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We’ll walk you through determining which network will work best for you, deciding how much service you need, and selecting a plan (either pre- or postpaid) based on those usage requirements.

Although we didn’t start working on this review with the intention of recommending a single best carrier, judging from what we’ve researched about typical phone usage in the United States, we’re confident that most people who follow the steps laid out below will find Verizon Wireless (or its prepaid offshoot) waiting for them at the end of the path.

Open Signal, PCMag, and Root Metrics all publish independently sourced network-performance metrics, but those studies come at it from different angles and are good for different purposes.

(Don’t forget to check coverage in any frequent business or vacation destinations.) Root Metrics uses cars set up with “leading Android-based smartphones for each network” to gather figures on data, talk, and text performance throughout the country.

We crunched numbers, pored over price plans and their fine print, quizzed experts, and wrestled with complex pricing schemes to make the process as painless as possible.

Unlike most of our reviews, this guide is less about picking one option than it is about helping you make your own pick.

If you need a lot of data more than coverage (especially if that coverage is in places you don’t visit), note that the company’s unlimited data plans—which now require you to make some trade-offs in streaming-video quality and mobile-hotspot speeds to get the most-advertised price—don’t offer the same value as T-Mobile’s.