Bring your own phone (BYOP) plans tend to be cheaper than ones with subsidized phones included. That is, unless you're looking at one of the big 3 carriers, all of which recently increased their BYO/No Tab plan pricing to match that of their plans with "Lite" or "non-premium" phones on contract.
Another BYO plan benefit is that they don't require long-term commitments, such as a 2-year contract. Instead, these are 'month-to-month' plans, meaning you can bail just about any time you want, if you decide the grass looks a little greener elsewhere.
The specifics of "which plan is best" will vary based on your province. Most of Canada is pretty similar, but Manitoba (MB), Quebec (QC), and Saskatchewan (SK) tend to be outliers, both in price and because they boast carrier options not found elsewhere.
The results listed below are based on Ontario's (ON's) offerings. These will be accurate for most of the nation, but if you'd like to be 100% sure, you can always click the "change usage & more" link above each table, and pop in your province at the top of the new screen.
Note: The tables below adjust dynamically as our site info is updated. If any of the body text disagrees with the plans being showed, go with what's on the table.
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Best 1GB plans
1GB is around the minimum you'll want if you're going to get good use out of that new smartphone. This will allow for some light daily social media use, browsing, and uploading a few photos. You can also stream some music, but do so very sparingly, and keep an eye on your usage if you do.
WIND is the clear price-winner here, at just $30 per month for 2GB of data at full 3G HSPA+ speeds. There's no 4G LTE, so it's not going to be as fast as the Virgin (Bell network), Koodo (TELUS network), or Fido (Rogers network) plans; it's up to you if you'd prefer price and quantity, over speed and network coverage.
Videotron is a solid option for those seeking 4G LTE, but is not yet a nation-wide carrier. Generally, it's a Quebec and Ontario service, with some options elsewhere. Its network is not as large those that Fido, Virgin or Koodo operate over, but if you don't do a lot of travelling then you'll be fine inside the areas in which Videotron operates, while saving a decent amount per month.
Mobilicity knocks it out of the park with 6GB of data, once again limited to 3G speeds. If you were considering 1GB to begin with, then it's probably better to save the extra cash and go with WIND. Conversely, if 4G LTE is a necessity then this plan definitely isn't for you.
Virgin Mobile, Koodo Mobile, and Fido are all pretty similar, even if there isn't room for all of them on the table. Their plans offer almost identical talk and text for the same month price. The only real differences are the activation fees - $4.99, $5 and $10, respectively - and the networks over which they operate.
Virgin is owned by Bell, and operates over the Bell network. Koodo is a TELUS subsidiary, and operates over the TELUS network. Fido belongs to Rogers, and operates over that network.
If you're deciding between these three carriers, you should make your choice based on which has the best coverage in the areas live, work, and frequent. Figure this out by checking coverage maps from each carrier, and asking friends & family about their cell service.
2GB plans tend to be the next tier up in terms of data allocation. These are much better if you plan on using music streaming services, or if you spend a lot of time browsing or on social media when you're out and about. You'll still need to keep one eye on your usage, but you should be able to stream music almost daily (albeit not a huge amount), play online games, and even watch a video or two when the mood takes you.
Unsurprisingly, WIND's 2GB plan that managed to take home the 1GB trophy is also the best once you raise the data cap to 2GB.
Mobilicity is still in second place with its 6GB plan, but this time around it's worth a second look. Where 6GB at 3G speeds is well beyond what someone looking for a 1GB plan might consider, a person looking for 2GB clearly wants a little more use out of their phone. Keep in mind that this is not a 4G LTE carrier, so streaming music and especially video will be a little laggier than if it were, but at least you'll be able to do pretty much whatever you want without worrying about hitting that data cap.
Videotron is our entry point to the 4G LTE world. It's quite a bit pricier than WIND's 2GB plan, but if you absolutely must have fast speeds (better for video and music streaming, as well as general browsing), then this is where things kick off.
Next we have the Virgin, Koodo and Fido triumvirate again with their almost-identical plans. Virgin is the cheaper of the three, but only by $0.01 thanks to its $4.99 activation fee (compared to $5 on Koodo and $10 on Virgin). As before, all three so close that you should be making your decision on coverage, rather than price. Remember: Koodo = TELUS network, Fido = Rogers network, and Virgin = Bell network.
5GB is around where most people will start finding it difficult to hit their cap each month. Plans do go higher, of course, but those are generally for folks on shared plans, or for the seriously heavy users out there.
With 5GB you can essentially stream music, upload pictures, hit up social media, make Skype calls, and even watch YouTube videos without too much fear. As with any limitation, you can hit this one if you try, but you can keep well without your boundaries with only a modicum of effort.
WIND takes the cake again with its 5GB plan. Usually $45 per month, it often falls down to $39 thanks to a recurring WIND promotion.
Mobilicity's 6GB plan finally gets second place yet again., bearing the same slower-network warning as WIND with regards to its 3G speeds, compared to 4G LTE.
Videotron is next with 5GB for a very reasonable price when put alongside those that come directly after. Remember that this is a 4G LTE plan, although is not as widely available as the options from larger carriers.
PC Mobile's 4G LTE network covers a lot of western and eastern Canada, but tends to be restricted to HSPA+ in SK, and relies on even slower technology in MB.
Virgin Mobile is back with an almost-identical 5GB offering to Koodo and Fido (not seen but definitely in the wings), once again differing only in upfront activation fees. Make your choice between these three based on network, rather than price.
Original Three Smartphones image from shutterstock