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Tello vs. Google Fi: Which flexible prepaid carrier is the best?

Google Fi SIM card
(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Tello has focused on creating one affordable plan structure with the flexibility to deliver a good plan for just about anyone. This also allows Tello to be one of the cheapest carriers around for light users to create a plan with no data at all. Google Fi also has a flexible plan though it only comes with unlimited talk and text. Google Fi also has a couple of solid unlimited plans to choose from. Tello is cheaper, no matter how much data you use, though it lacks some great Google Fi international features.

Tello vs. Google Fi: Pay only for what you use

Tello and Google Fi look quite similar in the Flexible plan, but how you save money can be quite different. Google Fi's base plan is much more expensive, but the costs get a lot closer if you have multiple lines. Google Fi also takes the lead with international features, though Tello's international support is still much more significant than many other prepaid carriers.

TelloGoogle Fi
NetworkT-MobileT-Mobile
UScellular
Unlimited plan data25GB35GB or 50GB
5GIncludedIncluded
Multi-line discountsNoYes
Mobile hotspotIncludedFlexible plan
Unlimited Plus plan
International calling>60 destinations>200 destinations

Most people won't touch the 25GB or 35GB limit for unlimited plans, but if you're a heavy user, it's worth keeping in mind. Some of the other best cell phone plans offer truly unlimited data but Google Fi users can upgrade to the Unlimited
Plus plan with 50GB if they really need the data. Visible for example offers unlimited high-speed data though it's a priority over most other carriers.

If you run out of this unlimited data, it's no big deal as you'll still have a slow connection for messaging and email, but if you're hitting that limit frequently, another carrier will make more sense.

Tello vs. Google Fi: Make sure you're covered

Google Fi Sim on map

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Tello uses the T-Mobile network for its coverage with support for LTE and 5G speeds. Some older accounts may have used the Sprint network, but all new phones and lines will be using the T-Mobile network as T-Mobile moves to take Sprint LTE offline in 2022. Tello has moved to the new T-Mobile network, and with its improved LTE coverage and expanding 5G coverage, most customers will likely get the same or better coverage compared to Sprint.

Google Fi also uses T-Mobile for the majority of its coverage. Fi can also use UScellular in the parts of the country where UScellular has a strong connection, mostly in the Midwest. Both LTE and 5G are included. The only catch is that you need a Designed for Fi phone that supports Google Fi's network switching. If your phone isn't on the list, you can still use Fi, but you'll only connect to the T-Mobile network.

Still, with all Pixels supported as well as many Galaxies and some Moto phones, there are plenty of choices if you want to make sure you're on the entire network. Some of our best Android phones like the Google Pixel 6 and Samsung Galaxy S22 series work with the entire Google Fi network.

Tello vs. Google Fi: Tello's custom plans

Tello really only has a single plan with multiple configurations. Tello's approach lets you pick exactly what you need so you don't waste money on features you don't need, like unlimited calling. You can choose how much data you want or how many talk minutes you think you'll need. Free texts come with any plan that has minutes.

Tello's data choices start with no data, 500MB, 1GB, 2GB, 4GB, 6GB, 8GB, and unlimited. Minutes start with none, 100, 300, 500, and unlimited. You also get 25% off your first six months with a current promotion.

Tello plans

Source: Tello (Image credit: Tello)

If you're unsure, you can start with one of Tello's pre-configured plans for a month and make adjustments based on what you end up using.

Tello plans

Source: Tello (Image credit: Tello)

Tello includes some basic international features that are more than adequate for most customers. Tello includes free calling to more than 60 countries, including the most popular like Mexico, India, and China. If you need to make many calls abroad, Tello can save you some money over many other prepaid carriers.

Tello vs. Google Fi: Google Fi's plans

Google Fi has three plans, but it started with the base Flexible plan. This plan costs $20 per month with unlimited talk and text with data available at $10 per gigabyte. You only pay for what you use with Google Fi, so if you only use 500MB of data, you only pay around $5 for data. While this plan can get expensive quickly, Bill Protection kicked in at 6GB of usage, and data is free. However, your data slows at 15GB of usage with this plan.

The unlimited plus has all of the base features for the Flexible with up to 50GB of high-speed data. This plan starts at $65 per month for a single line. Both of these plans also come with hotspot usage and data-only SIM support. A data-only SIM can be used with another device that only needs data service. This can be especially useful if you travel abroad and need a reliable internet connection for multiple devices.

Still, most people don't need these international features. The Simply Unlimited plan gives you the same 35GB of data as the larger plan but for $50 per month. You give up most international features, including roaming, but you get more than 200 international calling locations for free. International roaming is not included. You also give up hotspot and the data-only SIM feature. If you don't need those, this plan is a great way to save some money.

While Google Fi is pretty expensive for a single line, things change when you bring the family along. You can add up to six lines to your Fi account, and you get a discount the more you add. For example, the Simply Unlimited plan comes down to $25 per line with three lines with Unlimited Plus down to $45 per line.

Tello vs. Google Fi: Will your phone work?

Both carriers will work with nearly any unlocked phone. So if you have an unlocked device with support for T-Mobile's LTE or 5G network, you can get connected. Tello sells a modest selection of cheap Androids and iPhones, mostly refurbished, but there are some new options like the OnePlus Nord N200 5G.

Google Fi is a bit more complicated with two tiers of phone support. The first is Compatible with Fi; this level uses the T-Mobile network and works with most unlocked phones. Next is Designed for Fi; these phones use both Google Fi's coverage partners and a few extra features like a Google VPN automatic Wi-Fi connection. You can see what level of support your phone will have when you sign up.

Tello vs. Google Fi: Which should you get?

Tello website on a phone

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Google Fi is a good choice for many people even if they never leave the country. The simple billing and family saving on the unlimited plans make it a solid option. It's also nice that you don't have to pay for data you don't use. If you need the international features, no other carrier offers the same roaming level, and even postpaid carriers struggle to match its execution.

Tello sticks to the basics and makes more sense for most people. Tello's simple plan and cheap data make it a great option for someone with just one or two lines. Tello also has more than enough international features for most people, with calling to more than 60 countries included for free. Tello's plan is so well balanced that no matter how you choose to configure it, it's hard to find a much better deal anywhere.

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.