It is a well-known fact that cell phone service providers in Canada are some of the priciest in the world. When it comes down to the lesser of different evils, who should one pick?
First of all, what are you paying for? Some providers, like Rogers, throw in perks like premium Spotify memberships, which you might not be using or even know about. Make sure you're aware of all the things your getting and if you're not using them, switch to a different provider!
Next, make sure you're actually using the data you're paying for. Some providers will give you a pool that's shared with other devices on the account, which makes it easier to not leave data unused. Using usage tracking apps like My Data Manager make this simpler, and will help you adjust to a lower data cap if needed.
It seems there's always a new promoted plan or special deal, like double data or free long distance, so make sure you check if there's a better plan for your needs at least every quarter.
If you buy your device at a subsidised rate, you're forced to go with a more expensive plan in some way or another. You've signed a contract that is costly to get out of, and your phone is also locked to your carrier, so switching providers is more difficult. Carriers also let you buy the phone at full price, and then you get the bring-your-own-device rates. It's a higher cost up front, but in many cases, you'll save money over the two years that you'd have been locked in a contract, and you don't have the extra cost if you wanted to cancel. Your phone would still be locked to the carrier, so if you were to go this route, it's smart to buy straight from the manufacturer, and then you can get an unlocked device for the same price.
When you have unlocked phones and no contract, you can drop providers and switch at the drop of a hat, so if a different carrier has a new promoted plan, you can capitalize on that.
At the moment, my family's phones are on Public Mobile, a service owned by Telus. Public Mobile markets themselves as being SIM-only, because they don't sell any phones. This means that they aren't trying to get you to buy a new phone left, right, and centre, which is really nice. They also structure their plans around 30 or 90-day windows, rather than months, so your data budget per day is identical month to month.
For the sake of comparison, I looked at the cost of buying a new iPhone 7 on Telus, Rogers and Public Mobile, and paired it with identical plans (~1GB/month, unlimited nationwide calling and texting). Since phone contracts are usually two years, I also added up the total that you'd pay over that time.
Upfront cost (buying directly from Apple): $899
Average monthly rate (calculated from paying once every 90 days): $46
Total after two years: $1,994
Total after two years if buying phone on an average credit card and paying off over the course of the two years: $2,146
Telus (buying locked phone outright)
Total after two years: $2,699
Total with credit card (see above): $2,185
Telus (subsidised phone)
Total after two years: $2,650
Total with credit card (see above): $2,692
Rogers (buying locked phone outright)
Total after two years: $2,719
Total with credit card (see above): $2,874
Rogers (subsidised phone)
Total after two years: $2,409
Total with credit card (see above): $2,451
As you can see, each option and each carrier has their ups and downs. Before you pick a carrier, do the math. All the math. The crazy difference that I like to point out is that the Public Mobile + credit card option is still $500 cheaper than the Telus + subsidised phone option. That's a difference of over $20/month!