You need a cheap plan for talking and texting
Plans don't get much cheaper than the one offered by Sprint's Freedom Pop. For $6.67 per month—which is charged annually, so $80 per year—you get unlimited talk and text and 500MB of data. That's just half of a gigabyte, but it may be fine if you only occasionally check e-mail and your social networking accounts. (When you purchase a new plan, though, Freedom Pop actually gives you an additional 500MB of data, which it says is automatically offered to new customers.) And while the price is rock bottom, coverage is more limited than that of other plans, so it's not for everybody.
Virgin Mobile’s payLO plan, also powered by Sprint, is $40 per month and is another great option for high-volume texters who occasionally access the Web. You can transfer your existing phone number to your new device, and it offers lost-phone replacement at a discounted price. On the downside, you can't use an Android phone with this plan.
Consumer Cellular (which runs on AT&T’s network but isn't owned by AT&T) is another option for occasional data users, or for those who need a smart phone just for emergency situations. While a high-usage plan costs $50 (for 1,000 talk minutes, 5,000 texts, and 500MB of data), "casual plans" start at $10 per month and charge $0.25 per minute for calls and $2.50 per month for just 100 texts and 10MB of data.
You want all the mobile bells and whistles
For a large selection of current smart-phone models, go with Sprint's Boost Mobile, which sells the Apple iPhone 5s, among other models. It’s $55 per month for an unlimited plan, but you can lower your bill further: For every six months of on-time payments, the bill drops by $5, and you can reduce it to $35 per month in just 18 months.
Net10, which is operated by Tracfone (our highest-rated prepaid cell-phone carrier), also offers a wide selection of newer smart phones. For example, Net10 carries the Apple iPhone 5s and the Samsung Galaxy S 4. But if you prefer to bring your own phone, that's no problem, as a SIM card ranges from $7 to $15. Additionally, its $50-per-month unlimited plan drops by $5 when you opt for automatic bill pay, and you can keep your existing phone number.
While its carrier networks aren't specified, Net10 says it partners with America's top-four networks, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon. But like other prepaid plans, coverage provided even by a combination of the carriers may vary, so check the Net10 maps to ensure that coverage on any unnamed network is available in your area.