Bottom line: Ultra Mobile uses the powerful T-Mobile network to deliver great coverage and improved speeds. Ultra also offers plenty of data for even the heaviest users with its unlimited plan, as well as discounts for multi-month renewals for those that can plan ahead.
- T-Mobile network with 5G support
- Great international features included every month
- Save when you pay for multiple months
- Great phone support
- Pricing can be confusing
- Video streaming quality is low
- T-Mobile 5G performance can still be inconsistent
Ultra Mobile is a prepaid carrier on the T-Mobile network that aims to give customers what they want most from a phone plan: plenty of data. Ultra Mobile also focuses on customers that need international calling, with free calls to over 80 countries. If you're staying local, you can choose the right amount of data for you, including up to 60GB of high-speed data with the largest unlimited plan.
In the U.S., Ultra Mobile uses T-Mobile's network for service. This means that most people should have great coverage, and most phones should work on this network without issue. Ultra Mobile also fully supports 5G for free as long as you have a phone that supports it. If you're looking for great data coverage and a plan that lets you make the most of it, Ultra Mobile is a great prepaid choice.
Ultra Mobile: Price and availability
Ultra Mobile is mainly available from the Ultra Mobile website as well as in some partner stores. Ultra Mobile is available in the U.S. and starts at just $10 per month for its cheapest 250MB data plan.
The main way to save with Ultra Mobile is to purchase multiple months of service. Like Mint Mobile, your monthly rate will go down, but your will need to pay for the entire term upfront. You can change your renewal period online or from the Ultra Mobile app, so if you're not sure if you'll like the service, you can start with one month and renew for longer.
|1 month||3 months||6 months||12 months|
All Ultra Mobile plans include unlimited talk to more than 80 supported countries. You can add funds to any plan to call, text, or roam internationally, and the large plans come with some funds included already. The unlimited plan, for example, comes with a $5 international credit each month. Unlimited+ bumps that up to $10.
Ultra Mobile: What's good
I tested an unlimited SIM in an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S20+ with 5G. This plan comes with 40GB of high-speed data and 10GB of hotspot data. This plan also comes with $5 per month for international calling and texting. You get unlimited calls and texts in the U.S., as well as global texting and free calls to more than 80 countries.
Ultra Mobile uses T-Mobile for its network, and that's a good thing. T-Mobile has been making great strides in building its 5G network and adding coverage and capacity for LTE devices. In the U.S., T-Mobile now has the best 5G coverage, and it's not slowing down with its deployment on mid-band 2.5GHz spectrum quickly expanding and enabling much higher speeds. T-Mobile calls this spectrum Ultra Capacity, and it will hold up better under load, so it makes sense to bring it to urban and suburban areas as fast as possible.
I can get a solid n41 signal in my area, and speeds were great at over 300Mbps, with peaks over 500Mbps. Even better than the download speeds were the uploads, which were around 50Mbps fairly consistently. Even the slower band n71 5G network had solid upload speeds as I got further out of town. Fast upload speeds are great for smartphones since they can help you send videos and photos quickly. It can also help with the quality of video calling.
Another benefit to using T-Mobile's network is phone compatibility. T-Mobile's GSM network will work with just about any unlocked phone. While it's best to use this network with a 5G phone, any of the best Android phones that work in the U.S. should work on T-Mobile. You could also use an older LTE-only phone, but for full coverage, it needs access to band 71.
Data speeds are completely dependent on your area and coverage, but here in northern Florida, LTE is fast and often exceeds 50Mbps. 5G speeds have been as low as 30Mbps with poor coverage, reaching up to 559Mbps at the fastest. If you don't know how good T-Mobile is in your area, you should start with a single month before committing. Most people will have more than enough speed to make the most of their phones.
The feature that makes Ultra Mobile stand out from the rest is its international calling. On all of its plans, you get free calling to more than 80 different countries. Beyond that, $5 is added to your account monthly to pay for other international calls or texts that cost per minute. You can add money to this in $5, $10, and $20 increments. You can also add money to use for international roaming. If you want to travel abroad, you can take your Ultra Mobile number with you without needing to find a new SIM card. This can be great for quick trips or as a backup for another data SIM.
Ultra Mobile gives you several options for renewal, starting with just a single month for full price. You can save money by buying up to 12 months at once. If you're willing to pay for it upfront, Ultra Mobile has some substantial discounts. The price is just $40 per month for the unlimited plan when you renew the full year. This is a lot like Mint Mobile's unlimited plan, which is one of our best cell phone plans and is also owned by Ultra Mobile.
Ultra Mobile: What's not good
One of the biggest problems I have with Ultra Mobile is the pricing. While its new unified plan structure is better than it was, with the way it's presented, it can be hard to know how much your next month of service will cost. The unlimited plan, for example, is shown to cost $40 for one month, while purchasing 12 months is also $40 per month. This is because there is a first-month discount applied to the single-month price, and it will cost $10 more to renew at the end of the month. You'll have to add the plan to your cart before finding this information.
5G is here, and coverage is improving all the time. In the last five months, my city went from having no 5G on any carrier to being fully covered by T-Mobile, with some spots including band n41. The problem with 5G is that it still hasn't reached every tower with LTE, even with full coverage. T-Mobile's band n71 has great range and allows T-Mobile to deliver full 5G coverage, even if the connection quality is still bad in some areas.
For example, in parts of my home, my Galaxy S20+ will endlessly loop between LTE and 5G with utterly terrible performance on 5G. I can remedy this by disabling 5G in my phone's setting, but then I'd need to switch it back on when I leave my home. This has been getting a lot better in recent months as 5G makes its way to more towers, and when I'm at home, I'm usually connected to one of the best Wi-Fi 6 routers anyways.
It is very common for unlimited plans to limit data speeds in certain applications like video streaming. Still, I wish it were more at a painful 480p (1.5Mbps) max on the unlimited plan. This low limit means that you cannot watch any YouTube content at 60FPS unless you download it first or connect to Wi-Fi. This can be a real shame if you're trying to watch gameplay content that is best enjoyed at a full frame rate.
If a carrier were to limit anything, video streaming makes the most sense, but when the unlimited plan still has a limit of 40GB, it feels less genuine. I would have liked to be able to toggle the video limit off and use my 40GB however I please.
Ultra Mobile: Competition
Mint Mobile is partly owned by Ultra Mobile and has a lot in common, from multi-month savings to using the T-Mobile network. All Mint Mobile plans must be bought in bulk, with the shortest term available being three months. Still, if you don't need Ultra's international features, Mint Mobile is a great backup with lower prices across the board. Mint Mobile's unlimited plan is $30 per month when you buy 12 months compared to $40 per month at Ultra Mobile.
Visible is a Verizon-based prepaid carrier with only one unlimited plan. The catch is that there aren't as many compatible phones as Mint or Ultra Mobile, and you have no access to 3G or roaming. Still, the unlimited plan will be worth it for most people, especially since it starts at $40 per month and can go even lower if you join a Visible Party. Visible also includes unlimited hotspot data at 5Mbps.
Ultra Mobile: Should you buy it?
You should buy this if ...
- You have great T-Mobile coverage
- You use international calling
- You need hotspot data
- You're willing to buy up to a year of service at once
You shouldn't buy this if...
- Your T-Mobile coverage is spotty
- You want crisp HD video streams
- You want multiple months but can only afford one at a time
If you have great T-Mobile coverage in your area and have a phone that supports the full network, Ultra Mobile is an affordable way to access it. Not only that, but you get international calling and can save if you buy up to a year upfront. Still, T-Mobile coverage isn't the best everywhere, and you may find that even your 5G experience can be underwhelming if coverage isn't great. Ultra Mobile can also be more expensive than some others if you don't sign up for the whole year.
4.5 out of 5
Ultra isn't perfect and is far from the cheapest carrier out there. Still, with a huge amount of data at 40GB and 10GB of hotspot data, it's a great choice if you need the international features. 5G connectivity is still a bit spotty, but it shows off how good it can truly be in the next few years when it works right. It would also be nice to see video streaming limits lifted or made optional for people with large phones.
Overall, Ultra Mobile is a great choice if you need to call or travel abroad and want to have plenty of data and coverage at home. You can save a little money with another carrier while getting similar coverage and data amounts, but with the majority of those, you'll be giving up all international features. For many people, Ultra Mobile is the perfect way to stay connected even when they're thousands of miles from where they were born.
Ultra Mobile Unlimited
Bottom line: Powered by the T-Mobile LTE and 5G network, Ultra Mobile delivers plenty of data for a reasonable price. Ultra Mobile also makes it easy to save with multi-month discounts when you renew.
Review Changelog, October 2021
This article was published in May 2021. It was updated in October 2021 with the following changes:
- Pricing information has been updated.
- New Unlimited+ information has been added.
- Updates for current 5G coverage.
- An inaccuracy about the Ultra Mobile app has been fixed.
It was initially stated that users could activate service through the Ultra Mobile app. This is not the case, and the user will need to visit Ultra's website to get activated.
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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