AT&T Wireless vs. T-Mobile Review 2021

See which cell phone company is victorious and which one’s down for the count as AT&T and T-Mobile go head to head.

Best Coverage
T Mobile
  • Check
    Cheaper unlimited plan
  • X
    Slightly worse coverage
Best Data Speeds
  • Check
    Fastest download data speeds
  • X
    Pricier plans
Tyler Abbott
Staff Writer, Mobile & Wireless
Read More
Published on December 11, 2020
4 min read

It’s a close call between T-Mobile and AT&T, and in this case, but T-Mobile currently offers more value. T-Mobile’s unlimited data plans are $5–$10 cheaper than comparable AT&T plans and offer more high-speed data.

T-Mobile vs. AT&T individual data plans

Get the most value with T-Mobile’s Unlimited plans.
T-Mobile and AT&T individual data plans

T-Mobile offers three unlimited individual plans, and AT&T offers a variety of different data plans that range from 3 GB of data in a month to unlimited data.
You get way more value with T-Mobile’s unlimited plans.

Don’t be fooled by AT&T’s cheaper Mobile Share Plus 3GB for $50 a month—you get way more value by going with the T-Mobile Essentials plan for $60 a month. Paying an extra $10 a month to go from 3 GB of data to unlimited data is like paying an extra dollar to upgrade your personal-size pizza to the kind of pizza where you get a trophy when you finish it. Don’t even get me started on how AT&T’s 9 GB plan costs the same as T-Mobile’s basic unlimited data plan.

Generally, T-Mobile plans cost $5 less than comparable AT&T plans, except for both premium plans capping at $85 a month.

Free HBO with AT&T Unlimited Elite Plan

Gotta hand it to AT&T—it’s pretty cool that you get an included HBO subscription with the Unlimited Elite plan. It’s probably the only AT&T plan that’s arguably better than the comparable T-Mobile plan.

Higher data caps

AT&T’s Unlimited Starter Plan is subject to sudden data slowdowns in congested areas, whereas T-Mobile’s Essentials plan gives you a generous 50 GB data cap. In other words, your data speeds on AT&T can slow down when you need it most (like when you try to call an Uber after a big event), and with T-Mobile you have a guaranteed 50 GB of high-speed data no matter where you are.

Somehow, AT&T’s basic unlimited plan costs $5 more than T-Mobile’s basic unlimited plan, and it should really be the other way around.

T-Mobile vs. AT&T family plans

T-Mobile offers a better deal for families.

T-Mobile offers three different family plans, and AT&T serves up five different options. To the surprise of nobody up to this point in the review, T-Mobile’s family plans have way more value than AT&T’s family plans.

Get unlimited data for a family of three for $105 with T-Mobile.

The cheapest family unlimited plan from T-Mobile costs about $35 a line, whereas the cheapest family unlimited plan from AT&T costs about $45 a line. Honestly, there’s not much more that needs to be said. In fact, you can get the higher-tier Magenta T-Mobile family plan for even less than you would pay for the AT&T Unlimited Starter family plan.

The only exception to the rule is the AT&T Prepaid Multi Line Monthly Plan. Each line will cost you about $26 a month, which is cheaper than anything T-Mobile offers for family plans. The only downside is you’ll share 10 GB a month instead of having unlimited data, and you’ll need to pay your bill at the beginning of the month.

T-Mobile gets the nod over AT&T for family plans, and it’s not particularly close.

T-Mobile vs. AT&T prepaid plans

T-Mobile wins this battle too.

Both AT&T and T-Mobile offer prepaid plans that cost a bit less than their postpaid plans, but T-Mobile, once again, offers way more value. Just look at the plan comparison above. Would you rather pay $40 a month for 10 GB of data with T-Mobile or $40 a month for 8 GB of data with AT&T? Imagine I’m a Southern Gentleman attorney as I snap my suspenders and say, “Your Honor, I rest my case.”

T-Mobile vs. AT&T coverage

AT&T wins the coverage battle.

Just when you thought AT&T was backed into a corner, it comes swinging back with significantly improved coverage. In the last few months, AT&T has upped its coverage game and is closing in on Verizon. Here’s how all the rankings break down for best coverage in the country:1

  • Verizon: 70% 4G Coverage
  • AT&T: 68% 4G Coverage
  • T-Mobile: 62% 4G Coverage

AT&T covers 68% of the country with its 4G network, while T-Mobile covers only 62% of the country with 4G coverage.1 To be fair, a 6% difference isn’t massive, but it can make a big difference for folks in more rural parts of the country. Check out the coverage maps below and see how AT&T and T-Mobile cover your neck of the woods:

AT&T coverage map

T-Mobile coverage map

T-Mobile wins the download speeds battle

We've sampled tens of thousands of wireless users and found T-Mobile to have the fastest download and upload speeds. T-Mobile averages 32.73 Mbps download speeds and 12.9 Mbps, whereas AT&T averages 28.9 Mbps download speeds and 9.4 Mbps upload speeds. Translation: everything you do on the internet should be faster on T-Mobile's network versus AT&T's network.

Fastest Wireless Download Speeds
Fastest Wirelss Upload Speeds

Recap: T-Mobile is cheaper but AT&T has better coverage.

It’s a close battle between T-Mobile and AT&T, but we have to give the championship belt to T-Mobile for its cheaper unlimited plans and superior data speeds. AT&T does offer better coverage, but its plans will cost you $5–$10 more every month. Even though we prefer T-Mobile over AT&T because of its cost, you might prefer the latter for its superior performance.

So, what do you value more—your monthly bill costing less or having a slightly better performance? Do you have any strong feelings about AT&T or T-Mobile? Let us know in the comments below.

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.

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  • The_ATL_Guy

    Total TMobile fanboy review

  • jpcreative

    lol, slightly worse coverage…gives award to t-mobile as “best coverage”…whaaat?

  • Joe Smith

    At&t has a white list of phones on which they will activate volte, which will be mandatory. No one at At&t seems to be aware of this. I finally found the list on my own. So I took my unlocked, non listed, phone to T-mobile. Works great. I bet all of these approved phone lack 600 mhz coverage, (band71) making them unsuitable for use on t-mobile. It’s like we have gone back to the days when all phones were locked and a gsm phome would not work on a CDMA network and vise versa. Android ver 10 is supposed to support everyone’s volte system.

  • Bryant

    Are you certain that the T-Mobile 855-713-8512 number you have listed for military family plans is definitely a valid T-Mobile contact and not a scam? Just want to make sure, because that number is not listed anywhere else on the internet (that I am aware of). Thanks very much.