Prepaid Showdown: T-Mobile vs Cricket

Cricket Wireless LogoOnce we got relocated to Cedar City, we found a major problem: T-Mobile’s service makes Sprint look good. I suppose this is to be expected. Despite great performance in SLC, Las Vegas, Sacramento, and Boston, getting any kind of usable T-Mobile data connection in a rural area (such as CA-99, I-80, and Lake Tahoe) was almost impossible. Even switching to a T-Mobile plan that included roaming didn’t help. In an effort to get some kind of usable cell service, we had to give Cricket a shot.

The performance difference has been quite notable. I was often getting only 2G EDGE or 3G HSPA+ signals from T-Mobile, but the towers were so saturated that using data was almost impossible. Cricket piggybacks onto AT&T’s network and delivers 4G LTE across almost all of Cedar City and into parts of Enoch. More importantly, the connection has been consistently more reliable out here. We also got service at the house we’re looking to buy whereas T-Mobile had no signal. Both carriers will drop down to 2G speeds when the 4G data is used up, so we don’t have to worry about losing data access entirely in a heavy month.

That said, there’s a tradeoff. In SLC, Cricket actually performs notably worse than T-Mobile. It’s still usable, but the LTE coverage and the speeds are nowhere near as good. I did testing across Sandy, Draper, South Jordan, and Murray in areas where T-Mobile hadn’t given me any trouble. Given that we’re unlikely to spend a lot of time in a major metro area, this isn’t a big deal, especially since the connections still work. We’re also unable to stick with the cheap $30 plan that T-Mobile offers, instead having to jump to $45 and get less data (3GB instead of 5GB). Since we’ll be spending most of our time on WiFi anyway, that’s not as big of a deal. Cricket even includes an app that automatically connects you to available WiFi hotspots that they have partnerships with.

This experience has only strengthened my resolve to stay with prepaid carriers over postpaid. Had we been in a contract with T-Mobile, we would have had to spend two years hoping that the data connections would finally improve to a point where we could use our phones. If they do get their act together and improve service in Cedar City, we can always switch back. If Cricket ever starts acting up, I’m free to try out any other prepaid carriers. And even with having to go to a higher cost plan, we’re still saving a small fortune off of traditional postpaid plans where they subsidize your phone.

If you’re still postpaid, why haven’t you switched yet?

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2 Responses

  1. Emily C says:

    Have y’all seen Republic Wireless? Josh and I have loved it, you should check it out if you haven’t.

    Emily (Shauna M’s little sis)

    • Jesse says:

      Since it’s backed by Sprint’s network and we recently fled that dumpster fire, I don’t think that would end up in the mix. I also don’t know if they allow bringing your own device.

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