Consumer Cellular and Cricket Wireless both use the AT&T network to support their services. The main difference is that Consumer Cellular uses AT&T's actual cellular network while Cricket Wireless is considered a budget carrier and is referred to as a mobile virtual network operator. Cricket still offers all the same reliable coverage and supports voice, text, and data. The main difference concerns the speed at which Cricket functions, which is dramatically lower than Consumer Cellular.
Consumer Cellular vs Cricket Differences
As a carrier, Consumer Cellular offers a variety of phones on its own, including the Samsung Note 9, the iPhone X, iPhone Xr, and iPhone 8 Plus. Consumer Cellular offers multiple plans that are designed to reach both ends of the spectrum in terms of wants and needs. If a customer only wants a voice plan, it can be easily set up. The same is true for data-driven plans.
Cricket Wireless is an MVNO which means it runs off of a virtual network instead of actual cell service. It is owned and operated by AT&T unlock Consumer Cellular which is its own network. Any AT&T or T-Mobile phone that has been unlocked can be used on the Cricket Wireless network.
Cricket vs Consumer Cellular Similarities
Consumer Cellular is serviced by AT&T which offers nationwide coverage and at least voice coverage in Canada and Mexico. Consumer Cellular offers data-driven packages that are affordable for the amount of data you can use without being shut down. Its plans are designed more for retired individuals or basically anyone who doesn't plan on using a lot of data.
Cricket Wireless is owned and operated by AT&T so it also offers nationwide coverage with voice coverage in both Canada and Mexico. Both companies offer excellent services and use the same phones that are compatible with AT&T. The speed of your data usage for both companies will immediately start to slow down once a certain amount has been reached. This is normal though, even with the “unlimited” plans the companies offer.
Both Consumer Cellular and Cricket Wireless use AT&T's network so they both have the same service areas. This includes most of the continental United States and Hawaii. There are certain areas where the coverage may not be completely reliable but they are scattered in various areas. Otherwise, most areas are rated for at least 3/4G service. Voice only service is available for Canada and Mexico.
Consumer Cellular offers many different choices in terms of brands and models of cell phones. They offer the elite of the iPhone models including the iPhone 8S, the Xr, and the X. For Android users, they now offer the Note 9 from Samsung as well as many other models that are considered to be mid-tier.
Since Cricket Wireless is owned/managed by AT&T, you can use any phone offered by AT&T that is unlocked and ready to be activated.
Costs & Contracts
Consumer Cellular requires an upfront payment for most phones with the balance paid through the EasyPay program or you can buy the phone outright. There are no contracts or service agreements, although the EasyPay option is considered a lease agreement. The iPhone X, for example, can be purchased outright for $900 or you can choose to $300 and use EasyPay to cover the balance. For plans, you can get a simple talk plan for $10 or you can pay up to $40 a month for one of their unlimited plans.
Cricket also offers lease agreements or you can bring a phone with you as long as it is AT&T compatible. The basic plan costs $30 a month, while the most expensive plan that offers unlimited talk/text/data starts at $60 a month. There is also a $25 activation fee. There is also an unlimited plan that includes four lines. Its cost is $190 a month.
Consumer Cellular is a popular choice for members of AARP because of the discounts it offers, but it also works well for individuals who don't necessarily need a data-driven plan. You can read our in-depth Consumer Cellular review to learn more.
Cricket Wireless is a good choice for people looking for an affordable cell phone with a reliable network. It's also popular with retirees and older individuals who don't want to mess with all of the extra technology.