Mobile

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 recently announced a series of new Unlimited plans. The company started phasing out the Unlimited & More plans in favor of the new AT&T Unlimited Starter, AT&T Unlimited Extra, and AT&T Unlimited Elite. The plans drop AT&T’s WatchTV service, but the highest-end offering will have HBO Max, which is a nice touch. Here’s everything you need to know.

AT&T Unlimited Starter

The AT&T Unlimited Starter plan is AT&T’s entry-level plan. It offers unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, and you’ll get texting in over 120 countries. However, AT&T points out that roaming may be limited to 2G speeds. Video quality is unfortunately limited to 480p, and if you want higher-resolution video, you’ll have to upgrade to the Unlimited Elite plan.

AT&T Unlimited Extra

Unlimited Extra upgrades things a little — but to really get the goods, you’ll need to go for Unlimited Elite. In Unlimited Extra, you’ll get all the features on offer in Unlimited Starter, plus 15GB of mobile hotspot data, and 50GB of so-called “premium data,” which guarantees higher data speeds. After you hit your premium data cap, your speeds may be slowed down, according to AT&T. AT&T Unlimited Extra also gives you access to AT&T’s 5G network, if you have a compatible phone and network access in your area.

AT&T Unlimited Elite

Unlimited Extra offers all the features you might want — but at a price. The Unlimited Elite plan offers everything in the Unlimited Extra plan, but it expands hotspot data to 30GB, and 100GB of premium data instead of 50GB. Perhaps the best added feature, however, is access to HBO — which is included in the plan at no extra cost.

Pricing for AT&T’s Unlimited plans is as follows:

People AT&T Unlimited Starter AT&T Unlimited Extra AT&T Unlimited Elite
1 $65 $75 $85
2 $120 ($60 x 2) $130 ($65 x 2) $75 ($150 x 2)
3 $135 ($45 x 3) $150 ($50 x 3) $60 ($180 x 3)
4 $140 ($35 x 4) $160 ($40 x 4) $200 ($50 x 4)

Recommendations:

  • If you live in a rural area or travel to rural areas a lot, any of AT&T’s plans may be the way to go, thanks to AT&T’s large network.
  • Families are better served looking at other carriers like T-Mobile, 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.

The downsides of AT&T plans:

  • A little expensive compared to plans from T-Mobile. 
  • AT&T Unlimited Starter doesn’t offer a ton of features.

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 a 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 11 Pro

iPhone 11

iPhone 8

$0 $33.34 x 30 = $1000.20

$23.34 x 30 = $700.20

$23.34 x 30 = $700.20

Samsung Galaxy S910e

Samsung Galaxy Note 10+

$0 $25 x 30 = $750

$36.67 x 30 = $1100.10

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.

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