AT&T Cell Phone Plans Review

AT&T scores big points for great coverage and speeds, but are the perks worth the price?
ATT Logo
Overall Rating 3.25 out of 5
Decent coverage and speeds
Includes WatchTV app (30*& channels)
High activation fees
Moderately high prices

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.

Free live channels

With both AT&T Unlimited plans, the included Watch TV app gets you 30+ live channels. Just be aware that you don’t get ESPN or your local channels for free. (That would’ve been nice, right?)

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 &More offers SD-quality streaming
  • Unlimited &More Premium offers HD-quality streaming
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What’s the difference between SD and HD streaming?
SD, or standard definition, means streaming at 480 pixels (DVD quality). HD, or high definition, means streaming at 1080 pixels (YouTube quality). Translation: the more pixels you have, the more clear your picture will be.

22 GB data cap

As far as data throttling is concerned, you’ve got about 22 GB of data before you start experiencing slower speeds. To put that in context, one episode of Stranger Things spends about a gig of data.

You’ll be surprised how quickly you can run through data, and from one AT&T user to another, the slower data after that 22 GB threshold feels pretty awful.

Info Box icon
What is a data cap?
Data cap refers to how much data you can use before you experience deprioritization. This is a fancy way of saying that once you pass a data threshold, your speeds will dramatically decrease.

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.

Money icon
How big can my family get?
You can add up to 10 people on the same family plan. The bill might seem like a lot at that point, but divide it by 10 and you’re looking at a really affordable unlimited plan.

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

Unless you can find a deal, AT&T’s family plan probably isn’t the best way to go. If the prices between AT&T and Verizon are similar, and currently they are for family plans, always go with Verizon.

Bullhorn icon
An open letter to AT&T
Unless you start offering coverage and speeds similar to Verizon,1 you should charge a lot less for your family plans. But what do I know? I’ve only been an AT&T customer for 10 years.

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

  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone X
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone 8/8 Plus

Samsung

  • 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.

AT&T wireless has the following ways to get support:

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.

Megaphone icon
Some human interaction required for prepaid users
Users with prepaid wireless plans can’t use the live chat feature, which is unfortunate—it’s one of our favorite ways of getting an answer when we look gross and don’t want to talk to anyone.

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.

Sources

Additional contributors

Trevor Wheelwright

  • Naima Muhammed

    I purchased the cruise package last month before I went on a cruise. I spoke with about 2 different people to make sure that I was purchasing the the right package. I purchased the $100 package and I was told that I didn’t need to purchase the ship package and that there would be no overages. 1 day into the ship I received a text saying I went over my data by $300. I never used any data, couldn’t even access the internet on the cruise. But I later found out that my phone was trying to update to ICloud and that used up all the data and I should have turned off my cellular data…. Which neither of the customer reps told me when I purchased the package. I asked could they waive at least some of the $350. All the rep could do was take off $50 because I was such a loyal customer. So I was stuck with a $500 bill, which included my regular bill which is $100, then the cruise package which was $100, and then the $300. I paid the bill. But I am currently looking for a new wireless carrier. I refused to be be mislead again by At&T. And I will definitely tell everyone to be careful when purchasing extra packages from AT&T.