Of the Big 4 wireless phone carriers in the U.S. — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint — Sprint and T-Mobile are the kings (or queens) of lower prices. Either one will give you cheaper monthly plan rates than AT&T or Verizon, and often some sweet perks to boot.
But between the two — which one is better: Sprint or T-Mobile?
We’ll spoil that answer quickly, because it’s honestly an easy choice: T-Mobile has a faster network (#1 for speed in recent years), noticeably better coverage, and better perks. But, the lower-tier Sprint plans can still be worth looking at if you want to save a few bucks.
As a side note, T-Mobile has been attempting to acquire Sprint for many months. If the merger gets federal approval (the only thing standing in their way currently), this review will become obsolete and we’ll have to take a look at the new company. But until then, here’s how Sprint and T-Mobile match up against each other.
Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Coverage + Speed
Sprint, top; T-Mobile, bottom.
Network coverage in the United States is ruled by Verizon. AT&T comes in second — and it’s T-Mobile taking third place, which leaves Sprint in dead last.
That said, you can still get good service with either T-Mobile or Sprint — if you live in the right place. Although Verizon took it back this year, T-Mobile has even won 1st place for 4G speeds in previous years over the Big Red, and you still get might get better speeds with the “Uncarrier” in the city.
But when it comes to overall coverage, both Sprint and T-Mobile are lacking in rural areas. For example, with T-Mobile you’ll likely find spotty coverage in areas throughout the south and northeast, as well as large parts of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon, and regions in the eastern and northwest parts of California.
Sprint has similarly spotty coverage, particularly in the midwest and west, non-city areas of California, and the south and New England regions.
Neither carrier can beat Verizon or AT&T; of the two in this review, however, it’s T-Mobile that has a little better nationwide coverage than Sprint.
Speed ≠ coverage
It’s important to remember that speed is not the same as coverage. Coverage is the area where you get service. Speed is one aspect of how good your service is: how quickly your texts are sent and received, how much buffering your videos or music do, how long you have to wait for that pic to load, etc.
Once again T-Mobile wins out, with download speeds that are actually as fast as Verizon’s, and possibly even higher. Referencing the same study by OpenSignal, Sprint falls to the very bottom of the pack again.
The difference is pretty stark between T-Mobile and Sprint, too. Just take a look at some specific numbers from OpenSignal, where the higher the number (megabits per second), the faster:
4G download speeds (average):
- T-Mobile: 19.42 Mbps
- Sprint: 12.02 Mbps
3G download speeds (average):
- T-Mobile: 3.46 Mbps
- Sprint: 1 Mbps
Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Plans + Pricing
|T-Mobile||T-Mobile ONE||$70/mo.||View plans|
|T-Mobile||T-mobile ONE Plus||$85/mo.||View plans|
|T-Mobile||T-Mobile Essentials||$60/mo.||View plans|
|T-Mobile||T-Mobile ONE Prepaid Domestic Only||$50/mo.||View plans|
|T-Mobile||Simply Prepaid||$40/mo.||View plans|
|T-Mobile||Pay As You Go||$3/mo.||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Kickstart||$25/mo.||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Basic||$60/mo.||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Plus||$60/mo. limited time, $70/mo. regular||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Premium||$80/mo. limited time, $90/mo. regular||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited 55+**||$50/mo.||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Military||$60/mo.||View plans|
|Sprint||Single Line 2GB||$40/mo.||View plans|
Sprint’s Unlimited Premium plan aside, they win the “lowest pricetag” game every time over T-Mobile. With the lowest monthly rates of the Big 4 carriers, you’ll nearly always pay less on your monthly bill.
We say nearly, because T-Mobile includes all taxes and fees into the advertised price (the Essentials plan doesn’t, but that’s the only one). Sprint, on the other hand, adds on quite a list of extra fees:
- Subsidized fee — $25/month/phone
- Line access charge — $15-25/month
- Taxes and government fees — 8.74% of your monthly bill minimum
Account spending limit charge — $7.99
That means that your Sprint bill can quickly add up if even just one or two of these extra charges apply to you — and Kickstart plan aside, Sprint’s other plans just aren’t cheap enough to offset them very well.
But that said, for most people, Sprint will still come out cheaper overall than T-Mobile.
Unlimited plans features
|T-Mobile||T-mobile ONE Plus||
||$60/mo. limited time, $70/mo. regular||View plans|
||$80/mo. limited time, $90/mo. regular||View plans|
What about T-Mobile and Sprint’s features? We’ll focus on both carriers’ unlimited plans, as those have the most.
T-Mobile’s plans have led the industry when it comes to feature-packed offerings. With massive 50GB data deprioritization thresholds (Verizon and AT&T have just 23GB data caps in most of their plans) and hotspot data, and great international service included, it’s hard to beat.
But Sprint is right there with them, too. They also offer a starting data cap of 50GB, as well as 1080p HD video streaming starting with Unlimited Plus, and decent hotspots climbing with each tier. Plus, they’re cheaper.
Both carriers offer great perks, too, so it’s hard to pick a winner for this round — we’ll call it a tie.
Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Perks
|T-Mobile perks||Sprint perks|
*Dependent on plan level
What perks do Sprint and T-Mobile offer? Short answer: A lot of ‘em. To make things clearer, we’ll break them into 2 categories: Streaming perks and international.
Streaming, music, and more
T-Mobile gives you a free Netflix subscription when you have 2 or more lines on your plan – standard. That’s a nice deal ($10.99) each month.
In contrast, Sprint gives you a Hulu Limited Commercials plan starting at Unlimited Basic. But the downside there is that you can only watch Hulu from your Sprint device or if you use it as a hotspot.
Softening that blow however, is if you upgrade to Plus, you’ll also get a free TIDAL music membership. Upgrade to Premium, and you get a free Amazon Prime membership, too, which includes Amazon Prime Video.
But again, that limitation to Hulu hurts — T-Mobile lets you watch Netflix on any device, just like a normal subscription.
The rest of the two carriers’ perks land in the area related to international travel. With T-Mobile, you get unlimited text + data in 220+ countries included standard in your unlimited plan. Sprint does pretty much the same thing, but you’ll have to pay for voice calls ($0.25/minute).
But, T-Mobile also gives you free in-flight Wi-Fi on GoGo-enable flights — without having to pay the airline for in-flight Wi-Fi.
But wait, there’s more — at least when it comes to T-Mobile. T-Mobile also runs “T-Mobile Tuesdays,” which are basically raffles that give away free stuff: trips, vouchers, and more. And you’re automatically entered into most just by being a T-Mobile member.
Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Customer service
According to J.D. Power’s latest Full-service performance study, T-Mobile handily beats the other 3 big carriers. Sprint itself is in last place, ranked as “The Rest” in comparison to T-Mobile’s “Among the Best.”
Although forums will always be full of negative reviews for all wireless carriers, T-Mobile has been putting in the effort to improve on previous years. One relatively recent program they instituted is their “Team of Experts,” which helps customers to more quickly connect to the right human when they call customer support.
It’s a clear winner here: T-Mobile.
Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Phones
|T-Mobile + Sprint||Sample phones|
|Samsung||Galaxy S10E, S10, S10 Plus, Note9, S9, S9+, etc.|
|Apple||iPhone XR, XS, XS Max, X, iPhone 8, 8 Plus, etc.|
|Pixel 3a, 3a XL|
|Others||LG G8 ThinQ, OnePlus 7 Pro, Motorola g7 Power, REVVL 2, LG Aristo, CoolPad SNAP, Alcatel GO FLIP, etc.|
T-Mobile and Sprint are once more on common ground: you’ll find most of the popular and latest phone models at both carriers. New additions for both providers are the Google Pixels - Verizon no longer holds that monopoly, so you don’t have to BYO Pixel to T-Mobile or Sprint anymore.
So who’s better? We made it clear from the start who our pick is: T-Mobile. But, not necessarily for everyone. Here’s how the Sprint and T-Mobile break down by best use-case:
- Price-conscious: Sprint’s got the cheapest prices, hands-down. You can get unlimited talk, text, and 4G data for $25 bucks a month. C’mon. ‘
- Performance: Both are good in the cities, but T-Mobile has the better speeds and network coverage, including in rural areas where neither carrier is exceptional.
- International travelers: Both carriers are solid, but T-Mobile has a few better extras, like their free in-flight Wi-Fi.
- Data: It’s a draw here: Both T-Mobile and Sprint have 50GB data deprioritization thresholds. But, Sprint’s Premium plan now offers 100GB, so the edge goes to them.
Merger? T-Mobile is acquiring Sprint?
Yes. T-Mobile has been working on acquiring Sprint for months. Necessary federal approval of the merger is pending.