AT&T Cell Phone Plans Review 2020
Rated as one of the best for coverage, reliability, and speed,1,2 AT&T’s major downside lies in its higher-than-average pricing, which includes expensive one-time activation fees for each device.
For budget-minded folks (probably like yourself), AT&T can hook you up with some solid TV perks alongside its wireless plan. Just don’t forget to sign up for autopay and paperless billing.
AT&T unlimited prices and plans
AT&T’s unlimited plans won’t cut off or charge you for going over a limit, but it might throttle your speed.
Unlimited plans from AT&T are perfect for streaming junkies who like to watch hilarious YouTube cringe compilations or ragey political Facebook videos on the go. You’ll never face overage charges from data consumption, and your streaming quality will depend on which plan you choose:
- Unlimited Starter and Unlimited Extra offer SD-quality streaming
- Unlimited Elite offers HD-quality streaming
Plus, when you sign up for the Unlimited Elite Plan you’ll get a free subscription to HBO. Who says you can’t watch all six seasons of The Sopranos while you’re commuting on the train?
With the Unlimited Starter plan your data can be throttled at any time (it doesn’t care that you’re in the middle of a video chat with your tia Rosa in Mexico).
With Unlimited Extra you’ll get 50 GB of full-sped data before you start experiencing throttling. Meanwhile, the Unlimited Elite plan will get you 100 GB (!).
To put those numbers in context, one episode of Stranger Things spends about a gig of data. So you might be surprised at how quickly it goes.
AT&T vs. other providers
AT&T is easily on the more expensive side of the price spectrum. It’s only a few dollars less expensive than Verizon, which just so happens to be one of the best wireless providers around. On the bright side, AT&T doesn’t fall too far behind Verizon1,2 in terms of service and speed.3
So, you’re saving a few bucks at the expense of less coverage. If you live somewhere rural, the trade-off probably wouldn’t be worth it, but if you live somewhere with a larger population, AT&T should work just fine.
AT&T family plans
AT&T family plans give you some serious bang for your buck. The above prices you see are based on a three-line family plan. Now compare what you see to the individual unlimited plans.
Honestly, if you’re not on an AT&T family plan right now, you should probably get on that. Take this as your permission to pop the question to your significant other if you haven’t yet. (Kidding! Unless . . . ?)
Each additional line you add to your family plan costs almost half as much as a stand-alone AT&T unlimited plan. If you’re thinking of signing up for AT&T, call up your sister, your uncle, or your in-laws and convince them to join in on the family.
Are you wondering what family plans look like with other providers? Good. You should be. Let’s take a look.
AT&T family plans comparison
AT&T family plans follow the trend we’ve seen up to this point—more on the expensive side, but not the most expensive option out there. You can certainly get a cheaper family plan with providers like Sprint and Metro by T-Mobile, but you won’t enjoy the same level of coverage and perks that you would get with AT&T.1
AT&T prepaid plans
You’ve got some pretty tantalizing options for AT&T prepaid plans. Your options range from limited data plans to unlimited data with HD streaming. Are you the type of person who occasionally checks Twitter for sports highlights or do you plan on regularly streaming shows?
We’d recommend looking for something in the middle that fits your data demands but doesn’t break the bank. By going with a prepaid plan with AT&T, you’re actually saving yourself a good chunk of change.
AT&T prepaid plans comparison
AT&T Prepaid plans get back to the roots and fall right in the middle of prepaid plans as a whole.
If you’re a middle-of-the-road kind of shopper who doesn’t want to pay for the most expensive option (Verizon) but doesn’t want to settle either, AT&T fits the bill quite nicely.
AT&T cell phones and devices
Get the phone you want from AT&T. Every. Single. Year.
Which phone calls your name: Apple iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9+, or the ZTE Axon M Smartphone? (And yes, Google Pixels work with AT&T—you just can’t buy or lease them directly through AT&T).
With AT&T, you won’t be lacking in choices, unless you’re collecting more obscure bricks or flip-phones from the early 2000s. If you’re really curious what works with AT&T’s Bring Your Own Phone program, you can scope out AT&T’s phone compatibility check.
Which top phones does AT&T have?*
- iPhone 11
- iPhone 11 Pro
- iPhone X
- iPhone XS
- iPhone XR
- iPhone 8/8 Plus
- Galaxy S10/S10+
- Galaxy S9/S9+
- Galaxy S8/S8+
* Not all phones listed here
Annoying extra fees with new phones
Regardless of whether you’re purchasing a device with an installment agreement, buying a device at full price, or bringing your own device, plan on paying an equipment charges fee—which is wack, if you ask us. Why should you pay to keep the phone you already have?
Sadly, extra fees are a trend with AT&T. It’s like fee-Oprah. Signing up for a new plan? You get a fee! Getting a new phone? You get a fee! Thankfully, fees are a one-time thing and don’t affect your monthly payment, but it’s still annoying.
AT&T’s coverage and speeds
AT&T has solid coverage across the country (and 120+ other countries), but you’ll want to check out the areas that matter to you.
Courtesy of ATTsavings.com
AT&T has pretty reliable coverage
AT&T has exceptional texting delivery speeds and reliability but falls just behind Verizon and T-Mobile in most other categories.1
If you’re coming from Sprint, for example, you’ll likely see an improvement in performance by switching to AT&T. If you’re coming from Verizon, expect a slightly lower performance, or way worse if you happen to live in pockets of California, Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, or Nebraska.
Find where you live in the map above and make sure it looks super purple. If you see some beige spots in your area, your coverage might be as weak as James Harden in the NBA playoffs. Sorry about that.
Speed-wise, AT&T isn’t quite as fast as Verizon or T-Mobile. However, AT&T was the only carrier to record speeds of at least 10 Mbps in each of the 125 metro areas tested—meaning that if you want consistency in every major city, AT&T’s a safe bet.
What’s up with AT&T customer service?
You can get ahold of AT&T pretty easily, but that doesn’t make it all easy.
We’d like to point out that AT&T (like all the major wireless providers) doesn’t rank well with customers.4 It’s them, not you—we swear.
Like any relationship, your relationship with AT&T is all about clear communication. Where we see most problems arising is lack of clarity in the bill, so make sure you know what you’re getting into, and all will be good.
Recap: Is AT&T good?
If you’re thinking about starting a new plan with AT&T, keep these things in mind.
- Plans: AT&T’s unlimited plans are the way to go if you want to save money on TV subscriptions, but AT&T’s prepaid plans may be cheaper if you don’t.
- Coverage: AT&T trails behind Verizon and T-Mobile, but still offers coverage more than 90% of the country.
- Speed: AT&T’s speed isn’t the fastest, but it is faster than 10 Mbps in all major metro areas, which other providers can’t say.
- Customer service: AT&T is similar to the other big carriers in every other way—we’d appreciate clearer, simpler pricing. Other than billing, we don’t expect many problems.
- Overall: If you’re a DIRECTV, DIRECTV NOW, or AT&T U-Verse customer, and you want solid coverage, consistent speeds, and the option to get any major phone, AT&T is a great (but pricey) choice.
- Open Signal, “USA Mobile Network Experience Report January 2019”
- OpenSignal, “The 4G Battle Continues between T-Mobile and Verizon”
- Speedtest, “United States”
- Consumer Affairs, “AT&T Wireless”
Trevor Wheelwright and Easton Smith