Sprint and Sprint MVNO Prepaid Plans Compared

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.

Expo Mobile (800-818-1597) is the newest Sprint MVNO, launching in Sept. 2013. Expo is notable for including 1000 minutes of free international calling to over 50 countries on plans priced at $40 month and up. All monthly plans, which start at $19, include unlimited international texts, Expo has 24/7 phone support, no added taxes or fees and BYOSD with working LTE and WiMAX.

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.

Kajeet (866-452-5338) Launched in 2006, Kajeet specializes in “smart phones for kids”. It’s really targeted at parents with parental controls and a GPS phone locator. You don’t have to have children to use Kajeet, especially now that they are offering BYOSD. If you bring your own phone Kajeet will even give you your first month of service for free. Kajeet can activate Sprint LTE phones and LTE works on Kajeet. Plans are geared toward light voice and data usage and lots of text messaging. Kajeet is one of the few operators that still offers an unlimited text plan which is $14.99/month and also includes 60 voice minutes. Kajeet adds a 10% transaction fee to the price of all airtime.
NetZero (800-851-7908), a dialup and DSL broadband provider since 1998 began offering Sprint based phone service in November 2014. BYOSD and LTE are available. There’s a $20 activation fee for all 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.

Sprint and MVNOs Monthly Plans
Plan Monthly Cost BYOSD Voice SMS MMS Data
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,
$35/3GB LTE
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,
$35/3GB LTE
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.

Sprint and MVNOs Pay As You Go Plans
Operator / Plan Minimum Monthly Cost Minutes Texts MMS Data
Red Pocket PayGo $8.33 10¢ 10¢ 10¢ none
EcoMobile Pay As You Go $10 10¢ 10¢/MB
Expo Mobile Pay As You Go 1 $10 2 10¢ 10¢/MB
Real Mobile Pay As You Go 1 $20 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.

BYOSD Issues
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.

The myth of “Unlimited Data” Many of the Sprint MVNOs advertise unlimited data on their top plans. It’s unlikely that any of them offer truly unlimited data. Expect to be able to use between 2 and 4 GB of data per month. Use any more and you will likely find your data blocked or throttled. Please leave a comment if you have been throttled, capped or kicked off any Sprint MVNO’s unlimited plan so that I can document the limits in this post. Also. if you have personally used more than 3 GB/month without any restrictions on a Sprint MVNO unlimited plan I’d be interested in hearing about that too.

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.

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