Tello vs. Ultra Mobile: Which low-cost carrier is right for you?

Tello Mobile and Ultra Mobile both leverage T-Mobile's vast and growing 5G and 4G LTE network to offer great coverage at lower rates. While Tello gives you the freedom to build your own plan, Ultra Mobile lets you save some extra money by signing up for a few months at a time. Ultra is even owned and operated by T-Mobile, which may give you an advantage if the network becomes busy. If you're looking for an affordable plan you can customize, look no further than Tello. If you're a heavy data user or want to have some extra international perks, Ultra Mobile is a better fit.

One network, two carriers

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Tello and Ultra Mobile use the same T-Mobile network, meaning that coverage with each carrier should be similar. Tello excels at offering cheap data that doesn't require buying multiple mobiles. Tello's 2GB plan, for example, costs the same as Ultra Mobile's, but to get that price on Ultra, you have to pay for 12 months. There's also simply no beating Tello's cheapest 1GB plan at $10 per month. If you only need a small amount of data, Tello is a solid pick.

The T-Mobile-owned carrier Ultra Mobile has a similarly large number of data configurations, though all plans come with unlimited talk and text. Ultra also has much larger plans available, with up to 60GB of high-speed data on its Unlimited Plus plan. It's worth keeping in mind that to get Ultra's best rates, you'll need to pay for a whole year of service upfront. While you can still get service one month at a time, the pricing is much less competitive.

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Header Cell - Column 0 TelloUltra Mobile
Hotspot dataIncludedIncluded
Minimum term1 month1 month
Maximum term1 month12 months
Minimum dataNo data250MB
Maximum dataUnlimited (25GB)Unlimited+ (60GB)

Tello's Plans

Tello website on a phone

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

Tello's custom plan is one of the best cheap phone plans you can get, and a great way to save money on your phone bill. You can sign up for as little as a month without being tied down to a contract, and if you're unhappy, you can cancel or change plans at any point. 

One of Tello's best features is that you're able to build your own plan and purchase exactly how many minutes and how much data you need. As long as you get some data, texts come free. Starting at $5 per month, you can build a plan with no minutes and 500MB of data, or no data and 100 minutes.

Tello's plans

(Image credit: Tello)

An unlimited plan with Tello costs a rather affordable $29 per month, but if you think you'll need less, you can also select from another one of Tello's ready-made plans that offer 1GB, 2GB, or 5GB of data. Each plan includes unlimited minutes, texts, and free tethering. Once you've used up your monthly allotment of data, you can either add more to your Pay As You Go balance, or be limited to 2G speeds. Your data will also be throttled to these speeds on the unlimited plan once you've used up 25GB of data.

Tello uses the T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G network, so if you get good T-Mobile coverage in your area, you should have no issues. Another factor to consider before signing up is whether you'll need roaming, especially since Tello doesn't support roaming of any kind. If you travel abroad, you'll need to purchase another SIM card for your device to work, which can be a hassle.

For international callers, Tello has free calling and texting to 60+ countries. While it's not quite as many countries included with Ultra Mobile, many of the biggest destinations are, such as China and India. If the country isn't included on the list, you can still call at a competitive per minute rate. It's also worth keeping in mind that many international callers will be using messaging services to start in touch that use data rather than minutes.

Overall, Tello is a great choice if you're looking for a cheap plan to completely customize and don't need many international features. It's also an excellent choice if you don't want to be locked into a contract for a few months and need flexibility, or want to create an affordable family plan. If you're an average data user and only need 5GB of data a month, it's hard to beat Tello's price of $19 per month.

Ultra Mobile's Plans

Alongside Mint Mobile, Ultra Mobile was purchased by T-Mobile in early 2023. Unlike Tello, Ultra Mobile offers multi-month plans in addition to its single-month options. By signing up for 12 months at a time, you're able to save some extra money. Tello's least expensive plan starts at $10 per month and comes with 250MB of data. Plans are also available with 2GB, 6GB, 15GB, 40GB (Unlimited), and 60GB (Unlimited Plus) data.

Ultra Mobile plans

(Image credit: Ultra Mobile)

Though all of Ultra Mobile's plans include free mobile hotspot usage, the smaller unlimited plan only comes with 10GB. This plan does include a healthy 40GB of high-speed data to use on your phone, so for most people, it will be more than enough. If you find you need a bit more data, upgrading to Unlimited Plus takes the data up to 60GB with 20GB of hotspot data. While these plans are the most expensive in the range, compared to other carriers with similarly large plans, the rates are still a good value.

When it comes to international features, Ultra Mobile plans come with free unlimited calling to more than 80 destinations (and more via uTalk), as well as unlimited global text. All plans except the 250MB plan come with a recurring $1.50-$5 calling credit and a one-time $5 international roaming credit. If you're considering traveling abroad and need more calling or data credit down the line, you can always add more to your balance in $5, $10, or $20 increments. 

Ultra Mobile makes sense if you get good T-Mobile coverage, and if you're able to pay a few months upfront. Though the multi-month savings aren't as attractive as Mint Mobile's, they're still worth considering. Ultra Mobile is also more appealing when it comes to international features and being able to roam. Like Tello, most unlocked GSM devices will work with Ultra Mobile, so you're able to bring your own device over to this carrier.

What phones can you get?

Ultra Mobile SIM card

(Image credit: Samuel Contreras / Android Central)

If you're hoping to bring your device to Tello or Ultra Mobile, you should be able to easily do so as long as you have an unlocked GSM device. Also, because Tello and Ultra Mobile use T-Mobile, your phone needs to support VoLTE to work. If you want access to 5G, your phone must support T-Mobile's 5G bands (particularly band n71 and band n41). Luckily most of the best Android phones will work as long as you buy them unlocked. If you're unsure whether your phone will work, the easiest thing to do is head to each carrier's respective compatibility checker and enter your device's IMEI number.

You can buy phones directly from either carrier if you wish, though Tello is more focused on low-end and mid-range phones. Ultra Mobile has a wider range of phones, and you can even sign up for financing through Affirm.

Which should you get?

If you use a lot of data and don't want to see it throttled, Ultra Mobile is your safer bet with up to 60GB on its largest plan. However, Ultra Mobile will require you to sign up for multiple months to get its best rates. While month-to-month is an option, you won't be getting Ultra's best rates.

If you prefer a bit more freedom with your cell phone plan and don't care about international features, Tello is the better choice for you. With Tello, you don't need to pay for data or minutes you don't need, and you can build the exact plan you want. Mobile hotspot is free, and though the unlimited plan is throttled at 25GB, many people will never reach this amount.

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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