The best, cheapest cellphone plans in Canada in 2019

WATCH: Global News dug around for the best data deals from some of Canada's biggest cellphone service providers.

For several years now, Global News has been in search of the best and cheapest cellphone plans in Canada. In our effort to help consumers in their search to find their next affordable plan, we get our hands dirty and do the inquiring on pricing for you.

For the third year in a row, I am the lucky reporter who got to dig around in the dirt for you, the consumer.

To find the cheapest plan, I called up eight providers — which included the “Big 3” and five discount carriers — and asked about the best plans they have on offer for the latest and most popular smartphone options: the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9. But I didn’t stop there: I also consulted the government’s yearly report on telecommunication services in Canada. I used it to compare how Canada stacks up against cellphone plan pricing in other countries.

The report, the Price Comparisons of Wireline, Wireless and Internet Services in Canada and with Foreign Jurisdictions 2018 Edition, is prepared by Wall Communications Inc. for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). Much like the previous years, the report divides cellphone plan use into several categories, referred to in this report as “service baskets.” As a point of reference, we use Basket Level 2 as it was reported to be the most widely used plan by Canadians.

The service basket included 450 minutes of calling and 300 text messages. Because data wasn’t included in those types of plans, we also used Service Basket Level 3 as another baseline comparison. It included 1,200 minutes of calling, 300 text messages and 1 GB of data.

According to the report, while Canadian mobile wireless service prices have decreased or remained unchanged this year compared to last year domestically, costs are still the priciest globally.

The lowest average plan prices were generally found in Winnipeg, Regina and Montreal, which is consistent with previous years. The most expensive plan prices are found in Ontario.

Michael Geist, the Canadian Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa (and a go-to for when it comes to Canadian telecommunications issues), notes this is due to the presence of regional providers like SaskTel, Eastlink, Freedom Mobile and Videotron who offer competitive services in certain provinces.

“By far, the biggest factor (impacting prices) is competition,” Geist explains. “Other countries have more competition, which leads to lower prices. For example, some countries have more liberal foreign investment rules, which opens the door to big international carriers who can push prices lower.”

Other countries also have Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MNVOs) who help reduce prices — but we don’t see much of that in Canada. Hence the higher prices, Geist says.

READ MORE: Cheaper cellphone data deals may stick around in Canada, experts say

But what about “discount carriers?” Well, they’re not technically considered competition to the “Big 3,” Geist explains.

“Most ‘discount carriers’ in Canada are actually flanker brands owned by the larger players,” he says. “While there are some notable entrants in some markets — Videotron, Sasktel, Freedom Mobile — we still don’t have a strong fourth national carrier on the level of Bell, Rogers, and Telus.”

They may be offering better pricing, Geist continues, but many Canadians buy bundles that may include other services — and if those “discount carriers” don’t offer those other services, many consumers gravitate back to the “Big 3.”

“The presence of a strong fourth carrier can have a big impact on pricing,” he says.

In years’ past, the report I referenced broke down plan pricing by each major Canadian city. That data is not available in this year’s version of the report.

As for who the fastest mobile network provider is, PC Magazine crowned Telus the winner for the second year in a row.

Customer Service Experience

This year, my experience with calling up carriers was relatively seamless. All calls lasted between five and seven minutes.

I used the following language when chatting with a company’s customer service representative: “I’m looking to buy a new phone and plan for either an iPhone X or Samsung Galaxy S9. I use about 450 minutes a month, send about 300 text messages and need enough data to check my email and social media throughout the day. I have family in the U.S. so I also make a couple of long-distance calls a month. What’s the best, cheapest plan you can offer?”

What I found interesting with the service I received, was that only the “Big 3” asked me what province I was from, while the discount carriers did not. And what I found different this year from the last was that Rogers, Bell, and Telus all asked if they could call me back and follow-up (their reasoning was so I wouldn’t have to repeat the details with another customer service agent) — this was not an option given by discount carriers.

Here’s a look at some of the other details I found.

The “Big 3” Plan Details

 

ROGERS

iPhone X plan

  • $120/month (without unlimited U.S. calling) or $135/month (with unlimited U.S. calling)
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 1 GB + bonus 3 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S9 plan

  • $110/month (without unlimited U.S. calling) or $125/month (with unlimited U.S. calling)
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 1 GB + bonus 3 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Both include unlimited Canada-wide calling and texts, call display, conference calling, voicemail, and call waiting. Activation fee for both phones: $35.

BELL

iPhone X plan

  • $125/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 1 GB + bonus 3 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S9 plan

  • $115/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 1 GB + bonus 3 GB
  • Storage 64 GB

Both include unlimited Canada-wide calling and texts, call display, conference calling, voicemail and call waiting. No activation fees.

TELUS

iPhone X plan

  • $120/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S9 plan

  • $110/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 4 GB
  • Storage 64 GB

Unlimited local and Canada-wide calling and text, caller ID and voicemail. Add $15/month to your bill for unlimited calling to the U.S. or if you’re vacationing in the U.S., add $7/day to your bill. Activation fee: $35

FIDO

iPhone X plan

  • $123/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 5 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S9 plan

  • $113/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 5 GB
  • Storage 64 GB

Both plans include 500 minutes, Canada-wide calling, free calling evenings and weekends, unlimited text and video calling worldwide, call display, call waiting and voicemail. For calls to the U.S., you can include the add-on for $7 extra a month. Activation fee: $35

VIRGIN MOBILE

iPhone X plan

  • $123/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 5 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S9 plan

  • $113/month
  • 2-year plan
  • Phone price: $0
  • Data: 5 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Both plans include 500 Canada-wide calling minutes, unlimited calling evenings and weekends, unlimited worldwide text messaging, unlimited picture messaging to Canada and the U.S., voicemail and call display. Add on $3 a month to your bill to make calls to the U.S. Activation fee: $35 (waive the activation fee when you shop for your plan and phone online).

CHATR

  • Plan rate: $40/month
  • No contract
  • Data: 2 GB + bonus 2 GB
  • iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9 are not available through Chatr, but you may bring your own phone and have them apply the plan to it.
  • Includes unlimited Canada-wide talk, unlimited text to Canada, U.S. and international, voicemail, call display, call forwarding and group calling. Outgoing calls to the U.S. are 40 cents/minute.
  • SIM card: $10

KOODO

iPhone X plan

  • Pay an extra $40 monthly Tab charge on top of your $83/month plan rate for the first 2 years until phone is paid, then pay only your plan rate.
  • Phone price: $0 (and put the rest of the $960 on your Tab)
  • Data: 5 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S9 plan

  • Pay an extra $30 monthly Tab charge on top of your $83/month plan rate for the first 2 years until phone is paid, then pay only your plan rate.
  • Phone price: $0 (and put the rest of the $720 on your Tab)
  • Data: 5 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Includes 500 Canada-wide calling minutes, unlimited evenings and weekends calling, unlimited text and picture messaging, call display, voicemail, call waiting, conference calling. Get 1,000 U.S. minutes for an extra $10/month. Activation fee: $35 if plan and phone are purchased in store. Activation fee waived when ordered online.

FREEDOM MOBILE

iPhone X plan

  • $50/month (plus an extra $40/month for 24 months to pay for the phone, then your plan drops to only the plan rate)
  • Data: 5 GB plus bonus 2 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Samsung Galaxy S9 plan

  • $50/month (plus an extra $15/month for 24 months to pay for the phone, then you plan drops to only the plan rate)
  • Data: 5 GB + bonus 2 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB

Includes Canada-wide calling and unlimited global text, picture and video messaging, voicemail, caller ID, conference calling, call forwarding and call waiting. Pay an extra $5/month and make calls to the U.S. for only 15 cents/minute.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article previously stated an incorrect price for Freedom Mobile’s iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S9 plan.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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