To choose 2017's Best Cell Phone Plans, Money—using data provided, in part, by BestMVNO.com—evaluated roughly 100 prepaid and postpaid plans from 15 carriers. We narrowed the set to include only plans with unlimited calls and texts, and at least 1GB of data per month. To make an apples-to-apples comparison, we looked at the annual cost of each plan, factoring in any device access costs, activation fees, and SIM card pricing, as well as applicable discounts such as autopay.
For an objective measure of customer service, Money used the ratings featured in J.D. Power's 2017 U.S. Wireless Customer Care Performance Study, plus information gathered through reporting. We also evaluated each carrier's voice and 4G/LTE data network footprints, and took into account published reports by RootMetrics and OpenSignal.
Winners were chosen on the basis of price, data allowances, and plan features. All of Money's best plans are from carriers that were at least above average on network quality, coverage, and customer service. The data was collected in April and May 2017.