We've seen lots of trends with wireless phone service over the years, and right now, something that every carrier seems to be continually working on is its unlimited plan.
Unlimited plans are often more expensive than signing up for a set amount of minutes, texting, and data, but the value proposition of having unlimited access to everything for a flat monthly fee can be potentially huge.
The market is filled with all sorts of unlimited plans, and recently, Tello launched its very first one. Being one of the newest additions to the game, we wanted to take a look at Tello's plan and see how it stacks up against the competition.
First, here's what Tello is offering
First thing's first, we need to examine Tello's unlimited plan and see what exactly it's bringing to the table.
Tello charges $39/month for its plan, giving you unlimited calling, texting, and LTE data. However, if you go over 25GB of data usage in a single month, you'll be downgraded to 2G speeds. That's quite the downgrade, with 2G speeds not being good for much more than super basic web browsing and checking emails.
This shouldn't be an issue for most people, especially if you connect to Wi-Fi when you're home, but it could potentially be a deal-breaker if you do happen to use a ton of data for whatever reason.
Thankfully, Tello makes up for this with a few solid perks. Hotspot access is included at no extra cost, meaning you can share your LTE service with other devices without having to give Tello more cash. You also get free calling to Canada, Mexico, China, and Romania. If you need to call other international countries, Tello supports hundreds of destinations with affordable per-minute rates.
Tello is powered by Sprint's network for its coverage, doesn't have contracts of any kind, and you can reconfigure your plan whenever you'd like.
For a first attempt, Tello's unlimited plan is quite strong. Being downgraded to 2G after you use 25GB is a bummer, but again, shouldn't be that big of a deal unless you never connect to Wi-Fi. Considering everything the plan comes with, $39/month is a strong value.
Tello's unlimited plan doesn't live in a bubble, however, and there are plenty of other options out there that are also vying for your dollars. Here are some of the most notable ones.
Starting with AT&T, the carrier actually has three different unlimited plans to choose from. There's a lot to talk about, so let's dive in.
AT&T's most affordable plan is Unlimited Starter, and for $65/month, it gives you unlimited talk, text, and LTE data. Videos stream at 480p SD and you get unlimited texting from the United States to over 120 countries. This plan also comes with the caveat that AT&T "may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy." Being on the lowest-end plan, you'll be the first to experience these slowdowns if they happen.
Stepping up to Unlimited Extra for $75/month, you get everything included with Unlimited Starter in addition to 15GB of mobile hotspot per month, access to AT&T's 5G network, and 50GB of "premium data." This basically means AT&T won't slow your connection, but if you go over 50GB, you're subject to slower data speeds during network congestion.
At the top of the totem pole, there's the $85/month Unlimited Elite. Video streaming is upgraded to 720p HD, hotspot usage is doubled to 30GB, and you get 100GB of premium data. The other big perk is that HBO is included for free, which would normally set you back $15/month on its own.
Just like AT&T, Sprint also has three different unlimited plans. However, they're a bit more affordable and come with a few extra perks.
At the bottom of the barrel is Unlimited Basic, and it costs $60/month. For that price, you're getting unlimited talk, text, data, and 5GB of LTE service when roaming in Canada and Mexico (in addition to unlimited talking and texting in the countries). Video streams at 480p SD resolution, you get 500Mb of LTE hotspot access, and the plan comes with a free subscription to Hulu.
Stepping up to the $70/month Unlimited Plus plan, there are a few big changes. Video you stream is in 1080p Full HD, LTE hotspot access is upgraded to 50GB, and your roaming LTE goes up to 10GB. On top of all that, you're also getting access to 5G service (if your phone supports it) and a free subscription to Tidal Premium.
Then, there's Sprint's tour de force with Unlimited Premium. It's a hefty $80/month, but it comes with a ton of perks. On top of your Hulu and Tidal subscriptions, Unlimited Premium also comes with an Amazon Prime membership and Lookout Premium Plus. LTE hotspot is boosted to 100GB and you'll get unlimited LTE access is Canada and Mexico.
There's actually a fourth plan called Unlimited Kickstarter, but Sprint doesn't promote it as heavily. It's considerably cheaper than the other options at just $35/month, and it gives you unlimited talk, text, and data. Your data is deprioritized when the network is busy, and video only streams at 480p SD. You don't get hotspot access or a free Hulu subscription, but you can still text and use "basic data" in over 200 countries.
Moving right along to T-Mobile, this is another carrier that has multiple unlimited plans. You know the drill by now, so let's get right to it.
Essentials is the cheapest T-Mobile plan, and for a rate of $60/month, you'll get unlimited talk, text, and data. Streaming is limited to 480p SD, you can text in other countries, and 2G data is offered in Mexico and Canada. You also get hotspot access, but it's limited to 3GB speeds.
Magenta is the next plan T-Mobile offers, and it costs $70/month. You get data in other countries in addition to texting, 3GB of LTE hotspot access, a Netflix Basic subscription (one screen in SD), and one hour of free in-flight Wi-Fi along with free texting. When traveling in Mexico and Canada, you'll get talk, text, and 5GB of high-speed data.
Finally, going up to the $85/month Magenta Plus, you're upgraded to HD video streaming, unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi, 20GB of LTE mobile hotspot access, and twice the data speed in other countries. Your Netflix subscription is also changed to a Standard plan, which lets you stream on two screens in HD quality.
All plans are subject to data throttling if you use more than 50GB during a month and have access to T-Mobile Tuesdays for free goodies every week. You'll need to pay taxes and fees on top of the $60/month Essentials plan, but Magenta and Magenta Plus include those extra charges in their monthly rates.
For the last of the Big Four U.S. carriers on this list, we have four unlimited plans to sift through. At the low-end, Verizon has Start Unlimited for $70/month. You'll get unlimited talk, text, and LTE data, texting to 200+ international countries, and free talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada. The plan also comes with a free Apple Music subscription, but only for six months.
Looking at Play More Unlimited, it costs $80/month and gives you video streaming in 720p HD, 15GB of LTE hotspot use, free access to Verizon's 5G network, and an Apple Music subscription that remains active as long as you're a Verizon customer. This also includes 25GB of premium data, reducing your chances of being throttled when the network is busy.
There's another plan that costs $80/month called Do More Unlimited, and it switches around some of the features. Video streaming is back to 480p SD and you only get Apple Music for six months, but your premium data is upgraded to 50GB and you get 500GB of Verizon Cloud Storage.
Finally, there's Get More Unlimited for $90/month. Premium data is cranked up to 75GB, there's 30GB of LTE hotspot access, 720p HD streaming, a full Apple Music subscription, and 500GB of Verizon Cloud Storage.
Compared to the other carriers we just went through, Visible is a breath of fresh air with how simple it keeps things. There's one $40/month unlimited plan to choose, and that's it.
For those $40 every month, Visible gives you unlimited calls, texts, and LTE data on Verizon's LTE network. Mobile hotspot access is included for free, though it is limited to 5Mbps, and Visible says your data may be slowed down "in times of traffic." Similar to T-Mobile, taxes and fees are included in Visible's pricing. What you see is what you get — you'll pay exactly $40/month for your bill and nothing more.
You won't find any free digital subscriptions or anything along those lines, but if you're trying to spend as little as possible, Visible is a damn good deal.
US Mobile is powered by both T-Mobile and Verizon service, and while you can't access both networks at the same time, it is nice that you get to choose between the two.
The unlimited plan at US Mobile starts at $40/month, with this including unlimited talk, text, and data speeds up to 5Mbps. If you want hotspot access, you'll need to spend an extra $5 for a total of $45/month. You can also upgrade to a $50/month plan, which gives you uncapped data speeds (over 200Mbps, according to US Mobile) and hotspot access. Speeds are lowered if you manage to use more than 50GB during a month, and you get 10GB of data with your hotspot. As for international coverage, US Mobile offers up to 10GB of free roaming.
Where US Mobile gets really interesting is with its family plans. Instead of offering multi-line discounts like most carriers, it gives you free digital subscriptions as you add more lines. You get a new perk for two lines, three lines, and four lines — resulting in a total of three possible subscriptions you can get.
At two lines, you can choose between Slacker Plus, Pandora Plus, and Apple TV Plus. When you get to three lines, you'll be able to pick the Disney Plus bundle (including Hulu & ESPN Plus), Netflix Standard, Audible, Spotify Family, or Apple Music Family. Finally, if you have four or more lines, you can get PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold.
With all of that out of the way, it's time to answer the looming question — how does Tello's plan stack up against the competition? Truth be told, quite well!
You aren't getting all the bells and whistles with Tello's plan compared to if you signed up for Sprint or AT&T, but you're also spending substantially less money. Tello is one of the most affordable unlimited plan at just $39/month, and it's giving you all of the core features you could ask for.
Visible is the most direct competitor at $40/month, and it benefits from Verizon's better coverage and LTE speeds that aren't stopped after 25GB. However, Visible doesn't have support for any international coverage where this is one of Tello's greatest strengths. There's also Sprint's Unlimited Kickstart plan for $35/month, but the lack of hotspot access is hard to ignore.
The "best" unlimited plan ultimately comes down to your personal usage and budget, but overall, Tello's plan is definitely worth a look.
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