Tello Cell Phone Service Review 2021

Essentials customers get slowed first

2 out of 5 stars
  • Check
    Cheap unlimited plan
  • Check
    No extra fees
  • X
    Spotty network
Tyler Abbott
Staff Writer, Mobile & Wireless
Read More
Published on December 03, 2020
4 min read

Tello is an inexpensive prepaid wireless phone service for folks who don’t like getting locked into long-term contracts. Plus, aside from the usual random taxes and whatnot, Tello doesn’t charge any unnecessary fees (like phone activation).

How Tello prepaid data plan prices compare

Tello isn’t geared toward big families or folks with multiple devices, but instead focuses on providing cheap individual cell phone plans.

You can’t get any big discounts like you would with other cell phone plans from bigger companies. In fact, you can’t even add multiple lines to the same account, meaning everyone has to get their own service setup, which also means separate bills.

Tello prepaid plans

Tello offers quite a few low-data plans. And you don’t have to get data with Tello, either, if you don’t want it. If you do want it, though, plans start at plans start at $9/mo. for 500MB + Unlimited Talk & Text.

Tello prepaid data plans and prices

You’ll probably want to get at least a couple of gigs of data use. Getting 2 GB for under $20 a month isn’t a bad way to go if you seldom use your cell phone for surfing the net, but we think it’s worth the extra money to get the 4 GB or 6 GB plans for those trying to save. That way you won’t lose your 4G LTE speeds toward the end of the month.

What happens when you hit your data limit?

It won’t cost you extra money to go over your data limit with Tello. After you’ve hit your prepaid data allowance, your service will be reduced to 2G speeds, which is annoying, but not life or death. You won’t actually be on a 2G network, so it will work, but it will be slooooow.

Tello's $39 unlimited plan is one of the cheapest unlimited plans out there, way cheaper than anything from the big three wireless providers (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon). Take a look at how Tello's unlimited plan stacks against the competition.

Tello’s best features:

  • Plans start at $5 (for talk and text only)
  • No contract
  • No early termination fees
  • No activation fees
  • No overage charges
  • Includes calls to Canada, Mexico, and China
  • Free tethering
What is Tello’s free tethering?

Some cell phone services charge an extra fee to tether, or to use a device as a mobile hotspot. Tello doesn’t charge a fee, so next time you’re on vacation you can use your cellphone’s data for your laptop instead of paying a $10 per day hotel Wi-Fi fee.

Tello cell phones and devices

You can get iPhones and Androids, but not the latest models. Tello’s focus is saving cash, so it offers a wide variety of inexpensive models.

Tello covers a wide variety of big-name cell phones and ones we hadn’t heard of. If you're bringing your own phone instead of purchasing a phone from Tello, make sure to contact Tello. We've had readers tell us that Tello wasn't compatible with devices they just bought, so make sure to find out before purchasing an unlocked device.

If you want to buy a new phone, you can always go directly through Tello. Here are some of the phones you can purchase.

Tello isn’t trying to be the flashiest player in the game but instead goes for “this phone was the best a year or two ago” or “this phone isn’t brand new, but it works just fine, and you can save some money” route.

It has solid options and some that are as low as $25 with no activation fee. Once again, Tello aims for value at low costs.

Does Tello use CDMA or GSM networks?
Light Bulb

Tello works with CDMA devices, meaning phones from Sprint and Verizon will work with Tello. Phones from AT&T and T-Mobile run on GSM networks, though, so you will need to get them unlocked to use with Tello. Switching phone carriers and keeping your phone is not typically a hard process, even if the companies use different networks.

How good is Tello performance?

Tello uses Sprint’s nationwide coverage, which isn’t the best, but will still cover most people in most areas.

Tello uses Sprint’s 4G LTE network, which still exists despite T-Mobile recently absorbing Sprint. Historically, Sprint offered the worst coverage of the four major networks in the United States (and it wasn't really close). But things could seriously change for Tello if it gets grandfathered into T-Mobile's network (which is way better than Sprint's network) now that the merger has gone through. For now, that's a big "if" and it's probably safe to assume your coverage with Tello won't be amazing.

Check out the Sprint coverage map below to get an idea of coverage with Tello.

Tello customer service

What’s up with the customer service?

Tello gets good reviews from its customers, and with good reason. It offers a simple and straightforward service that doesn’t cause the typical confusion that some of the bigger companies bring by tucking in activation fees. You can hit them up 24/7 on the phone via talk or text, or you can chat with them online.

The agents we chatted with answered our questions very quickly and followed up with useful links. Much better than some of the automated chatbots that we’ve encountered across various services.

Recap: is Tello good?

Tello is an inexpensive option for people who want to save on their monthly cell phone bill. You’ll get low costs and no hidden fees.

Tello is great for high school and college students who are getting their own cell service for the first time and wants to start with a more affordable option. It’s also great for anyone who uses their phone for talking and texting and not for trading pictures or browsing the internet.

  • Plans: Affordable data plans with one of the most inexpensive unlimited plans available.
  • Performance: Tello’s coverage on the Sprint network will work well for folks in more densely populated areas, but if you’re switching from Verizon, don’t be surprised if Tello’s service is spotty by comparison.
  • Customer service: You get 24/7 support from Tello, and most customer service reviews are decent.
  • Overall: We’d recommend Tello to folks who don’t require much data and want to avoid paying an arm and a leg to talk and text. We wouldn’t recommend it for rural folks, but most others will enjoy coverage just about everywhere.


Q: Does Tello have overage charges or hidden fees?

You won’t see anything aside from the cost of your phone (if purchased), service, and local taxes.

Tello avoids hidden fees by using a prepaid monthly model that you can always choose to upgrade or downgrade without early termination fees either.

Q: Does Tello charge an activation fee?

Activation fees suck—and for other providers, they can be as high as $30–$45. Luckily, Tello does not charge activation fees for phones.

Q: Does Tello let you bring your own phone?

You can save money by bringing the phone you already have to Tello. BYOD (bring your own device) is especially easy from Verizon since they are CDMA carriers.

Q: Can I keep my phone number?

You can totally keep your number, homie. When you sign up, let Tello’s customer service reps know and they’ll help set it up.

Q: What’s Tello’s return policy and early termination fee?

You get 30 days free returns on phones, meaning no delivery fees either. Service is non-refundable.

Q: Does Tello have a military or student discount?

No, but Tello’s a cheap service, generally speaking. And it’s customizable to your needs.

Tyler Abbott
Written by
Tyler Abbott
Tyler has been obsessed with watching sports as efficiently as possible since the creation of the DVR. He is always on the lookout for the best tech in TV and wireless so he can watch all the sports and still have enough time to hang out with his baby. He has written about streaming, wireless, and TV for over three years. He hopes the Lakers will eventually get better.

Related Articles

Ring Alarm base station in home
Ring Alarm Security System Review 2021
You might know the Ring Video Doorbell, but have you heard about Ring's new security...
Woman using a laptop for a conference call discussing the best internet service providers
8 Best Internet Service Providers 2021
Looking for the best home internet options? Read on to compare download speed, price, and...
Hulu video thumbnail
Hulu Review
You've heard of Hulu, but is it the right streaming service for you? We go...
Photograph of iPhone 13 in store
Best Cell Phone Plans of 2021
Researching top cell phone plans can be tough. Read our in-depth reviews to compare the...
  • Tayo

    This is for phone coverage. Any smart phone can take photos. I highly recommend Tello for a budget plan. I only pay $14 a month for unlimited text and talk and 2gb of data. It’s an absolute steal, and the customer service at Tello is great. There’s not need to pay $50+ for one line of coverage in my opinion unless you really need unlimited data. If you have Wifi at home, though, I don’t see a need for it.

  • Connie Peace

    My borhter who I bought this for has moved up to needing wifi and steaming capabilities. Is this available?

  • Aaron Alvarez

    Great review my friend and thank you!!

  • Matt Pace

    You can bring your own phone BUT it needs to be Sprint or unlocked. Also, if you don’t have a Sprint-compatible SIM card, they’ll sell you one for $10 (one-time) when you sign up.

  • Mac McGiver

    Buyer beware. service is real but getting service is a real nightmare. 2nd time w them and same terrible experience! 10 days in and NEW phone from them still doesn’t work. There customer service is garbage. They act like they don’t know anything about the device and ask me to do a ton of useless stuff, A whole lot of troubleshooting work a whole page worth of instructions, and most of the stuff I can’t do and or they don’t say any tips on how to find such and such nor why they need 5 different identifiers to confirm each other…. when all they have to do is register the sim!

  • Vinay Varrier

    None of the reviewers seem to mention 2 critical points that make their lowest end plans (eg. 100mins per month) next to useless. Point 1: they round off the seconds to the nearest higher minute. So if you have a 10 second call, it will be rounded off to 1 minute. And point 2: the most critical one, they count even incoming calls. If you pick up sales call by accident and immediately cut it off, you lose a minute. I haven’t heard of incoming calls being charged for since the 1990s!