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

If you've landed on this page, it's because you're comparing Tello vs. Google Fi, a pair of affordable prepaid carriers that offer extensive wireless coverage for cheap. For better of worse, that's about where the similarities end. 

Tello has one affordable plan structure than can be customized into one of the cheapest carriers around, while Google Fi has a number of solid unlimited plans to choose from. Tello is cheaper, to be sure, but Google Fi also comes with some perks that Tello lacks. Both carriers get the job done, but which is right for you? Let's take a closer look.

Pay only for what you use

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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.

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Header Cell - Column 0 TelloGoogle Fi
Unlimited plan data25GB35GB or 50GB
Multi-line discountsNoYes
Mobile hotspotIncludedFlexible plan
Unlimited Plus plan
International calling>60 destinations>200 destinations

Many 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.


Google Fi SIM card on a map

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Both Tello and Google Fi also use T-Mobile for the majority of their coverage. 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 7 and Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra work with the entire Google Fi network.

Tello's 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. Tello's Unlimited data is slowed down at 25GB of usage though, at under $30 per month, it's still a solid option for many.

A screenshot of Tello's plan selector

(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 screenshot

(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.

Google Fi Wireless' 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.

Phone compatability

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 too.

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. Google's Pixel phone and Samsung's Galaxy S20 and newer phones are Designed for Fi-compatible. You can check your phone before signing up at Google Fi's website. 

Which should you get?

Tello Mobile unlimited plan in phone web browser

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras)

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.

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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