Very few Americans install landline phones these days, so we'll focus on "cellphones", which is what mobile phones are called here. There are two main ways of getting a cellphone and cellphone service in the United States:
- Bundled plan: This option bundles everything you need into a monthly fee – you'll get a new model device, a data plan, texting, and voice. The advantage of bundling is that a device is included; phones can be very expensive if you purchase it yourself. The disadvantage is that they lock you into a contract period of 2 years and apply penalties if you break that contract early.
- Prepaid plan: Also known as pay-as-you-go plans, a prepaid plan lets you cancel your service anytime with no penalties. These plans are not really cheaper than a bundled plan, just more flexible. The downside is that you'll pay full retail price for a phone (unless you brought your own, of course).
CELLPHONE SERVICE PROVIDERS
Cellphone coverage is ubiquitous across this country's major metro regions but not all service providers are created equal. There are four main businesses in the United States and they each offer trade-offs between the quality of their coverage and their price.
- Verizon is generally regarded as having the best cellphone coverage in Seattle. This means you won't have to hang outside your window or go to the roof of your building to make a call. They're also more expensive: a 2-year bundled plan with an iPhone 6s and 3 GB of data each month will cost you USD $1,105 per year. For a family of four, this package would be $2,807. Additionally, the type of network Verizon uses (CDMA instead of GSM) means most of their devices won't work in other countries, so take that into consideration if you plan on traveling home and would like to use your phone there.
- AT&T is the main competitor to Verizon in the United States and is as good or better than Verizon in some parts of the country. Comparing apples to apples with Verizon as much as possible, a 2.5-year bundled plan with an iPhone 6s and 2 GB of data each month will cost you USD $920 per year. (If Verizon did have a 2 GB option it would only be a few dollars more expensive than AT&T). For a family of four, all with the same plan and device, the annual cost would be $2,600.
- T-Mobile is a distant third in the cellphone race, with 65 million subscribers to Verizon's 141 million and AT&T's 130 million. An iPhone 6s, 2 GB of data will run $925 per year. The main benefits compared to the other providers start when you add other family members to your plan; you also won't be nailed with extra charges if anyone on the plan goes over his or her data limit. Instead, T-Mobile just throttles the speed. For a family of four, this package would cost $2,580.
- Sprint is the fourth major provider in the U.S. and is a bit more affordable. With Sprint an iPhone 6s, 3 GB data plan, and a 24-month contract will cost $925. It'll cost $2,620 for a family of four.
There's no clear winner in Seattle when it comes to choosing an internet service provider. And if you live in an apartment building you may not have any choice: some buildings are only set up for one service provider so you can either take it or leave it.
Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) is ubiquitous but much hated for their terrible customer service. They've been working to improve the experience recently, however. They offer speeds of up to 100 megabytes per second (Mbps) download for $39.99 per month.
CenturyLink is a regional provider that offers fairly pedestrian speeds of 7 Mbps and 12 Mbps, both for $29.95 per month. (Why anyone would choose the slower option when it costs the same is a mystery.)
Xfinity by Comcast, like Fios, is not available everywhere in the city. It offers speeds of up to 250 Mbps. Their 25 Mbps speed plan costs $29.99/month when you sign up for 12 months. The 150 Mbps plan is $49.99 and the 250 Mbps plan will set you back $79.99 per month.
CascadeLink has offered the fastest speeds in Seattle but has limited coverage. A 30 Mbps plan is $39.99 per month, 100 Mbps is $59.99, and speeds up to 1 gigabit per second are $79.99.