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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.
The Sprint and T-Mobile merger is complete (RIP, Sprint)! T-Mobile is absorbing Sprint, and not the other way around, so don't expect any major changes for T-Mobile customers for now. Hopefully T-Mobile's network will get even better post-merger and maybe its prices will get even lower. We'll keep you posted if T-Mobile's offerings change.
T-Mobile vs. 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.
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 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
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
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.
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.