Incredible value

Tello Mobile

Pay for what you need

Ting

One look at Tello is all you need to be impressed by the affordable carrier. It offers a customizable plan with generous minutes and data rates, along with freebies such as unlimited texting, hotspot access, and international calling to Canada, Mexico, and China. So long as you live in an area that's covered by Sprint, Tello is the way to go.

From $5/month at Tello

Pros

  • Plan is customizable
  • Free unlimited texting
  • Larger data allowance
  • Hotspot is included
  • Free calls to Canada, Mexico, and China

Cons

  • Sprint coverage may not work for everyone

Ting doesn't work out quite as well for heavy data-users and texters, but if you use your phone sparingly throughout the month, you can end up saving quite a lot. Ting customers also benefit from free hotspot access, not to mention free international calling to over 60 countries! Even better, you get the choice of using Sprint or T-Mobile for your coverage.

From $9/month at Ting

Pros

  • Powered by T-Mobile and Sprint towers
  • Highly customizable plan
  • Monthly price changes based on usage
  • Free international calling to 60+ countries
  • Hotspot doesn't cost extra

Cons

  • Potentially pricy if you use a lot of data
  • No free texting

Although both companies share the same goal of helping you save money on your monthly phone bill, Tello and Ting approach this concept with very different methods. Tello has a more traditional phone plan, albeit a very customizable one. You choose how much data and minutes you need for the month (texting is free), and that's what you get for your set monthly rate. On the other hand, Ting customers only pay for what they actually use. You can create a plan based on your expected usage. Should you end up using less or more, your monthly fee will be adjusted accordingly.

Plans

Ting and Tello websites on the Google Pixel 4 XL and OnePlus 7 ProSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

Companies like Tello and Ting position themselves as more affordable phone service alternatives compared to signing up directly with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint. This money-saving advantage all comes down to the plans each carrier offers, and when stacked side-by-side, Tello and Ting differ quite a bit.

Buy one Galaxy S10 or Note 10 and get one free at Verizon

Starting first with Tello, one of the big draws to this carrier is its "Build Your Own Plan" tool. Rather than signing up for an expensive unlimited plan and paying for more service than what you need, Tello allows you to choose how much data and minutes you want each month, thus determining your monthly cost. If you don't use a lot of data but are always talking on the phone, you can get 2GB of data with unlimited minutes and pay $14/month. Alternatively, you could go all out with 12GB of data and unlimited minutes for $39/month.

Tello's Build Your Own Plan toolSource: Tello

No matter how you customize your plan, Tello includes unlimited texting for free — one of the best perks of the carrier.

Speaking of free, that's not all Tello has to offer. All customers also get hotspot access and calling to Canada, Mexico, and China included at no extra cost. Calls to other international countries come with affordable per-minute rates, and if you find yourself not happy with the plan you created, you can change it at any time since Tello doesn't tie you down with contracts.

Moving over to Ting, that same idea of flexible plans is taken to the next level. On Ting's website, you can play with the company's "bill estimator" to select how many minutes, texts, and data you plan on using during a given month — resulting in a monthly cost based on that usage.

Let's say you choose 101-500 minutes, 1000 texts, and 500Mb of data for $30/month. If you use that, that's what you'll pay. However, if you use less or more of anything, your bill will automatically be adjusted accordingly. The idea with Ting is that you only pay for what you use, ensuring you're not overpaying for service you don't need.

Ting rate calculatorSource: Ting

That's great for folks that aren't always on their devices, but for anyone that is, Tello tends to be the cheaper option.

Use a lot of data? Tello is the better option.

Suppose you need a plan with 12GB of data, unlimited texting, and 500 minutes. On Tello, that would run you just $39/month. With Ting, you'd end up paying at least $146/month — and that's only with 4800 texts. Anything above that costs an extra 0.25¢ per text.

Ting works out quite well if you're aware of your phone usage throughout the month, but if you'd rather pay for a plan that's much more lenient for heavy users, Tello works out better.

With all of that said, there is one significant plan advantage to Ting — international calling. Tello's offer of free calling to Canada, Mexico, and China is generous, but Ting cranks things up a notch with free calling to over 60 countries. This includes Canada, Mexico, China, India, Isreal, Australia, and the United Kingdom, just to name a few.

Coverage

Tello coverage mapSource: TelloTello's Sprint coverage map

Next, let's talk about coverage. A carrier can offer the best phone plan out there, but if the service is weak where you live, it doesn't really matter.

Tello uses Sprint's nationwide network for its coverage, giving you access to 3G and 4G LTE towers. Ting also uses Sprint for 3G and LTE service, but it goes a step further by also offering service on T-Mobile's network. You can't seamlessly switch back and forth between Sprint and T-Mobile on Ting, but you do have the option of choosing which carrier works best for where you live.

Ting T-Mobile coverage mapSource: TingTing's T-Mobile coverage map

Sprint's network has grown a lot over the years and is quite strong in the eastern and midwest parts of the country, but as you venture more towards the west and south, T-Mobile's network reigns supreme.

Both Tello and Ting have interactive coverage maps on their respective websites, allowing you to enter your address and see what coverage looks like where you live or anywhere you may travel to.

Phones

In regards to phone selection, Ting has a much better offering of handsets available. If you're into Android, you'll find the Galaxy Note 10+, Galaxy A20, LG V40, Moto G7, and more up for grabs. All of the latest iPhones are here, too, including the 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max.

You can buy phones outright through Ting, or get financing through Affirm. There are options for 6, 18, and 24-month payment plans, with the 6-month plan offering 0% interest.

Tello's phone selection isn't quite as impressive, but it still gets the job done — some of the highlights being the Pixel 3a, Moto G7 Play, and Galaxy A10e. As far as iPhones go, however, the latest iPhone sold by Tello is the iPhone 8. There's also no financing option, with Tello only allowing you to buy its phones outright at the full price.

You can bring your own phone to both carriers.

That said, none of that really matters considering that both Tello and Ting allow you to bring your own phone, too. Just enter your phone's IMEI number on either site, and you'll get a confirmation for whether or not it's supported.

Tello should work with any phone that supports Sprint's network, with Ting being much more open as it works with phones that support Sprint and T-Mobile.

Two carriers, two different methods

Ting and Tello logos on a Google Pixel 4 XL and OnePlus 7 ProSource: Joe Maring / Android Central

There's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all carrier out there, and that holds true in this comparison between Tello and Ting. Each one brings its own unique set of features to the table, resulting in two reliable carriers that cater to different groups of people.

If you live in an area that's covered by Sprint and tend to use your phone a lot, we'd recommend signing up for Tello. Tello ends up costing quite a bit less for people that eat up a lot of mobile data and send a heap of texts, and it also gets some extra points for the free hotspot access and calls to Canada, Mexico, and China.

Not everyone lives in a Sprint-covered area, however, and that's where Ting shines. Having the choice of using Sprint or T-Mobile depending on what's best in your area is a huge convenience, as is the whole idea of only paying for the service you actually use. Add that together with free international calling to an impressive list of 60+ countries, and Ting proves that it can stand toe-to-toe with the best of them.

You know your phone usage the best, so think about how and what you use your phone for, the coverage offerings where you live, and your decision on which carrier to join should be pretty clear.

Incredible value

Tello

Great for heavy texters and data-users on a budget

The Sprint-powered Tello Mobile has asserted itself as one of the top players in the affordable wireless space. Tello impresses with low monthly rates, free texting, and ample data offerings. Goodies like hotspot access and international calling to select countries are also included at no extra cost, making Tello a well-rounded offering.

Pay for what you need

Ting

Use less, play less

Rather than giving you a set-in-stone phone plan, Ting approaches the wireless market with a "pay for what you use" mantra. You select how many minutes, texts, and data you expect to use during a month and get a price of how much it'll cost. End up using less? You'll pay less — it's that simple.

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