AT&T offers so-so performance, and Mint’s prices are hard to pass up
Mint Mobile vs. AT&T Review
AT&T is one of the Big Three mobile carriers in the United States with millions of wireless subscribers. Mint is a relatively new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which is just a fancy way of saying it's a prepaid phone company that piggybacks on another carrier’s network (in this case, T-Mobile’s network). Mint’s plans are much cheaper than AT&T’s.
Just look at this comparison between AT&T and Mint’s unlimited data plans.
Mint vs. AT&T unlimited data plan comparison
Clearly, Mint is easier on your wallet. But there are a few things to consider when it comes to picking a great phone plan outside of just the price. We’ll review all the details of these two companies in this article, from plan perks to network performance, so you can figure out which one is right for you.
Mint vs. AT&T plans and pricing
Comparing Mint Mobile’s prices to AT&T’s is kind of like comparing home prices in New York City to home prices Omaha: one is so much cheaper than the other that it’s hardly a comparison at all.
Of course, some people like the perks that come along with living in the Big Apple and would never consider living in Omaha, no matter the price. Similarly, some people will opt for the pricier AT&T because they like the features—like mobile hotspot data—no matter how much cheaper Mint is.
So let’s dive into the details of these plans so you can see what we’re talking about.
Most folks are just looking for a single, straightforward plan that will get them talk, text, and enough 4G LTE data to get them through the day. Here’s a look at what AT&T offers in this category.
AT&T individual plans
AT&T’s five plans will all give you unlimited talk and text, and a decent spread of data, from 4 GB up to unlimited. Plus, the pricier unlimited plans come with neat perks, like high data caps and 30–60 GB of mobile hotspot data.
But the price range of these plans is less impressive. Even the cheapest AT&T plan here is a full $30 more than Mint’s most expensive plan. Take a gander.
Mint Mobile individual plans
There’s really no comparison between AT&T and Mint when it comes to price. At $15 a month, Mint’s 15 GB plan is a full $35 cheaper than AT&T. In fact, it’s one of the cheapest limited-data plans in the entire industry.
The main drawback to these cheaper plans from Mint is that there are fewer perks: you won’t get 5G access, free subscriptions, or phone upgrades (though you can use your phone as a hotspot with Mint).
Also, Mint’s plans—as well as AT&T’s lowest tier unlimited plan—come with a risk of deprioritization. This means your data speeds can be slowed at any time (we’ll go over this more in the Data performance section below).
All of Mint Mobile’s plans are prepaid, which means that you have to pay your bill before you receive service. Meanwhile, all the AT&T plans featured here are postpaid, which means you can pay at the end of the month (but you’ll also need a credit check before you can sign up).
AT&T does offer some prepaid plans that are a bit cheaper than the company’s normal plans. But these prepaid plans are still pricier than Mint, and don’t come with the awesome perks. Here’s a quick look at those prepaid options.
AT&T prepaid plans
If you’re going through the trouble of finding a cell phone plan that caters to your needs (and your budget), then you might as well share what you find with the whole family.
Family plans offer simplicity and affordability. You can manage multiple lines with a single account, and you can usually get sine steep discounts. For example, take a look at these AT&T family plans.
AT&T unlimited data family plans
You can pick up three lines on an Unlimited Starter family plan for $138 a month, which is a full $60 less than you would pay if you signed up for the three lines separately.
Mint Mobile doesn’t offer any family plans to speak of. However, the prices are already so low that it’s hard to imagine additional discounts. You can get three lines of unlimited data for just $45! That beats AT&T by a long shot.
Mint Mobile vs. AT&T data
Data is basically the lifeblood of your smartphone. Without it you can’t use most of your phone’s cool functions, like email, online gaming, social media posting, and fact-checking the claims that your friends make (“Actually, Jurassic Park came out in 1993, not 1994”).
But not all data is created equal. Some cellular networks offer faster speeds, more reliability, and better upload performance than others. That’s not to mention 5G infrastructure, which is beginning to take over for 4G LTE data in major cities.
So, let’s take a closer look at Mint Mobile vs. AT&T when it comes to data performance.
Let's begin with the most important metric of data performance: download speed. Download speeds determine how quickly your phone gets information from the web. Without fast download speeds, you won’t be able to stream video or audio very well, and you’ll have issues with everything from posting on social media to gaming with your friends.
But upload speeds are also important. They determine how quickly your phone sends its information back to the web, which is important when you're uploading large files or playing online games.
In our own research, we have found AT&T is the slowest of the Big Three in terms of average download and upload speeds, but T-Mobile (the network Mint uses) is the fastest for both upload and download speeds.
- Average download speed: 28.9 Mbps
- Average upload speed: 9.4 Mbps
- Average download speed: 32.73 Mbps
- Average upload speed: 12.9 Mbps
Deprioritization and throttling
One more thing to consider when choosing your plan: data throttling and deprioritization. These forces can throw a wrench in your streaming, gaming, and other activities.
Throttling happens when you’ve reached your allotted “data cap” (yes, even if you’ve got an unlimited plan). Deprioritization happens when the network is busy with a lot of users (like when you’re downtown on a Friday night). In both cases, your data gets slowed down.
AT&T’s higher-tiered plans will protect you from deprioritization and give you 75GB of data before you experience throttling (which is quite high) if not unlimited high-speed data with no caps. But Mint, on the other hand, will always be at risk for deprioritization, while only giving you 35 GB of unthrottled data.
AT&T vs. Mint coverage
It doesn’t really matter how much data you have or how fast your download speeds are if your coverage is subpar. What’s the point of having a phone if you have to drive down the road to get a few bars? Even in metropolitan areas there can be dead zones with certain carriers.
Let’s compare Mint and AT&T’s coverage so you won’t end up dropping important calls. The best way to do that is to just show you the maps.
AT&T’s coverage map
T-Mobile’s coverage map
Both of these carriers have huge networks that cover almost the entire North American continent. But there are holes in both networks, so be sure to zoom in to the area where you live to see which carrier will keep you connected the best.
AT&T vs. Mint phones and devices
Sure, you can take your unlocked iPhone and stick a SIM card from AT&T or Mint Mobile inside. It should work just fine. But you’ll be missing out on some great cell phone deals that you can only get when you’re signing up for a new phone line. So why not treat yourself to a new iPhone 11 or Samsung S20?
Here’s a quick review of the most popular devices that are sold by AT&T and Mint Mobile.
AT&T cell phones
Mint Mobile cell phones
Recap: Is Mint or AT&T better for you?
So, should you go with the classic choice (AT&T) or the new kid on the block (Mint)? Here’s a quick recap to help you decide.
- Individual plans: Both Mint and AT&T offer a good range of options, from 4 GB plans to unlimited data plans. But Mint’s plans are significantly cheaper. AT&T makes up for this, somewhat, with some cool perks.
- Family plans: You can save a decent chunk of change when you bundle your AT&T lines together into a family plan. Mint, meanwhile, offers no family plans (but its prices are still lower than AT&T’s for multiple lines).
- Network performance: Mint mobile uses T-Mobile’s network, which is faster than AT&T’s for data speeds. Both AT&T and T-Mobile offer great nationwide coverage (but not at great as Verizon).
Hopefully we’ve given you all of the information you need to find your next cell phone provider. If neither AT&T or Mint seems right for you, be sure to check out our review of the very best cell phone plans in the industry.