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 Silicon Valley. 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 with 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 24 month contract will cost $925. It'll cost $2,620 for a family of four.
There are many internet service providers in Silicon Valley, but we'll focus on the top four:
Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) is ubiquitous but much hated for their terrible customer service. Their basic internet service offers download speeds up to 100 megabytes per second (Mbps) for $40/month when you sign up for a 12-month contract. Spectrum has unlimited data usage.
AT&T Internet is another big provider but isn't available at all addresses. Their U-Verse product starts at $30/month for speeds of 3 Mbps (yes, you read that correctly; it's slow) and has a data cap of 1 terabyte a month.
Frontier is actually a provider of another company's product, Verizon FiOS. You can get speeds of 50 Mbps for $45/month if you sign a 2-year contract. Speeds of 100 Mbps will cost you $55/month and 150 Mbps is $65/month. All plans have the 2-year contract requirement
XFINITY is offered by Comcast, a big media and telecom company. They offer speeds up to 55 Mbps for $40/month if you sign a one year contract. For an extra $10 per month, you can get speeds up to 100 Mbps. They also offer bundled packages including cable television.