Best cell-phone plans and providers

We pick service plans to suit varying needs

Last reviewed: January 2011
January 2011 issue cover This article appeared in
January 2011 Consumer Reports Magazine.
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This report and Ratings will be useful regardless of how you're approaching choosing a carrier and phone plan, and may be interesting even if you aren't shopping for wireless phone service right now. It outlines our key findings about the best and worst carriers, according to readers. It also offers news about the rise of more no-contract plans, faster 4G service, and the prevalence of bills that are higher than readers expected.

We help guide you to plans and phones that may suit you, whether you're a minimal phone user, a heavy talker and texter, an ardent e-mailer, or someone who does all that plus heavily surfs the Web. Our overall Ratings rank service, with and without a contract, based on the survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center covering 23 metro areas. In addition, where we have sufficient data, we've drawn on the experiences of contract and no-contract customers to create city-by-city Ratings (available to subscribers).