled after 5GB|
|Chit Chat Unlimited||$19.99+ 5||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited $3/mo 13||$5/100MB WiMAX,|
$10/250MB WiMAX, $20/600MB WiMAX, $30/3GB WiMAX,
|Kajeet 19.99||$19.99+ 1||yes||150||unlimited||unlimited||$1/MB 2 LTE|
|Virgin Mobile payLo Talk 10||$20||no||400||15¢||25¢||$1.50/MB|
|NetZero Talk & Text||$24/3 months||yes||100||100||N/A||N/A|
|Kajeet $24.99||$24.99+ 1||yes||500||unlimited||unlimited||500 MB 2 LTE|
|NetZero Basic||$25||yes||500||1000 (SMS & MMS)||1000 (SMS & MMS)||100 MB|
|Republic Wireless||$25+ 6||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 3G, throttled after 5GB/mo|
|Español Mobile||$25+ 19||yes||unlimited||unlimited||5¢/ea||add-on 20|
|Red Pocket||$29.99||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||500 MB slow 15|
|Virgin Mobile payLo Talk &Text 10||$30||no||1500||1500||25¢||30 MB|
|RingPlus Data||$29.99+ 17||yes||300 overage 2¢/min||unlimited||6¢/ea||2 GB LTE, overage 2¢/MB|
|EcoMobile Talk & Text||$30||yes||unlimited||unlimited||none||none|
|Real Mobile||$30||yes||unlimited||unlimited 16||100||25 MB, including LTE, WiMAX 18|
|Español Mobile||$30+ 19||yes||unlimited||unlimited||5¢/ea||500 MB 20|
|Expo Mobile||$30||yes||unlimited||unlimited 16||none||N/A|
|RingPlus Jump||$33+ 17||yes||unlimited||unlimited||6¢/ea||2.5 GB LTE, overage 2¢/MB|
|Red Pocket||$34.99||yes||300||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 2 GB HS 15 LTE|
|Kajeet $34.99||$34.99 + 1||yes||1000||unlimited||unlimited||1 GB 2 LTE|
|Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk||$35||no||300||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 2.5GB HS 9|
|Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk||$35||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 250MB HS 9|
|Expo Mobile||$35||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||500 MB LTE|
|Sprint Prepaid||$35||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||1GB LTE|
|Boost Mobile Data Boost||$35||limited 8||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 1GB (2.5 GB with auto pay) HS 9 LTE|
|NetZero Pro||$39||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited, 1GB HS 9|
|Expo Mobile||$40||yes||unlimited||unlimited 16||unlimited||unlimited 2G|
|Virgin Mobile payLo Unlimited Talk & Text 10||$40||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||50 MB|
|EcoMobile Talk, Text and 3G Data||$40||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||500 MB, no LTE|
|Republic Wireless||$40+ 6||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited, including LTE, throttled after 5GB/mo|
|Real Mobile||$40||yes||unlimited||unlimited 16||100||1 GB, including LTE, WiMAX 18|
|Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk||$45||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||1GB 9 LTE|
|Boost Mobile Data Boost||$45||limited 8||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 5 GB HS 9 LTE|
|Sprint Prepaid||$45||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||3 GB LTE|
|Español Mobile||$45+ 19||yes||unlimited||unlimited||5¢/ea||2 GB 20|
|Red Pocket||$49.99||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||1 GB HS 15 LTE|
|Kajeet $49.99||$49.99 + 1||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||2 GB 2 LTE|
|Expo Mobile||$50||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 3G 12|
|EcoMobile Talk, Text and 3G Data||$50||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||2.5 GB, no LTE|
|Boost Mobile Data Boost||$55||limited 8||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 10GB HS 9 LTE|
|Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk||$55||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited 3GB HS 9 LTE|
|Sprint Prepaid||$55||no||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||6GB LTE|
|NetZero Platinum||$55||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited, 2GB HS 9|
|Real Mobile||$55||yes||unlimited||unlimited 16||100||2 GB, including LTE, WiMAX 18|
|Red Pocket||$59.99||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||3 GB HS 15 LTE|
|Expo Mobile||$60||yes||unlimited||unlimited 16||unlimited||unlimited 4G LTE and WiMAX 12|
|EcoMobile Talk, Text and 4G Data||$60||yes||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited||5GB including LTE|
1 Kajeet: 10% transaction fee on airtime and plan purchases
2 Kajeet: Additional data available: 50 MB/$4.99/mo, 500 MB/$14.99/mo, 1 GB/$24.99/mo
3 Ting: Taxes and fees run from $1 – $10 month
4 Ting: average prices based on using half the middle tier of minutes, texts and data
5 Chit Chat $15 activation fee, taxes and fees add approximately 15% to monthly plan costs
6 Republic: $19 plan only available with the discontinued Defy XT phone. Other plans only available with Moto X and Moto G phones. Republic adds about 10-30% in taxes and fees on all plans.
8 Boost: BYOSD is limited to 25 non-smartphones and three very old Android models (HTC Hero, Samsung Moment and Intercept). See the Boost Mobile Profile page for a list.
9 Data is throttled to 56-128 Kbps or less for the rest of the plan month after the high speed (HS) allotment is used up.
12 Expo unlimited 3G and 4G is throttled to 128 Kbps after 3.5 GB
13 Chit Chat: MMS is included with the $30 and $35 data add-ons, otherwise it requires both the $3 MMS plan and a data plan.
14 FreedomPop; $19.99 BYOP activation fee. For an extra $9.99/month you can upgrade any of the plans to 1 GB of data per month with 1¢/MB overage data. Visual Voicemail is available as a $2.49/month add-on.
15 Red Pocket throttled (slow) data speed is 64-128 Kbps
16 International texts included
17 RingPlus taxes and fees average 20% and are charged in states like California and New Hampshire that don’t normally tax prepaid airtime.
18 Real Mobile: additional data 500 MB for $10
19 Español Mobile adds taxes and fees to airtime purchases. In California, taxes and fees on the $30 plan are $4.81 (16.04%)
20 Español Mobile add-ons (called “Recharge” on the Español website) good for 30 days, no rollover :
Talk minutes: $23 unlimited, $18 750, $13 500, $7 250, $4 100, $1.50 30, overage 3¢/min
Texts: $10 unlimited, $7 750, $5 500, $3 250, $2 100, 75¢ 30. overage texts 2¢/ea
Data: $44 2 GB, $34 1,5GB, $23 1 GB, $18 750 MB, $13 500 MB. $7 250 MB, 1.50 30 MB. overage data 5¢/MB
Pay as You Go: $15 3¢ min, 2¢/text, 3¢/MB; $10 4¢ min, 3¢/text, 4¢/MB; $5 5¢ min, 4¢/text, 5¢/MB.
|Operator / Plan||Minimum Monthly Cost||Minutes||Texts||MMS||Data|
|Red Pocket PayGo||$8.33||10¢||10¢||10¢||none|
|EcoMobile Pay As You Go||$10||5¢||2¢||10¢||10¢/MB|
|Expo Mobile Pay As You Go 1||$10 2||5¢||2¢||10¢||10¢/MB|
|Real Mobile Pay As You Go 1||$20||5¢||5¢||N/A||50¢/MB|
1 Expo Mobile and Real Mobile unused balances do not roll over, others do.
2 $1 account maintenance fee deducted for prepaid balance every month
About Sprint Data
More than any other operator, Sprint’s data speeds vary widely depending on market. In many areas Sprint data works well, but in others Sprint’s 3G network is overloaded to the point that it’s barely usable. Sprint is in the middle of a massive network upgrade project called Network Vision that’s intended to greatly increase data capacity and speeds.
Sprint now allows its MVNOs to activate any Sprint postpaid phone except BlackBerrys, Palm OS and WebOS phones. Boost Mobile, Sprint Mobile and Virgin Mobile phones are also allowed, provided they have been used on the service for which they were sold for at least 12 months.
However all BYOSP phones must pass a Sprint “Financial Eligibility Check” (FEC) which is supposed to block phones whose current or previous owner owes money to Sprint. Unfortunately, the FEC is currently badly broken. Most phones are failing to pass, even brand new iPhones from the Apple Store and Nexus phones from the Google Play Store that have never been used on Sprint. I’ve heard estimates that up to 90% of used Sprint phones from eBay or Swappa are also failing the FEC check. See Updated: Sprint MVNO BYOSP is Badly Broken for more about the FEC issues.
The Coverage Question
Sprint, like T-Mobile, has a much smaller network than AT&T or Verizon. Service is available in cities and most medium sized and some small towns and along major interstates. Boost, Virgin Mobile and most Sprint MVNOs do not offer roaming. the few that do are:
Republic: Extensive voice and 2G data roaming, similar to Sprint postpaid
Ting: Voice and SMS only roaming
Sprint Prepaid: 50 minutes per month of voice roaming
Here are a couple of maps comparing Boost Mobile Prepaid’s coverage, which doesn’t include roaming with that of Sprints’s, which does. Ting (voice only), Republic coverage is similar to the Sprint Postpaid map. The other MVNOs, Sprint Prepaid and Virgin Mobile have coverage identical to Boost’s. Click the links below the maps to view full sized interactive version that let you zoom in to see block level coverage.
Recommendations: Virgin and Boost Mobile are leaders in the unlimited monthly plan space. They have some of the most affordable monthly unlimited plans in the business, better than average customer support and a large selection of affordable, subsided smartphones in every price range except the high end where their only current flagship is the iPhone 5S. It’s hard for MVNOs to compete against Sprint itself in the unlimited arena. If you need gigabytes of data or truly unlimited voice and texting and are OK with Sprint native coverage, Boost or Virgin Mobile are hard to beat.
The best of the MVNOs do compete effectively against Boost and Virgin for some types of usage:
Pay as you go: Boost and Virgin Mobile no longer offer pay as you go plans to new customers. Red Pocket and EcoMobile do and have much lower per minute and per message rates than Boost and Virgin Mobile ever did and also have affordable pay per use data. Republic, RingPlus, FreedomPop and Ting aren’t don’t offer traditional pay as you go plans but they are competitive at the low priced end of the market where pay as you go is dominant.
Roaming: Ting (voice only),and Republic (voice and data) have it, the other MVNOs. Boost, Sprint Prepaid and Virgin Mobile don’t.
BYOSP: Sprint has imposed strict financial eligibility checks on BYOSP activations. Prospective BYOSP customers need to check that the ESN or MEID of any phone they intend to buy passes either the Ting ESN checker, RingPlus checker or FreedomPop checker. Other checkers, may not have been updated to be aware of Sprint’s new financial eligibility requirements.
Updated: Mar 12, Expo Mobile price increase.