Prepaid Cell Phones Guide: Pay As You Go Cellular Phone Plans Explained

Women On Cell Phone

Prepaid and pay-as-you-go cell phone services have a dirty reputation. For most of us, they conjure up images of rundown retail locations in strip malls full of smarmy salesmen, 2004-era phones, and sky-high prices to take advantage of people with poor credit.

But times have changed. Prepaid and pay-as-you-go services still offer pay-per-minute pricing for the grandpas and “emergency-only” phone owners of the world, but they’ve also started churning out some impressive unlimited monthly plans that will catch the eye of even cell phone owners who wear their contracts like wedding rings as well. Still, at $50 a month for unlimited voice and text messages, it makes you wonder: What’s the catch?

Here’s a quick-and-dirty rundown of the prepaid cell phone business, from the nitty-gritty details of how plans and providers actually work, to the pros and cons of actually buying airtime from one. Should you decide that you’re ready to chop the ball and chain and formally run into the arms of a month-to-month lover, make sure to check out our guide to the best prepaid and pay-as-you-go cell phone providers as well.

Mobile

Hateful software kills our enthusiasm for newcomer Realme’s $155 Android phone

Realme is a new smartphone brand with an interesting start to life, as it closely mirrors that of OnePlus, a brand we admire. The Realme 2 is its second phone, and we've given it a try to see if it's a winner.
Mobile

MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile and includes Amazon Prime

Looking for a great prepaid phone plan? MetroPCS is now Metro by T-Mobile, and the veteran carrier is promising to provide a variety of prepaid phone plans that offer great value for money, and access to Google One and Amazon Prime.
Mobile

Android 9.0 Pie is finally rolling out to the OnePlus 6

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

The iPhone XS and XS Max are now available -- here's how to get them

After months of rumors and speculation, Apple has finally taken the wraps off of the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Now that the phones are out, you might be wondering how you can get them for yourself.
Mobile

The Google Pixel 3 smartphone may arrive dressed in pink

Forget the Pixel 2: Google will announce its latest flagships, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, on October 9 in New York City and Paris. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.
Business

How T-Mobile plans to use 5G to challenge traditional ISPs

In a recent FCC statement, T-Mobile COO Michael Sievert outlined the company's plans to use 5G to challenge traditional ISPs such as Comcast and Charter. The company says it would offer lower rates and higher speeds.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Click-to-brew beer, comfy headlamps, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

The best iPhone XR screen protectors to keep that big screen safe

The iPhone XR is Apple's midsized iPhone, and it's worth protecting. You might have picked up a case, but what about the screen? Keep your display safe with the best iPhone XR screen protectors.
Mobile

Never run out of data (or money) with the best unlimited data plans of 2018

Sorting though unlimited plans isn't exactly a walk in the park. We've compared the best unlimited data plans from Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon to help you decide which one is best for you.
Wearables

Armani Exchange’s smartwatch is for those who want their tech to be dapper

Armani is back with another Google Wear OS touchscreen smartwatch, and this time it's from the Armani Exchange division, making it stylish, modern, and affordable. There's plenty of technology inside too.
Mobile

The iPhone XS and XS Max survive being dunked in 138 cans of beer

Apple's special event is over, and we were introduced to the new iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR. Here's everything we know about the 2018 iPhone trio, from their cameras to release dates.
Mobile

Apple iPhone XS vs. Sony Xperia XZ3: Which is the best phone for you?

What happens when one of Apple's best clashes with one of Sony's top performers? We're here to find out as we pit the iPhone XS against the Xperia XZ3 in various categories. Find out which of these smartphones will suit you best.
Mobile

Apple purchases Shazam and makes the app free of ads

Soon after Apple announced it was acquiring music-recognition service Shazam, it was revealed that the European Commission would be looking into the deal. The commission has now cleared the way for Apple's acquisition of Shazam.
Music

Spotify vs. Pandora: Which music streaming service is better for you?

Which music streaming platform is best for you? We pit Spotify versus Pandora, two mighty streaming services with on-demand music and massive catalogs, comparing every facet of the two services to help you decide which is best.
1 of 6