Tello vs. Cricket Wireless: Which prepaid plan matches your lifestyle?

When comparing Tello vs. Cricket Wireless, it's important to start by considering your individual needs as a wireless user. Both prepaid carriers have a large selection of fairly customizable plans but when it comes to really small plans, Tello is consistently cheaper. On the other hand, Cricket Wireless offers a few extras such as Cricket Call Defense, which might make the prepaid carrier worth it if you value things like spam protection. Suffice to say, if you're trying to pick between these two prepaid carriers, you've come to the right place.

Tello vs. Cricket Wireless: The networks

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Cricket Coverage Map on an S20+ phone

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Tello was one of the prepaid carriers using Sprint's network before its merger with T-Mobile. All new activations now use the T-Mobile's network, which should allow for better coverage and improved speeds than on Sprint. Not only that, but compared to AT&T and Verizon, T-Mobile has a significant lead in 5G deployment. 

If you want to make the most of your 5G phone's connection, the T-Mobile network is the way to go. And Tello is one of the most affordable ways to get connected to it.

Cricket Wireless is a prepaid carrier owned and operated by AT&T, so naturally it uses AT&T's LTE and 5G networks. While AT&T's 5G coverage lags behind T-Mobile's, the LTE coverage is strong enough that most customers should still have more than enough speeds for streaming and social media. Even then, all new Cricket Wireless plans come with 5G access for when coverage does get better, and the speed limits Cricket Wireless used to enforce have been removed.

Both these carriers have great coverage although there will still be some dead zones for both. So, it's a good idea to try out a new network through an unlocked phone so you can easily change it if things don't work out.

Tello vs. Cricket Wireless: Tello's plans

Tello doesn't have traditional plans; instead, it lets you choose exactly how much data and how many minutes you need. Whether you're just looking to get set up with enough minutes to make a few calls per month, or need unlimited data, you can configure a well-priced plan for yourself with Tello.

For minutes, Tello starts offers no minutes, 100 minutes, 300 minutes, 500 minutes, or unlimited. Any plan with minutes also comes with unlimited SMS messages. Data starts the same way, from nothing to 1GB, 2GB, 5GB, 10GB, 20GB, and unlimited. If you choose the unlimited plan, your speeds will be slowed down to 2G for the rest of the month if you use more than 35GB.

Tello also has some preconfigured plans as starting points for potential customers, with the ability to customize them to your needs as you find out exactly how much data and how many minutes you'll be using. For families, Tello allows management of multiple lines from a single account, but additional savings are not awarded for bringing more lines.

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Tello's ready-made plans
Header Cell - Column 0 Minutes/textsData (GB)Price
DataUnlimitedUnlimited (35GB)$25

All Tello plans (except unlimited) come with shared mobile hotspot usage, so you can share your mobile data with a Wi-Fi device. Tello also includes international calling to more than 60 countries including popular destinations like China, Mexico, and India.

Keep in mind that Tello's plans renew automatically every 30 days.

Tello vs. Cricket Wireless: Cricket's plans

Cricket has a more traditional plan structure, with four main plans and two data-only plans. The main plans start at 5GB and 10GB of data, with unlimited talk and texting. They don't include mobile hotspot usage but will connect to a 5G network if you have a compatible phone. The $55 Unlimited plan enables unlimited data as well as usage in Mexico and Canada. The unlimited plans also offer unlimited texts from the U.S. to 37 countries.

If you get the $60 Unlimited + 15GB Mobile Hotspot plan, your data is upgraded to premium data. This means that your data will be a higher priority than other Cricket customers and your data speeds will remain consistent even when you're connected   to a crowded tower. As its name suggests, this plan bundles 15GB dedicated hotspot data, as well as 150GB of cloud storage, and HBO Max (with ads). Now that AT&T has dropped this last perk from its wireless plans, Cricket is among the few carriers that still offer an HBO Max subscription. 

Cricket's plans make a lot more sense when you bring multiple lines, with discounts given for each additional line up to five lines. In fact, if you bring five lines to the top unlimited plan, the price comes to just $32 per line. That's a good deal for a family.

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Cricket's plans
Header Cell - Column 0 High-speed dataHotspotMexico and Canada usageSingle line price
5GB5GBNoneNot included$30
10GB10GBNoneIncluded with new accounts$40
Unlimited (Core)Unlimited10GB for $10Included$55
Unlimited + 15 GB Mobile Hotspot (More)Unlimited Premium15GBIncluded$60

All Cricket plans come with 'Cricket Call Defense' to help protect you from unwanted scam calls. The 10GB, Unlimited Core, and Unlimited More plans also offer savings when you bring up to five lines. These plans come with auto-pay savings as well.

The data-only plans are available with 20GB, 100GB, or 150GB of data on LTE or 5G. These plans are priced at $35, $55, and $90 respectively, and are perfect for devices like the Netgear LAX20 wireless router, mobile hotspots, or tablets that need a SIM card.

Cricket has one more trick up its sleeve, with its access to Boingo Wi-Fi hotspots and LinkNYC. These public Wi-Fi hotspots are typically installed in public areas like sports arenas, airports, and transportation hubs. Your Cricket phone will be able to connect to these points automatically if you're within range.

Tello vs. Cricket Wireless: Which phones work?

Both of these carriers work with most of the best Android phones you can buy, whether you get them unlocked or from the carrier. Some older phones won't have the same level of coverage as newer devices due to both AT&T and T-Mobile using multiple bands to deliver LTE and 5G. For the most part, 5G phones just need to support band n5 for AT&T's current 5G, and bands n71 and n41 for T-Mobile's 5G.

Still, it's best practice to check your IMEI with the carrier before signing up just to be sure. You can find your IMEI by entering *#06# in most phones' dialers.

If you're ready for a new phone, you can buy an unlocked phone to bring over to the carrier for more flexibility, or buy one directly from the carrier. Tello sells a number of mid-range phones, both new and refurbished. Cricket has a similar tier of phones for sale, though it has a much greater selection. Cricket also allows financing with Affirm if you don't want to pay for everything at once. Just keep in mind that if you buy a phone from a carrier, it's more difficult to bring it to another carrier down the line if it hasn't been properly unlocked, or you haven't met the unlock conditions.

Tello vs. Cricket Wireless: Which carrier should you pick?

OnePlus n200 5G with SIM cards out

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Both of these prepaid carriers have plans that will work quite well for light and heavy users. The biggest question when it comes to value is which features matter most to you. Cricket Wireless has multi-line savings with the more advanced unlimited plan, though it's quite a bit more expensive for a single line. The extras like (HBO) Max and cloud storage are nice but won't make up for the price difference. Still, if you need to get four or more people connected, Cricket will be a better choice.

Tello Mobile keeps things simple and consequently, is an easy recommendation for those who simply want a carrier that gets them connected, then leaves them alone. All of its plans come with hotspot enabled so you can use up your data however you want. While the 35GB unlimited plan won't be enough for everyone, most users will have no trouble getting by with this allowance. At less than $30 a month, it's one of the cheapest plans available anywhere with this much data.

Samuel Contreras

When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.

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