On one hand, it can be beneficial in the sense that competition will get stricter and it will stretch what the providers will be willing to offer in order to get ahead of the competition. This can mean lower subscription rates, cheaper cash outs, beneficial perks (like Rollover minutes) and other fancy features like Android Muve support or better phone selection. One of the most noticeable progresses that are brought about by competition in terms of affordable offers is the unlimited GSM and data plans.
On the other hand, it can be disadvantageous in the part of the consumer as multiple claims of being the most affordable network can mislead people into believing mere advertisements. In an environment full of contradicting interests and statements, we must be wary of ads and be able to make observations of our own.
To settle the score between the two, we will be comparing those using categories that directly affect a subscriber's satisfaction. These criteria are the network's unique features, the phone selection that it offers, its signal coverage, the after sales support that it provide, and how affordable it is given what it has to offer.
Cricket - The network from San Diego CA offers unlimited text talk, text, and data for as low as $45. If you want to go roaming, you can still enjoy these features by simply adding $20. The cheap phones and affordable international plans make Cricket also ideal as a roaming phone subscriber. These available plans, however, are limited to basic phones. If you want to go for a smart phone, then you will have to pay for rates that are above $50.
Aside from the said feature above, Cricket also supports Android Muve, which is a big plus if you are a music or a video lover. However, this is only limited to some Android phones.
Straight Talk - Like Cricket, Straight talk is proud of its very affordable unlimited plans. Their unlimited talk time, text messaging and data are all available in a single package that only costs $40. Unlike Cricket, this rate is fixed for all Straight Talk phones thus you are sure that this plan is available as long as you are using a Straight Talk phone.
Comparison - Both offer very affordable plans just as they advertise. However, we will be giving this category to Cricket as it has more than affordable plans. It also has unlimited music and video download support on selected Android devices.
Cricket - Cricket offers a decent phone selection. Though limited in number, their phones are some of the best that you will find in the prepaid market such as the Huawei Mercury. Although it lacks famous phones like the iPhone or the Galaxy Note, it never backs down in terms of function.
Straight Talk - In terms of quantity, it is a little ahead of Cricket. However, when it comes to quality, it can only offer low end smart phones at best and most of the phones in its inventory are basic phones.
Comparison - If we compare the phones between the two networks, Straight Talk cannot compare with Cricket in terms of sheer functionality. Because of this, Cricket is one step ahead of Straight Talk.
The coverage criterion is simple enough. Who covers the most area in the country? The larger the percentage, the better the chances that you will have a clear signal. In this matter, Straight Talk clearly has the upper hand as it covers 99% of the United States as opposed to Cricket that only covers 97%. However, the difference is minuscule and this could be ignored unless your area is in the unlikely 2% difference.
AFTER SALES SUPPORT
The area of customer service or after sales support is hard to judge as we cannot form valid generalizations easily. However, based on feedback that we have read on the forums, both networks have the same level of customer service. There are very few cases of very angry subscribers as both networks are prepaid. This means that there is less room for heated discussions about overages and wrong monthly bill computations. You pay and you get the service, things are often fair and square when it comes to prepaid subscription.
Cricket - If you are after unlimited features, Cricket has a rate of $45. This only gets higher if you will go roaming or will be subscribing for more sophisticated smart phones which can easily cost $55 or more if you will be including the Android Muve support.
Straight Talk - In terms of unlimited talk, text, and data, Straight Talk offers the most affordable rates among all the networks in the United States; $40. This is $5 cheaper than what Cricket has to offer.
Comparison - If we are going to be strict about it, Straight Talk is the most affordable network with a $5 advantage, add the fact that there are more Straight Talk promo codes than Cricket's then Straight Talk has the advantage. However, if we will be including functionality in the equation, Cricket is more versatile as it offers options on getting a smart phone and Muve functionality. However, if we level the battlefield on basic to low end Smart Phones, I would have to give it to Straight Talk.