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Google Fi vs Cricket Wireless: Which Low-Cost Carrier is Best?


Seeking an affordable yet well-performing wireless carrier bringing value through the latest devices and technology capabilities? Well you‘re not alone with costs from leading providers leaving wallets smarting.

Thankfully competition brings options with Google Fi and Cricket Wireless emerging as two of the most compelling choices blending savings with premium prepaid service.

Google Fi uniquely leverages networks from T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Three to deliver coverage breadth impossible through a single carrier. And Google Fi offers everything from budget Android phones to unlocked iPhone flexibility across straight-forward plan tiers.

Meanwhile AT&T owned Cricket Wireless taps into that carrier‘s vast infrastructure now accelerating into cutting-edge 5G. A focus on multi-month discounts drives pricing down further while an eclectic device portfolio meets virtually any budget need.

But with notable differences in plans, network performance, phone selection and supported features, choosing the right affordable wireless fit between Google Fi and Cricket requires deeper evaluation. Let‘s explore how these two carriers compare across the essential factors you need to make the optimal economical connectivity decision.

Network Performance and Reliability

While saving money matters when selecting wireless service, coverage reach and connection dependability also remain table stakes. You need confidence your provider can deliver solid connectivity during life and work on the go moments that matter.

Google Fi Network Capabilities

As an MVNO or "mobile virtual network operator", Google Fi subscriptions primarily access T-Mobile‘s industry top-ranked 5G network. With over 225 million subscribers, T-Mobile commands the greatest spectrum holdings and 5G availability coast to coast.

Augmenting gaps in T-Mobile‘s footprint, Google Fi uniquely extends coverage by adding regional routes through U.S. Cellular. Additional roaming partnerships with Three and Rural providers further cement Fi‘s capability advantage ensuring members reliably stay connected regardless of location.

  • Frequent top network medals in RootMetrics testing
  • 5G available for 315 million people nationwide
  • Multi-month streak Carrier Award Winner with OpenSignal

Diving into the numbers behind composite results and awards, Google Fi‘s network foundations shine through even brighter.

OpenSignal‘s latest testing of Fi groups users across 3Q 2022 found blazing fast average 5G download speeds of 117.6 Mbps. Even more impressive, OpenSignal measured Fi 5G availability at an incredible 96.4% probability a user will encounter next generation service when attempting to connect.

With access to crucial mid-band and high frequency mmWave builds outs accelerating from T-Mobile plus auxiliary coverage through other regional routes, Google Fi‘s network capability clearly outclasses competitors. Performance remains consistent and reliable keeping you connected on the go when it matters most.

Cricket Wireless Network Capabilities

As an AT&T subsidiary leaning completely on that carrier‘s infrastructure backbone, Cricket Wireless lives and dies by the reach and capability of AT&T mobility.

Boasting over 100 million wireless subscribers, AT&T controls ample spectrum and continues aggressively deploying 5G supported cell sites. While historically behind T-Mobile (and Verizon) in next generation roll-out pace up until recently, AT&T is now rapidly enhancing service levels.

In particular by absorbing valuable mid-band holdings through the FirstNet public safety network project rollout, AT&T materially upgraded capacity and speed capability where deployed. Accelerating C-Band spectrum participation will further boost AT&T coverage maps over the next two years.

  • Solid and improving RootMetrics showings
  • Currently reaches 250 million people with 5G
  • Making strides but still trailing T-Mobile 5G availability

But as a lower priority prepaid subsidiary, Cricket Wireless experiences more variability in maximum speeds and susceptible to greater congestion during peak usage times relative to directly contracted AT&T mobility customers.

OpenSignal testing of AT&T 5G during similar 3Q 2022 timeframes measured average download rates of 115 Mbps and availability of 83.9% – trailing the T-Mobile fueled Google Fi results. While still highly capable particularly in strong AT&T regions like the Southeast and Midwest, network performance leans in favor of Google Fi maintaining an edge.

Google Fi Cricket Wireless
Avg. 5G Download Speed 117.6 Mbps 115 Mbps
5G Availability 96.4% 83.9%

The Network Bottom Line? While Cricket leverages AT&T‘s quickly improving next generation infrastructure, Fi‘s use of T-Mobile‘s leading capability plus supplementary regional partners keeps independent testing results and consumer experience a leg up. But both deliver excellent coverage to meet demands of modern digital life.

Plan Options and Value Comparison

Connectivity means little without affordability. Thankfully Google Fi and Cricket Wireless focus plans around choice balancing flexible data approaches with unlimited data simplicity. Let‘s explore how costs and value align.

Google Fi Cell Phone Plans

Google Fi keeps options straightforward across three tiers while allowing complete mix and match flexibility to cater to each family member‘s needs:

  • Unlimited Plus
    • $65/month per line
    • Unlimited premium data up to 50GB tethering
  • Simply Unlimited
    • $50/month per line
    • Unlimited high-speed data + 5GB tethering
  • Flexible
    • $20/month per line
    • $10 per GB data from 1GB to 30GB
    • Pay only for what you use

The Flexible plan value shines when light usage under 2GB makes Sense. But Fi‘s unlimited plan pulls ahead if you crave 4GB and beyond.

Comparing Google Fi costs across usage levels validates compelling value positioning:

Monthly Data Use Cricket Wireless (12 Month Prepay) Google Fi
1 GB $25 $20
2 GB $25 $30
4 GB $55 $50
Unlimited $25 $50

Thanks to pay-as-you go savings potential on light usage months and value packed unlimited plans, Google Fi flexibly aligns costs to your needs.

Cricket Wireless Cell Phone Plans

While Google Fi keeps it simple, Cricket Wireless provides more variability through discounts incentivizing prepaying longer durations:

  • Unlimited
    • $55/month per line
  • Unlimited More
    • $60/month per line (includes mobile hotspot, HBO Max and more)
  • Usage Bucket Plans
    • $30/month for 5GB
    • $40/month for 10GB
    • $50/month for 15GB
  • Multi-Month Discounts
    • 3 months paid upfront – $5-$10 off monthly rate
    • 6 months paid upfront – $20 off monthly rate
    • 12 months paid upfront – $30 off monthly rate

Thanks to a $30 per line discount when you prepay an entire year upfront, Cricket‘s basic unlimited plan can drop to an ultra competitive $25 a month. Combined with their scaled usage bucket options, Cricket caters well to budget conscious data restrainers.

You must be willing to commit for the long haul to reap maximum Cricket savings however. Prepaying year over year makes sense for lifestyle and usage stability. But frequent switchers or data jumpers need Google Fi‘s forgiving flexibility instead.

Verdict: Google Fi Value Wins For Most

Google Fi and Cricket both deliver attractive savings versus traditional contract plans. But Cricket incentives shine brightest for light data users willing to lock-in longer durations. With flexible data approportioning and value packed unlimited, Google Fi better aligns costs across typical user profiles.

Savings up to $30 per month makes Cricket prepay look compelling. Yet staying eligible requires sticking to the same plan for a full year. If you want the freedom to adjust data needs month-to-month, only Google Fi enables that without financial penalty.

Phone Selection Options

Scoring an awesome smartphone at reasonable pricing completes the value puzzle. Do Google Fi and Cricket both deliver solid device options fitting tightened budgets?

Google Fi Phone Lineup

While historically aligned closely with budget Pixel models, Google Fi matured their device catalog to flagship caliber across iOS, Android and foldables:

  • Google Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel 7 – Fi exclusive carrier for latest Pixels
  • Samsung Galaxy S23 Series – Entire S23 lineup including Ultra
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 and Fold4 – Leading foldable phones
  • Apple iPhone 14 Series – iOS flexibility through eSIM compatibility
  • Moto G Stylus (2023) – Well rounded budget productivity option

Nearly all devices above come with discounted introductory pricing at $0 down and reasonable monthly payments spread over 24 months. So you can absorb costs over time interest free without requiring an eligible trade-in device.

Combined with the flexibility to Bring Your Own device including existing iPhone options, Google Fi device selection diversity makes it easy to score premium functionality without overspending.

Cricket Wireless Phone Selection

On the flip side, Cricket Wireless doubles down on affordability across both iPhone and Android varieties:

  • Multiple Free Phone Options – Samsung Galaxy A14, TCL L7, Moto G Fast and more
  • Heavily Discounted Smartphones – Models like Samsung A13 under $100
  • Moto G Power/Stylus 2023 – Top budget picks
  • iPhone 14 Series – Get latest iPhones but requires device trade-in payment plans
  • Limited Midrange/Premium Models

With free and entry models covering essentials plus a few sub-$100 smartphones packing better specs, Cricket makes it easy to minimize spend if phone is just a basic connectivity enabler.

But diving into details highlights some meaningful corners cut to hit those low-low prices points:

Phone Display Storage + RAM Processor Rear Cameras
iPhone 14 6.1" Super Retina XDR OLED 128GB Storage + 6GB RAM Apple A15 Bionic Chip 12MP Main + 12MP Ultrawide
Moto G Power 2023 (Cricket) 6.5" LCD 64GB Storage + 4GB RAM MediaTek Helio G37 16MP + 2MP Depth + 2MP Macro
Samsung Galaxy A14 (Cricket) 6.6" LCD 32GB Storage + 4GB RAM Exynos 7904A 13MP Main + 2MP Depth

The iPhone 14 expectedly outclasses even Cricket‘s best free and discounted Android models by a significant margin in display quality, benchmarks and camera capability. Fine for essential online access but meaningful comprised experience.

For well rounded modern smartphone use on a strict budget, I‘d recommend exploring Google Fi‘s value priced mid tier alternatives like the Moto G Stylus 2023 over Cricket‘s functional yet limited free offerings.

Device Selection Verdict: Google Fi Variety Wins

Google Fi once again shows strengths offering everything from premium Samsungs to budget Motos with fair financing terms. Unless you need absolutely rock bottom or iPhone simplicity specifically, Fi device catalog advantages stand out.

But Cricket still warrants consideration if you just require a basic connected device enabling talk, text and occasional web access on a tight budget. iPhone fans can also score the latest models with some trade-off caveats.

Feature Sets, Perks and Extras

Beyond core network coverage, plans and devices, wireless providers today go the extra mile with media content, security services and travel flexibility. How do Google Fi and Cricket compare on the feature front?

Google Fi Features and Perks

  • Spam Call Filtering – Helps eliminate robocall annoyances
  • Enhanced Network Switching – Uses best performing cell tower signal
  • Built-in VPN – Safely encrypts data on public WiFi
  • International Roaming – Continue service in 200+ countries
  • Family Features – Location sharing, parental controls and more

Google Fi stands out by fully optimizing connectivity dynamically switching between cellular partners as you move between areas of differing signal strength. So you always leverage fastest available data speeds with greater reliability.

A built-in VPN accessible through the Google Fi iOS or Android app also safely guards identities and information when connecting devices on the go over public WiFi. So you can browse and work confidently at coffee shops knowing data remains encrypted and secure.

Cricket Wireless Features and Perks

  • HBO Max – Included on high tier unlimited plans
  • 15GB Mobile Hotspot Data – Higher hotspot allotments to share your connectivity
  • Canada/Mexico Roaming – Usage and 5GB data in Mexico & Canada included
  • Cricket Call Defense – Detects and blocks disruptive robocallers
  • eSIM Support – Quickly starts service by downloading eSIM

While Google Fi excels providing security and reliable flexibility, Cricket combats robocalls effectively through their Call Defense platform. And generous 15GB of mobile hotspot data sharing along with North American roaming allow travelers more freely leverage Cricket service.

If you want to minimize disruptions from spam callers or require hotspot sharing to keep other WiFi devices connected on trips, Cricket holds the edge on those fronts.

Features Verdict: Google Fi Security and Support Lead

Both carriers aim to provide core capabilities enabling you to communicate conveniently, work remotely and access content worry-free. But Google Fi stands apart layering on advanced security through its VPN plus overcoming coverage gaps with network flexibility unique to their MVNO structure.

Yet Cricket holds its own allowing simple entertainment bundled access and practical international roaming not offered by Google Fi without paying extra.

In balancing what most consumers need day-to-day, Google Fi‘s security and technical support strengths win out to enable smooth wireless experience in more areas unhindered.

The Bottom Line: Google Fi Brings Superior Value

When all considerations around network performance, plan pricing structures, device catalog variety and supported features are weighed, Google Fi prevails as the Editors‘ Choice prepaid wireless provider.

Access to T-Mobile‘s leading 5G infrastructure complemented by U.S. Cellular partnerships enable Google Fi to deliver breadth of coverage plus consistently dependable speeds that narrowly outclass Cricket Wireless‘ sole reliance on parent company AT&T.

Top tier unlimited data affordability combined with the unique flexibility of pay-as-you-go data down to 1GB increments also supply Google Fi an advantage aligning costs efficiently to your exact monthly mobile needs. Even Cricket‘s deep 12-month prepaid discounts can‘t match Google Fi value for heavier data consumers unwilling to lock in long term.

And whether you seek premium flagship Galaxy smartphones, flexible iPhone BYOD support or basic mid-range models, Google Fi selections cater wider across budget to flagship desires. Cricket answers the call only on basement pricing but trails in well-rounded choice diversity.

Prepaid wireless consumers seeking the optimal balance of network capability, plan value flexibility and device options can‘t go wrong with Google Fi. Cricket deserves consideration only if rock bottom iPhone or multi-line costs trump all else. For everyone else of any budget, Google Fi brings superior prepaid service and technology to empower modern digital daily life.