AT&T Cell Phone Service Review

AT&T has been playing second fiddle to Verizon for years, always one step behind its biggest rival. It doesn’t quite have the best network coverage, for example, but it easily nabs second place. Its speeds don’t average as high, but they’re still dependable and outpace every other contender. The one area it does better than Verizon in is price, but even there AT&T lags behind the competition, charging $5 more per month than T-Mobile for the same data allocation.

Indeed, AT&T is the cellular world’s poster child for “jack of all trades, master of none.” If you’re looking for the cheapest carrier, or the fastest, or the most widespread, there’s always a better option. If, on the other hand, you’re after a balance of speed and coverage, of price and performance, then it’s worth a second look. It’s not the best cell phone provider in the country.

Pricing & Fees

AT&T’s network is slightly inferior to Verizon’s, so it stands to reason that its prices would be lower. An individual plan is $50 for 3GB of shared data and unlimited talk and text. Not including the price of a new smartphone, that comes out to $1,320 for two years of service. It’s pretty good, considering the quality of coverage you can enjoy, but it’s far from the cheapest cell phone plan available.

Family plans are rather pricey. You can get four lines and 15GB of shared data between them for $160 per month. Data overages are charged rather than throttled, so you pay $15 for each additional gigabyte per month instead of simply seeing your speeds slow down. There’s a $15 activation fee for new lines and a $35 restocking fee if you buy a phone from AT&T and decide to return it within the grace period.

Factoring in network coverage, features, and support, AT&T’s value for money is about on par with Verizon. Individual plans are slightly cheaper, but then, the network is a bit more constricting. The result’s a wash – if coverage is important to you and you don’t live in the boonies, AT&T could save you some cash.

Unlimited Data Plans

AT&T’s offers 2 type of unlimited data plans, the “unlimited & more plan” and “Unlimited &More Premium. They also pair unlimited talk and text with the data, and they come with a number of other features and limitations we’ll get into further down.

Unlimited &More: Video streaming is limited to standard definition (480p) and LTE data download speeds are capped at 3 megabits per second. The mobile hotspot is not included with this plan.

Unlimited &More Premium: Includes 15GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data per month, which drops to 2G speeds after you use your allotment. Video can stream in HD if you turn off AT&T’s “stream saver” restriction. There are no restrictions on download speeds. Option to add on one premium service, like HBO or Pandora Premium, at no additional cost.

Shared Data Plans

The shared data plans are AT&T’s Mobile Share Plus plans that comes with 2 different amount of high-speed data, the 3GB plan and 9Gb plan, which can be shared with up to 10 lines and each line come with a $20 monthly access charge.

AT&T Mobile Share Plus – 3GB data: For $50 per month, you can get 3GB of high-speed data that includes 480p streaming, mobile hotspot functionality, and unlimited talk and text. Unused data can also be rolled over to the next billing period. After you use up your data allotment, you’re not completely cut off, as data speeds simply slow to 128Kbps.

AT&T Mobile Share Plus plan – 9GB data: For $60 per month, you can get a plan that includes 9GB of data at 4G LTE speeds. The terms of this plan are the same as the 3GB plan, but you get more data. If you’re signing up with multiple lines, this is likely a better allotment to share, and the price per line will go down.

Prepaid Plans

AT&T’s prepaid plans are not very different, offering many of the same features as the postpaid plans but with a notably different payment process.

  • $35/mo ($30 with Autopay): comes with unlimited talk, text and 1GB of data
  • $50/mo ($40 with Autopay): comes with unlimited talk, text and 8GB of data
  • $65/mo ($45 with Autopay): comes with unlimited talk, text, and data
  • >> Check out AT&T Prepaid Plans

Coverage & Quality

AT&T’s network is very, very good. It offers coast-to-coast coverage in both urban and rural regions, with few dropped calls and fewer lost texts. Its speeds are impressive and consistent: 84 percent of RootMetrics tested localities get 10 Mbps or faster speeds, no small feat when you’re considering rural as well as urban areas. Even its LTE footprint is solid since virtually all its covered areas get strong LTE service.

Most people won’t notice the difference between AT&T’s coverage and Verizon’s best-in-class cell phone service. Both are nearly universal, with noticeable gaps only in the most rural parts of the country, and both offer reliable uptime and consistent speeds. Verizon takes the edge cases that AT&T doesn’t; second place is second place.

Device Selection

AT&T’s device selection is excellent, especially when it comes to flagship phones. The big names like the Apple iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy Note9 are, of course, present, but so are lesser-known flagships like the HTC One A9 or variants like Samsung’s Galaxy Active phones. BlackBerry fans have access to the popular Priv, while Windows diehards can buy the Lumia 950.

The mid-tier front is more limited, as the company lacks major players like the latest Moto X or Google’s Nexus phones, but the budget phones category is the real shocker: As of publishing, the number of options under $200 can be counted on one hand. If you’re in the market for a cheap device, AT&T clearly isn’t catering to you.

>> Check out AT&T Phones Collection

Summary

When you get down to it, not much separates the top two cell phone companies in the nation. Both have great coverage, strong LTE networks, and fast speeds. They both offer a wide range of devices for selective buyers, and in terms of value for your money, are about equal. Consequently, AT&T is a great choice if you need dependable coverage, but want to save what money you can in the process. It might not be quite to Verizon’s standard, but it’s a solid runner-up.

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