Switching to AT&T? We break down the carrier’s new unlimited and prepaid plans

AT&T is adding new unlimited options with WatchTV and Pandora Premium

AT&T

It took AT&T a while to start offering unlimited talk, text, and data, but even with the switch, the carrier’s plans remain the most expensive, and some of its plan options are odd. If you live in an area where Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint don’t work, AT&T is likely your only option. That said, it offers some solid options for subscribers.

There’s no contract, and you have to pay the full, unsubsidized price for each smartphone on your plan. You’ll pay for each device in installments, which typically range between $20 and $40 a month per phone. You can also add your own phone to your plan instead of buying a new one.

Here’s everything you need to know about AT&T’s plans.

AT&T Unlimited Plans

AT&T used to offer multiple unlimited plans, but since then it has streamlined its offerings a little. That’s to say, the carrier no longer offers the Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus Enhanced plans. That said, it still has some great plans on offer.

AT&T Unlimited &More Plans

Following AT&T’s merger with Time-Warner, AT&T launched Unlimited &More plans, which offer a WatchTV subscription to 30-plus channels, and the option for a free subscription to one of several premium services.

The &More services are available in two packages — AT&T Unlimited &More Premium, and AT&T Unlimited &More. Any &More Premium subscribers will also get free access to their choice of one of seven entertainment perks — including HBO, Pandora, Amazon Music, Showtime, Starz, VRV, or Cinemax.

The pricing is as follows:

People AT&T Unlimited &More Total Unlimited &More Premium Total
1 $70 $70 $80 $80
2 $70 + $55 $125 $80 + $70 $150
3 $70 + $55 + $20 $145 $80 + $70 + $20 $170
4 $70 + $55 + $20 + $15 $160 $80 + $70 + $20 + $20 $190

WatchTV lineup

At this moment, you can expect to find the following channels on the WatchTV service offered by AT&T:

  • A&E
  • AMC
  • Animal Planet
  • Audience
  • BBC World News
  • BBC America
  • BET
  • Boomerang
  • Cartoon Network
  • Comedy Central
  • CNN
  • Discovery
  • Food Network
  • FYI
  • Hallmark
  • Hallmark Movies & Mysteries
  • HGTV
  • History
  • HLN
  • IFC
  • ID
  • Lifetime
  • Lifetime Movies
  • MTV 2
  • Nick
  • Nick Toons
  • Own
  • Sundance TV
  • TBS
  • TCM
  • Teen Nick
  • TLC
  • TNT
  • Trutv
  • Velocity
  • VH1
  • Viceland
  • We TV

Recommendations:

  • If you’re single and have DirecTV, go with AT&T. The Unlimited &More option will give you a much better network than Sprint’s, although it is more expensive.
  • Families are better served looking at other carriers, unless AT&T runs promotions to lower the costs.

The perks of AT&T plans:

  • Strong coverage in both rural and urban areas.
  • Big phone selection.
  • Unlimited data is back.

The downsides of AT&T plans:

  • All but one of its plan combinations are pricey.
  • Some international coverage costs extra.

AT&T prepaid plans

AT&T also offers decent prepaid plans for those who want to go month by month. These are deals for people who are looking to save some money. For each line, you get unlimited talk and text, as well as unlimited messaging to more than 100 countries. You can also purchase extra data to use with your plan if you run out. For example, if you’re on the $30 plan, you can pay $5 for 250MB or 1GB for $10 as you need it. In addition, the $85 unlimited plan now includes 10GB of mobile hotspot for use in the U.S. — which slows down to 128 Kbps after 10GB.

There aren’t any overages, either. Here is a chart of what you get at every price point.

AT&T Prepaid

 Service  $35/month  $50/month $65/month  $85/month
With AutoPay discount $30/month $40/month $55/month $75/month
 Data 1GB  8GB Unlimited Unlimited
Stream HD video Yes Yes No Yes
Mobile hotspot Yes Yes No Up to 10GB
 Unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada  No  Yes Yes  Yes
 Unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada  No  Yes Yes  Yes

For plans that stream HD video, AT&T will turn the Stream Saver function — which is a manually activated video throttle that reduces video quality to SD — for you. In theory, this should help you conserve some of your data allotment, but you can turn it off at any time you’d like.

You get a $5 discount if you sign up for AutoPay under the $35 plan. For the $50, $65, and $85 plan, you receive $10 off. The plans are also eligible for multi-line discounts, so if you start adding lots of lines to your plan, you can get some money back. AT&T has made recent changes to these discounts — for the second and third lines you now get a $10 discount instead of the previous $5 discount. Lines four and five get a $20 discount. Add on the discount for AutoPay, and you could get discounts of $30 for certain lines.

Recommendations: 

  • AT&T Prepaid is best for individuals without heavy data needs.
  • If you’re a family, you can get similar service for less elsewhere.

The perks of AT&T Prepaid:

  • Strong coverage in both rural and urban areas.
  • Big phone selection.
  • No data overages anymore; speeds slow to 2G after you hit your limit.
  • No credit check or contract.
  • You’ll pay less than you would on AT&T’s other plans.

The downsides of AT&T Prepaid:

  • Still pricey for a prepaid plan.

Mobile Share Plus

Lines Mobile Share Plus (3GB) Mobile Share Plus (9GB)
1 $50 $60
2 $80 $100
3 $100 $120
3 $120 $140

If you’re in a family that doesn’t use much data and want to save a few bucks, then a Mobile Share Plus plan may be for you. These plans essentially give you a certain amount of data to use between all the lines on your plan. So, for example, if you have a plan with 3GB of data on two lines, one person could use 2GB while the other person only uses 1GB.

Recommendations:

  • Mobile Share Plus is a good option for families on a budget who don’t use much data.
  • If your family uses more data, it’s worth looking elsewhere.

The perks of Mobile Share Plus:

  • Good coverage all over the nation.
  • Talk, text, and data in Mexico included.
  • Unlimited texting from over 120 countries.

The downsides of Mobile Share Plus:

  • Video streaming capped at 480p.

Top phones at AT&T

Phones Down payment Price/month x 24
iPhone X

iPhone 8

iPhone 8 Plus

iPhone SE

$0 $33.34 x 30 = $1000.20

$23.34 x 30 = $700.20

$26.67 x 30 = $800.10

$11.67 x 30 = $350.10

Samsung Galaxy S9

Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus

$0 $26.34 x 30 = $790.20

$30.50 x 30 = $915

LG V35 ThinQ

LG V30

$0 $30.00 x 30 = $900

$26.67 x 30 = $800.10

AT&T has plenty of great phones, along with a few cool exclusives on new devices. There are no more two-year contracts, though, so you do have to pay full price for your phone. You can do so in monthly installments, which AT&T tacks on to your bill. High-end phones tend to go for somewhere between $20 and $30 a month, while cheaper ones can be had for as little as $5 a month.

Editors' Recommendations