A prepaid provider that makes sense for low-data users who want AT&T’s network.
H2O Wireless Review
H2O is a prepaid provider that runs on AT&T’s network. It’s got some decent deals on pay as you go and talk and text plans, but its high-speed data is surprisingly expensive (and surprisingly not so high-speed).
For example, its unlimited data plan is $60, which is about as much as other the major providers charge. But it doesn’t come with any great perks, and your data speeds will be throttled. No thanks.
H2O Wireless unlimited data plan
If you want an unlimited data plan that will let you stream, post, twitch, scroll, swipe, and everything else, then H2O is not the provider for you. If you just want a cheap and simple way to hop onto AT&T’s network, then read on (or just go ahead and sign up).
H2O cell phone plans
- Plenty of plan options
- Good network coverage
- Unlimited international talk and text
- Can be pricey
- Data is throttled
What we like
For a select group of customers, H2O could be as refreshing as a cold glass of water on a hot day. So let’s dig into all of the things we like about the company. (Don’t worry, we’ll talk about the drawbacks in a second.)
Plenty of plans to choose from
While many traditional providers are slimming down the variety of plans they offer, H2O Wireless is bulking up. It has five tiers of prepaid plans to choose from plus some pay-as-you-go options.
H2O’s $20 talk and text plan will be great for those that just need a phone to coordinate rides and catch up with family—perhaps your kids or your parents. You’ll even get 500 MB of full-speed data and unlimited data at 2G speeds (which is really slow).
But H2O Wireless also has plenty of high-speed data plans that will appeal to those who want to post, stream, and game on their phone. (If you’re not sure exactly how much data you want, use our handy guide to figure it out.)
Good network performance
H2O Wireless is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which means that it uses another company’s cellular network. In this case, it’s AT&T, which is both good news and bad news.
The bad news is that AT&T can prioritize its own users over H2O’s users (we’ll talk about this more below). But the good news is that H2O customers will be on one of the fastest and most wide-reaching cellular networks available.
Sure, H2O and AT&T use the same network, but that’s about where the similarities end. H2O’s plans are prepaid, and they don’t come with many extra features. Meanwhile, AT&T’s plans tend to cost a bit more but will give you more data and extra perks, like free movie tickets and discounted phone upgrades.
Unlimited international talk and text to 50+ countries
If you’re sick of buying international calling cards at your corner bodega (or paying extra for an international calling add-on), then H2O might be able to help you out.
All of H2O’s monthly plans include unlimited international talk and text to over 50 countries, like Japan, Chile, and Russia. You can check the full list of countries and read about H2O’s international calling policies on the company’s website.
There are some strange limitations to these international calls: you can call only landlines in many locations, and calls are disconnected after one hour. If you’re looking for a prepaid company with more robust international benefits, we suggest Ultra Mobile.
What we don’t like
H2O is not for everyone. Well, let’s clarify: the phone company called H2O is not for everyone. You still need to hydrate.
H2O’s relatively high prices (for an MVNO), throttled data, and lack of perks will drive many customers away.
H2O is pricey for an MVNO
At the end of the day, there’s really one reason that people use MVNOs: they’re a cheaper way to get access to major cell networks. So, we’re a bit confused about H2O’s high prices.
Yes, a $20 unlimited talk and text plan is a pretty good deal (though it’s not as good as Twigby’s). But when you start to add data to H2O’s plans, its prices skyrocket and even get higher than AT&T’s.
If you’re not feeling what H2O is selling, then check out these other prepaid providers that we like.
For instance, here’s a look at how H2O’s unlimited data plan compares to AT&T’s own prepaid unlimited plan. We’ve thrown in another MVNO, Visible Wireless, just to give you an idea of how other MVNOs price things.
At $60 a month, you might as well get a standard unlimited plan from one of the “big four” companies, like T-Mobile. At least that way your data won’t be throttled . . .
H2O uses AT&T’s network, that’s true. But it doesn’t get the same treatment as AT&T customers. The biggest way that you’ll notice this is decreased download speeds. With H2O, you’ll get a maximum download speed of 8 Mbps when you’re getting 4G LTE service.
To put that into perspective: the latest Opensignal report says that AT&T’s network is averaging download speeds of 29.1 Mbps. That’s 363% faster than the maximum speeds that H2O customers will receive!1
Sorry gamers, streamers, and influencers, you might want to find another provider.
How do H2O’s plans compare?
As we mentioned, H2O Wireless’s plans tend to cost more than the competition. But let’s dig into the specifics. Here’s a gander at how H2O’s unlimited talk and text plan compares to similar plans from other top prepaid providers.
Unlimited talk and text plans comparison
H2O lands right in the middle of the pack on that one. But it’s the most expensive plan on the list that doesn’t offer at least 1 GB of high-speed data. And once you add, for example, 10 GB of data, H2O’s prices get even less competitive.
Unlimited talk and text with 10 GB of data comparison
Our takeaway from looking at these price comparisons is simple: H2O is only a good option if you don’t want a ton of data, and you definitely want to be on AT&T’s network (rather than, for instance, Verizon’s).
H2O family plans
- Lower price per line
- Good network coverage
- International talk and text included
- Limited data
- Network throttling
What we like
Family plans are a classic win-win situation. You give your cell phone company more customers, and it gives you a better deal. In H2O’s case, you’ll get at least $5 off each line when you bundle together in a family plan. Let’s take a look at the details.
Lower price per line
If you want a single line with 5 GB of data from H2O, you’ll need to pay $30 a month. But if you get two lines, with 10 GB split between them, you’ll get each line for $25. Sure, it’s not a ton of money, but a penny saved is a penny earned, amirite?
The savings are less impressive when you go to three or four lines.
For instance, three lines with 12 GB of data split between them (so just 4 GB each) will run you $30 per line, per month. So, weirdly, getting three separate lines with 5 GB of data each would cost you the same price, and you’d get more data.
Like pretty much everything around H2O’s pricing, this has us scratching our heads . . .
Good network coverage
As we mentioned above, H2O uses AT&T’s network. That means you’ll get excellent coverage (but maybe not so excellent speeds due to throttling).
International talk and text
Family plans from H2O will give you the same international perks as regular plans. That means free calls to over 50 countries. Go ahead, chat all afternoon with your aunty in Chile and text your cousin in Bangladesh.
What we don’t like
H2O’s family plans have the same problems as its single-line plans: the data is pricey, and the speeds are throttled.
Limited and expensive data
Unlike most other providers, H2O doesn’t offer an unlimited data family plan. The most data you can get is 5 GB per month, per line.
That might be fine if you just want phones for your middle-schoolers. But many people—those of us who are constantly streaming, posting, and reading the news on our phones—5 GB won’t really cut it.
Even if you are satisfied with less data, H2O’s prices for that data are quite high.
If H2O’s data prices don’t scare you away, the speeds might. As with the single-line plans, H2O’s family plans will throttle your data.
That means you’ll see download speeds of 8 Mbps, at most. That’s enough to stream standard definition content, but it’s a lot less than the roughly 30 Mbps speeds that other folks on the AT&T network will get.
How do H2O’s family plans compare?
Here’s a look at how H2O Wireless’s plans compare to other popular prepaid providers.
H2O Wireless family plans comparison
These plans are all in the same price range. And all of them offer unlimited data—except H2O. If you go with H2O Wireless’s family plan, you’ll be paying unlimited data pricing for just 12 GB of shared data.
There’s no other way to put this: H2O’s family plan is kind of a rotten deal.
H2O Pay As You Go plans
- Flexible plans
- Cheap options
- Costs add up fast
What we like
If you’re not excited about the idea of a $30+ bill coming due every month, and you don’t use your phone that often, then you might want to consider a pay-as-you-go plan like this one from H2O.
Basically, instead of paying for a certain amount of minutes or data each month, you just put a certain dollar amount on your account and then—you guessed it—pay as you go. Here’s a look at the rates and recharge amounts you can choose from.
Image: Screenshot taken from H2Owirelessnow.com
What we don’t like
The big drawback to this pay-as-you-go model is that the actual rates are not cheap. Five cents a minute might sound like a piddling amount, but that’s three dollars an hour, or about fifteen dollars every time you catch up with your old bestie from high school.
But the real costs are going to add up when you use data. At ten cents a megabyte you’ll be paying about $100 for a single gigabyte of data! To put that into perspective, it would cost you about $302 to stream Avengers: Infinity War—and that’s in standard definition! Yikes.
H2O Wireless coverage
H2O Wireless Coverage Map
H2O uses AT&T’s network
H2O operates on AT&T’s network.
AT&T’s network can’t quite match Verizon’s when it comes to overall coverage, but it comes really close.1 H2O customers should experience full bars in most metropolitan and suburban areas, and you can expect at least some service in most rural communities as well.
Unfortunately, H2O customers won’t benefit from AT&T’s incredibly fast download speeds, which average at about 30 Mbps. That’s because AT&T caps all H2O Wireless customers at just 8 Mbps max—so you might notice some lag in your PUBG Mobile game.
H2O Wireless cell phones and devices
Ready to throw down a little cash to upgrade from that cracked old LG display to the Galaxy 10S’s Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED screen? H2O can help you out. Probably.
H2O lists several of Samsung’s new devices on its website. But when we clicked on the first one displayed, the Galaxy S10+, we saw this:
Image source: screenshot from H2Owirelessnow.com
Yep, the Galaxy S10+ was out of stock. Bummer.
At least you can pick up an iPhone 11 from H2O, right? No. Wrong. The company doesn’t sell any Apple devices at all. Double bummer. (You can bring your own Apple device.)
Here are some of the phones that H2O does sell, listed in order of popularity.
If this selection isn’t cutting it for you, check out our deals page to see what promotions and discounts other providers are offering on the newest Apple, Samsung, and Google devices.
H2O Wireless customer service
You wouldn’t expect a dapper waiter to take your order at a McDonald’s. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect 5-star customer service from a discount provider like H2O.
That said, we were able to get through to an H2O customer service agent after being on hold for just 30 seconds (nice horns section in that hold music, H2O!). Once we were connected, the agent was kind and helpful.
You can also set up H2O Wireless refills and change your account settings using the MyH2O app, but be aware that it’s prone to glitches. The MyH2O app has earned just a sliver above 3 stars in the Google Play Store2 and a piddling 2.2 stars in the Apple Store.3
Recap: H2O Wireless makes sense for some low-use customers
We’re not going to beat around the bush here: H2O Wireless is not the most impressive MVNO we’ve reviewed. But it might be perfect for particular people—those who don’t use a lot of data and really want to be on AT&T’s cellular network.
Here’s a short recap of H2O’s plans and network performance for the TL;DR crowd.
- Plans: There are plenty of options, including unlimited talk and text plans, unlimited data plans, and pay as you go plans. H2O charges a lot for full-speed data, so data hogs might want to look elsewhere for service.
- Family plans: You can save a few bucks per line when you bundle together with a family plan, but H2O still ends up being more expensive than many other MVNOs.
- Network performance: AT&T provides H2O customers with good coverage across North America. But it does throttle their data speeds to a maximum of 8 Mbps.
If you’re looking for a cheap way to get on AT&T’s network, then consider signing up for H2O. But if you want a lot of high-speed data, the newest phones, or you just don’t care much about what network you’re on, we suggest checking out other providers.
Activating your H2O SIM card is pretty simple. Just follow these steps . . .
- Go to H2O’s website.
- Click on the “Activate” tab and select the “Get a New Number” option.
- Enter your SIM card number.
- Select your city and area code.
- Hit “Activate,” and you’re good to go!
Yes. H2O Wireless customers who are on the $60 unlimited data plan can use their device as a mobile hotspot. But your speeds will still be throttled to 8 Mbps by AT&T’s network.