Public Mobile vs Lucky Mobile - the secret differences


If you've looked at the plans offered by Public and Lucky, you've probably noticed their offerings are almost identical to each other.

Don't believe me? See for yourself!

Public Mobile and Lucky Mobile $15 and $25 plans compared
Public Mobile and Lucky Mobile $35 and $40 plans compared
Public Mobile and Lucky Mobile 50 and 60 dollar plans compared

Look closely and do the math where necessary when it comes to data, and you'll see the plans are pretty much the same. Despite Lucky omitting "Unlimited Incoming Calls", opening the details shows that it's included, just like with Public Mobile. When you dip into the details, both have unlimited Canada/International Text. Based on numerous reports, both have picture/video messaging (which uses MMS), although Lucky's FAQ explicitly states that you need to be subscribed to 3G data for picture/video to work.


Other Similarities

$10 SIM cards - Both providers sell SIM cards directly from their website for $10. A couple small nuances here though: (1) currently Public Mobile will throw in a free 2nd SIM card with the intention being that you give it to a friend, and (2) on eBay you can find Lucky Mobile SIM cards for about $1 each whereas you're looking at $5-7+ for a Public Mobile SIM.

Free activation - Once you have your SIM card you can activate online for free with either carrier.

Prepaid Plans Only - No postpaid plans, no pay-per-use-only options, and you must have a monthly plan.

No overages - If you use up all your minutes or data, both services simply stop until you either apply an addon or wait for the next month renewal.

Data Usage Notifications - Public Mobile sends you a text when you hit 75% and 95% of your included plan data. Lucky Mobile sends you a text when you hit 50% and 100% of your included plan data.

3G Speeds - Even though data might transfer over the 4G network, you're limited to 3G speeds. These are discount carriers, after all.

Separate Long Distance packages for calling to separate countries - To call long-distance, both providers require you to pay for an add-on package of sorts beforehand. And a package that includes long distance to Germany is different than a package that includes long distance to Australia.

Coverage: Expect it to be Identical* - Public Mobile is owned by TELUS, whereas Lucky Mobile is owned by Bell Canada. If you're familiar with these 2 companies, you know that they've split the country into East/West and share towers between them. Bell's territory is Eastern Canada, wheras TELUS territory is Western Canada. If a TELUS customer is in Bell territory they use Bell towers, and vice-versa. Thus for the most part, you have identical coverage whether with Bell or TELUS.

* One notable exception is in urban Manitoba (Winnipeg and Brandon) where TELUS built some towers years ago before Bell acquired MTS - TELUS has their own towers in these 2 cities and thus does not use Bell MTS towers here: short summary here is that Bell's coverage is likely to be a little better in these 2 cities.


The Secret Differences - Where Public Mobile has the advantage

Public Mobile has discounts galore - $2/month discount for using AutoPay, $1/month discount for each year your account has been active on Public Mobile (to a max of $5/month after 5 years), up to $20 for participating in the community forums, and $1/month discount for each friend you have referred. No discounts with Lucky, which means Public Mobile will almost always be cheaper.

Public Mobile has good data add-ons if you need fast data - $5/200 MB of extra data or $15/1 GB of extra data. This data does not expire, can be used on any of Public Mobile's plans, and is only tapped into once you've used all your monthly data which makes it a great cushion for periodic overages. Contrast those prices to Lucky Mobile who hides their service pass details/fees from the public website, only listing the $15/month option to add 2GB/month to your current plan (which via the fine print, only appears to be available on the $25+/month plans).

Public Mobile has cheaper long distance addons - Most of the Public Mobile long distance addons are $15, and the minutes do not expire. On the other hand, Lucky Mobile charges $5/month for their addons which do not carry over and are more expensive per-minute with only a few technical exceptions for rare use-cases.

Public Mobile has a long distance addon for the USA - $15 gets you 1000 long distance minutes to the US that do not expire. Lucky Mobile does not have a US long distance addon, which means if you need to call the US, you must either spring for the $50/month plan, pay whatever price the service pass happens to be at the time, or ensure you have access to Wi-Fi and use their special app.

Public Mobile allows USA Roaming (for a fee) - If you're with Lucky, your cell service will only work in Canada. However, Public Mobile will allow you to receive texts for free when travelling in the USA. If you need to talk, send texts, or use data while in the USA you can buy a 10-day USA roaming package (likely paying something in the $8-35 range for that 10-day period depending on what you need).

You can add outgoing Canadian minutes to the $15/month Public Mobile plan - Both Public/Lucky have 100 outgoing Canada-wide minutes on the $15/month plans. If you feel you might occasionally exceed that, Public Mobile allows you to buy a $5 addon for 500 Canadian minutes - if that's enough of a buffer to last you months or years, that might be enough to actually make the $15/month plan viable for you.

Public Mobile has a more active community - The community participation discount has strongly benefitted Public Mobile customers. Any time someone asks a question in the community forum, it invariably receives a number of answers rather quickly. This means if you search for an issue/question you will usually find the answer you seek, and you'll often find further details/discussion.

If you need to change your plan, Public Mobile lets you choose between doing it immediately or on your renewal date - while normally it makes sense to allow a plan change to take place on your renewal date, there are situations where you might need a plan upgrade NOW. Public Mobile will allow you to do so if necessary (though you will not be refunded for remaining days on the old plan). Lucky Mobile limits you to upgrading on your renewal date, which might pose a problem if you're on a 500 MB/month plan and suddenly find yourself needing 10 GB/month.

If you manually top up or receive discount credits, Public Mobile's monthly auto top-up (if enabled) will only charge your card the difference - For example, if your plan is $25/month and you have $20 in credit on your account (via discounts, promos, or manual top-ups), Public Mobile will only bill your AutoPay card $5 on the renewal date. This means if you do not want your card charged, you can manually top up your account before renewal: this is actually a trick some customers use to receive the $2 AutoPay bonus (for having AutoPay enabled) without actually charging the AutoPay card. With Lucky Mobile however, things are not so pleasant: they state that even if you manually top up, they will continue to charge your card automatic payments unless/until your account hits a maximum balance of $500.


The Secret Differences - Where Lucky Mobile has the advantage

Lucky Mobile has free unlimited data at a reduced-speed on all plans *except* the $15 talk/text/data plan - If you are on the $15/month data-only plan or any of the $25+/month plans with Lucky Mobile, once you have used up your data, you can continue using data at a throttled speed of 128 kbps (quite slow, but can handle light usage). Public Mobile simply stops your data once you have hit your limit, and requires you to either buy an addon or wait for your monthly renewal to continue using data.

Lucky Mobile eSIM support - If you have a newer phone that supports an eSIM, there's no need to buy a regular SIM... you can technically sign up right now! No eSIM support for Public Mobile yet.

Lucky Mobile Live Chat and Phone/CallBack availability - Public Mobile does not offer phone support or live chat, whereas Lucky Mobile does. This means that on Public Mobile your only options if you have an issue are to open a ticket online or ask a question in the Public Mobile community forums, whereas with Lucky Mobile you always have the option to get someone on the phone.

Lucky Mobile Talk&Text App - Lucky Mobile has a special free app you can use for unlimited free voice/text (domestic and US) when you're connected to Wi-Fi. One benefit of the app is it provides a way to call/text both Canada and US numbers for free, and it gives you the ability to make calls if you're in a situation where you have Wi-Fi but no cell service. It might also be beneficial when travelling around the world... as long as you have access to Wi-Fi you can continue to make/receive calls to and from Canada/US phone numbers for free. One caveat is that the app is assigned a separate phone number, and thus calls/text via the app will always use that separate phone number. Additionally, if you uninstall/reinstall the app, it will be assigned a different number.

Lucky Mobile has Long Distance addons available to more countries - Lucky Mobile has long distance packages available for calling a number of countries that Public Mobile does not.

Lucky Mobile has an Android/iOS app and less janky account management via the website - Essentially, Lucky Mobile has a reasonable site and app. Contrast that to managing your account via the Public Mobile website which can be a bit janky... everything you need is techncially available on PM, but presentation is a little unorganized, the site is frequently slow, whether your account is moments away from cancellation due to non-payment is often unclear, and if AutoPay fails things can get messy fast.

The Lucky Mobile DATA-only plan - Public Mobile does not have a data-only plan. Lucky Mobile does. If you have a tablet, dual-SIM phone, etc and are looking specifically for a data-only plan for light usage, Lucky Mobile has one for $15/month as seen below.

Lucky Mobile data-only plan for $15

When does Public Mobile make more sense?

If you're shopping for the cheapest plan possible, not only can you reduce your monthly fee by $2/month on Public Mobile by attaching a credit card for AutoPay, but you can use the non-expiring addons to fill the gap when you need a little more outgoing call minutes ($15/month plans) or data (all plans). Other rewards can bring down the monthly price even further.

If you roam to the US, Lucky Mobile will not work at all (unless you rely on WiFi). Public Mobile on the other hand is capable of US roaming, though the only thing you can do is receive texts until you purchase a 10-day roaming addon.

If your data usage tends to be consistent and you're good at predicting it, the hard cap on data usage likely won't impact you, and if it does, a 1GB data addon for the few times you do go over might be cheaper (and more preferable) over the long term instead of choosing a more expensive plan.

If you tend to stick with a single provider over the long term, sticking with Public Mobile long-term grants you the annual $1/month discount. After 5 years, that reaches the max loyalty discount of $5/month - combined with a likely $2/month discount for AutoPay, you're saving $7/month on whatever plan you're currently on. Additionally, TELUS-owned properties tend to be a little more consumer-friendly than Bell-owned properties. Bell has no qualms about hiking prices as time goes on (or using their power over Canadian regulators to force competitors to jack up prices as they attempted in 2011 via Usage-Based-Billing). These are just some of the reasons that most Canadians avoid Bell and Bell-related assets whenever possible, even if they look like a good deal at the time. Not that TELUS is perfect, but they haven't shown themselves to be as blatently anti-consumer and anti-competition as Bell Canada has.


When does Lucky Mobile make more sense?

If you need unlimited data (even if throttled), assuming you can handle the $25+/month price point or are choosing the data-only plan, Lucky Mobile handily beats Public Mobile here.

Need to use an eSIM? Lucky Mobile supports this. Public Mobile does not.

If you're in Winnipeg or Brandon (Manitoba) and struggle with reception in your location, the fact that Lucky Mobile can use Bell MTS towers in these 2 cities might give Lucky the upper hand.

Need long distance to a smaller country? Lucky Mobile has long distance addons to over 150 countries (split up across 8 packages), although some are quite expensive and are charged monthly. Public Mobile only has long distance addons for 41 countries (split up across 6 packages), though they are generally cheaper and unused minutes do not expire.

If you haven't experienced the pain of being will a Bell-owned property at some point, it's essentially a right-of-passage in Canada (like having your first tooth pulled, except with more tears and anger). When your friends talk about how Bell ruined their day/life/finances, if you don't have a story of your own to share, going with Bell-owned Lucky Mobile might help get you there!


Short version: Public or Lucky?

Choose Public Mobile if using the $15/month plan, as the only real advantages Lucky Mobile has here are their WiFi app and long distance availability to more countries. Public Mobile is better in nearly every other way.

Choose Lucky Mobile on $25-40/month plans if you need the unlimited data (despite being throttled), don't need roaming in the US, don't need US calling, don't mind more expensive international long distance (but to more destinations), are willing to risk being a customer of a Bell-owned property, and don't mind losing out on the discounts that Public Mobile provides. Otherwise, choose Public Mobile.

Choose Lucky Mobile on $50-60/month plans if the previous statement applies with the exception of US calling (you get free US calling on $50-60/month plans).


Ultimately, as you saw in the beginning base prices are almost identical. All the nuanced bits are where the differences lay. For most people the primary factors in their decision will boil down to the fact that Public Mobile will almost always be cheaper, but that Lucky Mobile has the potential for unlimited (slow) data.



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