Around mid-last year, we published a couple of pieces about the best phone plans for families and single lines. Cricket was close to the top of both lists, and today it’s probably the best unlimited plan you can get.
Cool, so why are we talking about it again if nothing really changed? Because I recently switched to Cricket Unlimited and man let me tell you: I wish I would’ve done this ages ago. Ages.
Here’s the scenario. Back in December, I was away from home for about two weeks visiting family in Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia. Lots of driving, lots of hotel time. The hotel Wi-Fi was crappy, so I was quickly approaching my 8 GB data limit on Cricket.
Then it hit me: I would also be traveling to Vegas for CES in early January, where I would undoubtedly need a lot more data. At that point I had two choices: add more data as needed, one gigabyte (at $10 a pop) or change my plan.
But here’s the thing: I have four lines on my Cricket plan and was grandfathered into an old pricing scheme. Even one change would’ve killed this pricing and raise my bill by $30 in addition to the increase in the plan itself.
Then I remembered Cricket’s killer pricing for its unlimited plan: just $100 for four lines. That was less than I was paying at the time, but I had concerns because that particular plan caps the speed at 3 Mbps (opposed to Cricket’s usual 8 Mbps cap). Can you really survive with just 3 Mbps?
I had little choice, so I took the plunge and hoped for the best. I wish I would’ve done it a long time ago.
Is 3 Mbps Really Enough? (Spoiler: Yes)
That’s the question, right? Can you survive with such “slow” speeds? That’s the biggest thing I wanted to know, and it was especially daunting knowing that if I were to try to revert to my old plan later, I’d be paying more money for the same thing (who the hell wants that?).
But here I am, nearly two months later, wishing I would’ve done this so much sooner. Here’s the most important thing: I haven’t noticed a truly discernable difference in my service. Maybe some Instagram videos take a little bit longer to load? Or maybe I just pay more attention now. Hard to say!
And that’s really the takeaway right there. If I’m not sure that there’s a difference, then there isn’t a difference (even if there really is). But most of the time, it’s not something I think about or even feel. Facebook loads fine. Streaming music hasn’t changed. Google Maps loads like it always has. All the things I do on mobile have been completely fine on Cricket’s 3Mbps Unlimited plan.
3Mbps might be slower on paper, but in practice I never once felt the sting of switching from the full-speed plan to the throttled unlimited plan.
Of course, there are also things in place by Cricket to optimize the experience for you and relieve some of the load on its network. For example, all video is capped at SD quality—480p, that is—which is fine on mobile. As much as I’ve watched YouTube on my phone, I’m not sure I could ever tell you what resolution the videos were in regardless of what network I was on. 480p is fine on a relatively small screen.
There’s also the issue of getting throttled if you use a lot of data. Cricket “may temporarily slow data speeds when the network is congested” if you use more than 22GB, which probably only applies to a very small subset of users. To put that kind of data usage in perspective, 22GB of data is approximately 92 hours of standard definition YouTube video. You’d have to watch almost 4 days worth of streaming video using only cellular data to bump into the cap on the unlimited plan.
With that in mind, this is a great plan for most people. The most data-heavy of users who spend all their time away from reliable Wi-Fi probably aren’t going to love the 3Mbps connection, but for everyone else—I say go for it. You’ll likely save money without any real effect on performance.