AT&T Wireless vs. T-Mobile 2019

by | Feb 22, 2019 | Brand Guides, Provider Comparisons (Versus)

Need a family plan that won’t sap your wallet? Try AT&T. But if you love to travel, T-Mobile has more than a few perks for globetrotters.

  • No gotchas—taxes and fees included
  • High data deprioritization cap
  • No family plans
  • Budget-friendly family plans
  • Perks for TV lovers
  • Speeds that fall behind T-Mobile

The Bottom Line

T-Mobile offers some amazing extras for frequent travelers, including in-flight Wi-Fi and international texting and data. But the fact that most of its prices include taxes and fees up front is the best—what you see is what you pay.

AT&T family plans come at a good price if you don’t need a lot of data. And if you love TV, you’ll love its WatchTV app and premium channel extras.

Ready to save some money on your phone bill or finally get off your parents’ phone plan? (Hey, we’re not judging.)

Choosing a new cellphone provider can be a real headache. They’ll all tell you they’re better than the other guys, but which one actually is? If you start snooping around, you’ll find some real differences that will help you make the choice that’s right for you.

Unlimited Plans*

$60–$85/mo.

Unlimited Plans*

$70–$80/mo.

Family Plans*

None

Family Plans*

$50–$60/mo.

Coverage

Best for Most

Coverage

Best for Most

Speed

Faster than AT&T

Speed

A Close Second to T-Mobile

Phones and Devices

iPhone, Samsung

Phones and Devices

iPhone, Samsung

View PlansView Plans

Unlimited Plans*

$60–$85/mo.

Unlimited Plans*

$70–$80/mo.

Family Plans*

None

Family Plans*

$50–$60/mo.

Coverage

Best for Most

Coverage

Best for Most

Speed

Faster than AT&T

Speed

A Close Second to T-Mobile

Phones and Devices

iPhone, Samsung

Phones and Devices

iPhone, Samsung

View Plans
View Plans

* Prices shown are for 1 line only and include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees are included in T-Mobile ONE, ONE Plus, and ONE Plus International plans only.

Ever wondered if it’s your phone or your wireless plan that’s slow? There’s one way to find out. Check your mobile data speed.

AT&T vs. T-Mobile: Unlimited Plans

When it comes to cellphones, unlimited plans are king of the hill. These plans usually net you the best perks—including a whole boatload of data. Here’s how AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s basic unlimited plans compare.

AT&T Unlimited &More vs. T-Mobile ONE

T-Mobile ONEAT&T Unlimited &More
Price*Starts at $70/mo.Starts at $70/mo.
Data DeprioritizationData speeds throttled after 50 GBData speeds can be throttled anytime
Video Streaming Quality480p480p
Mobile Hotspot DataUnlimited 3GNone
InternationalUnlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada plus 5 GB of 4G LTE data; unlimited texting and data (128 Kbps) in 210+ locationsUnlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada
View PlansView Plans
Price*
T-Mobile ONEStarts at $70/mo.
AT&T Unlimited &MoreStarts at $70/mo.
Data Deprioritization
T-Mobile ONEData speeds throttled after 50 GB
AT&T Unlimited &MoreData speeds can be throttled anytime
Video Streaming Quality
T-Mobile ONE480p
AT&T Unlimited &More480p
Mobile Hotspot Data
T-Mobile ONEUnlimited 3G
AT&T Unlimited &MoreNone
International
T-Mobile ONEUnlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada plus 5 GB of 4G LTE data; unlimited texting and data (128 Kbps) in 210+ locations
AT&T Unlimited &MoreUnlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada
T-Mobile ONEView Plans
AT&T Unlimited &MoreView Plans

* Prices shown are for 1 line only and include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees are included in the T-Mobile ONE plan only.

For a basic unlimited plan, we have to recommend T-Mobile ONE. It’s not that we don’t like AT&T’s &More Unlimited; it’s just that T-Mobile ONE gets you that mobile hotspot data and doesn’t deprioritize your data until you’ve hit 50 GB in a month.

What does “data deprioritization” mean?

We hate to break it to you, but there’s no truly unlimited plan out there. Every cellphone plan provider has a data deprioritization cap.

But while they all deprioritize (slow) your data, not every wireless provider does it at the same point. Most T-Mobile plans won’t slow your data until you’ve used 50 GB of data. AT&T, on the other hand, will either slow it during high-traffic hours or after you’ve used 22 GB of data, depending on your plan. Not cool.

We’re not huge fans of AT&T &More Unlimited’s policy of slowing your data at any time. We like to know when we’ll have fast data speeds and when we won’t. Playing a game of cat and mouse with the buffering icon? No thank you.

That said, AT&T’s Unlimited &More Premium plan is more our style. It’s perfect for streaming, with crisp 1080p resolution (you want HD? you got it!) and won’t deprioritize your data speeds until you’ve used 22 GB.

AT&T Unlimited &More Premium vs. T-Mobile ONE Plus

T-Mobile ONE PlusAT&T Unlimited &More Premium
Price*Starts at $85/mo.Starts at $80/mo.
Data DeprioritizationAfter 50 GBAfter 22 GB
Video Streaming Quality720p1080p
Mobile Hotspot Data20 GB of 4G LTE, then unlimited 3G15 GB per line
InternationalUnlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada plus 5 GB of 4G LTE data; unlimited texting and data (256 Kbps) in 210+ locationsUnlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada
View PlansView Plans
Price*
T-Mobile ONE PlusStarts at $85/mo.
AT&T Unlimited &More PremiumStarts at $80/mo.
Data Deprioritization
T-Mobile ONE PlusAfter 50 GB
AT&T Unlimited &More PremiumAfter 22 GB
Video Streaming Quality
T-Mobile ONE Plus720p
AT&T Unlimited &More Premium1080p
Mobile Hotspot Data
T-Mobile ONE Plus20 GB of 4G LTE, then unlimited 3G
AT&T Unlimited &More Premium15 GB per line
International
T-Mobile ONE PlusUnlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada plus 5 GB of 4G LTE data; unlimited texting and data (256 Kbps) in 210+ locations
AT&T Unlimited &More PremiumUnlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada
T-Mobile ONE PlusView Plans
AT&T Unlimited &More PremiumView Plans

* Prices shown are for 1 line only and include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees are included in the T-Mobile ONE Plus plan only.

Pay a little more each month, and you’ll get a boost to your plan’s features. That’s usually how it goes. In this case, you get better video streaming quality and more hotspot data from both AT&T and T-Mobile.

Also, we poked fun at AT&T’s warning that it might slow your data speeds at any time with the Unlimited &More plan earlier. That’s just how it is. Luckily, the Unlimited &More Premium plan gives you more breathing room—instead of slowing it at any time, it won’t slow your data until you’ve used 22 GB. (But that’s still not up to par with T-Mobile, which slows you after 50 GB.)

If you’re keen on watching videos on your cellphone, the AT&T Unlimited &More Premium plan is probably the better pick. T-Mobile ONE Plus gets up to 720p, but AT&T maxes out your resolution at 1080p. (Of course, you may not need 1080p resolution, since our eyes can’t tell the difference between full HD and a lower resolution on most screens.)

T-Mobile Essentials Plan Overview

T-Mobile Essentials
Price*Starts at $60/mo.
Data DeprioritizationSpeeds can be slowed at any time and can be slowed further if you use more than 50 GB/mo.
Video Streaming Quality480p
Mobile Hotspot Data3G
InternationalUnlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada plus 2G data; unlimited texting in 210+ locations
View Plans
Price*
T-Mobile EssentialsStarts at $60/mo.
Data Deprioritization
T-Mobile EssentialsSpeeds can be slowed at any time and can be slowed further if you use more than 50 GB/mo.
Video Streaming Quality
T-Mobile Essentials480p
Mobile Hotspot Data
T-Mobile Essentials3G
International
T-Mobile EssentialsUnlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada plus 2G data; unlimited texting in 210+ locations
T-Mobile EssentialsView Plans

* Price is for 1 line only and include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

If you need to add more than one line to your plan, those unlimited prices can get out of hand quickly.

T-Mobile’s newest unlimited plan, Essentials, is a compromise between cost and features. So if you’re not as worried about data deprioritization but want unlimited data to keep three young mobile gamers plus two adults happy, Essentials makes sense.

Main Differences Between T-Mobile Unlimited Plans

  • Essentials pricing doesn’t include taxes and fees, but ONE and ONE Plus pricing does include them.
  • Your data speed can be slowed anytime with Essentialsand it can be slowed further at 50 GB of data. ONE and ONE Plus don’t slow your data until you hit 50 GB.

Despite the lack of features, T-Mobile Essentials is a good plan if you’re not bothered by slower data speeds or the surprise addition of taxes and fees at the end of your purchase, and want the freedom of unlimited talk and text.

AT&T vs. T-Mobile: Family Plans

With three unlimited plans, why would T-Mobile need a family plan? We guess that’s what went through the head of someone over there because T-Mobile doesn’t have a family plan. Bummer, because family plans are often a great way to save money if you need more than two or three lines.

But, hey, AT&T does have family plans! And they can be a good deal if you don’t need unlimited data. Here’s what you get with AT&T’s Mobile Share Plus plans.

AT&T Mobile Share Plus Plans

AT&T Mobile Share Plus
Price*Starts at $50/mo.
Number of LinesUp to 5
Data Allowance3 GB or 9 GB
Data DeprioritizationSpeeds are slowed to 2G after you hit your GB limit
Video Streaming Quality480p
Mobile Hotspot3 GB or 9 GB of data, depending on plan
InternationalTalk, text, and data in Mexico
View Plans
Price*
AT&T Mobile Share PlusStarts at $50/mo.
Number of Lines
AT&T Mobile Share PlusUp to 5
Data Allowance
AT&T Mobile Share Plus3 GB or 9 GB
Data Deprioritization
AT&T Mobile Share PlusSpeeds are slowed to 2G after you hit your GB limit
Video Streaming Quality
AT&T Mobile Share Plus480p
Mobile Hotspot
AT&T Mobile Share Plus3 GB or 9 GB of data, depending on plan
International
AT&T Mobile Share PlusTalk, text, and data in Mexico
AT&T Mobile Share PlusView Plans

* Prices shown include autopay, paperless billing, and multi-line discounts where applicable. Taxes and fees not included.

When you don’t have an unlimited plan, you have to mind the data cap. With AT&T, you’ll share 3 GB or 9 GB with everyone else on the same plan. So, go easy on downloading all those mobile games when you’re not on Wi-Fi, ok?

Another difference between the AT&T Mobile Share Plus plan and the AT&T unlimited plans is the line access fee. We’ll get more into the not-so-great details below—hold onto your seats.

AT&T Mobile Share Plus Plan Line Access Fees

DeviceLine Access Fee
Tablets, Connected Car, and Cameras$20/mo.
Laptops, Netbooks, and Hotspots$20/mo.
Wearables$10/mo.
Owned Phone$20/mo.
Leased Phone*$40/mo.

* A phone purchased on a monthly device payment plan.

What even is this? No, really. We’re as dumbfounded as you are because line access fees just don’t make sense. Shouldn’t this be covered in our normal plan payment? You’d think so.

Real talk: You shouldn’t be too alarmed by line access fees (however unjust they are) because they’re tacked on by pretty much every cellphone provider out there. But at the same time, maybe we all should be alarmed because what the heck are they charging us for anyway?

Coverage and Availability

T-Mobile vs. AT&T: Coverage Map

t mobile coverage map

Source: T-Mobile

AT&T Wireless Coverage Map

Source: attsavings.com

T-Mobile vs. AT&T: Coverage Scores

RootMetrics Score: 4th

OpenSignal Score: 1st

RootMetrics Score: 2nd

OpenSignal Score: 3rd

If you average the scores from both RootMetrics and OpenSignal, T-Mobile and AT&T are about tied for coverage.

The drastic difference in T-Mobile’s score from RootMetrics and OpenSignal likely has to do with how its coverage was tested. Regardless, it’s safe to assume that both providers will have better coverage in urban areas. Sorry, rural folks.

T-Mobile vs. AT&T: Speed

RootMetrics Score: 3rd

Speedtest Score: 1st

OpenSignal Score: 1st

RootMetrics Score: 2nd

Speedtest Score: 3rd

OpenSignal Score: 3rd

When it comes to data speed, T-Mobile gets glowing marks from Speedtest and OpenSignal. But RootMetrics rated it third—just above Sprint and a close second to AT&T. Our money’s on T-Mobile for faster speeds, but AT&T is close behind.

AT&T vs. T-Mobile: Phones and Devices

As far as cellphones go, both AT&T and T-Mobile offer mostly the same models. That includes that new trio of iPhones, Samsung phones, and more.

AT&T Top Cellphones

  • iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone X, and more
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+, Note9, and more

T-Mobile Top Cellphones

  • iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone X, and more
  • Samsung Galaxy S9, Note9, and more

Google Pixel fans, don’t get too bummed out. While neither AT&T nor T-Mobile sells Pixels, you can grab an unlocked one elsewhere and bring it with you to either wireless provider. Nice.

T-Mobile vs. AT&T: Bundles and Extras

Sure, you’re signing up for a cellphone plan. But you wouldn’t say no to a few extras, would you? AT&T and T-Mobile didn’t think so.

AT&T Unlimited Plan Perks

Unlimited &MoreUnlimited &More Premium
WatchTV AppIncludedIncluded
Premium TV Channels/Music PerksNoneChoose one: HBO, CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, STARZ, VRV, Amazon Music, or Pandora
WatchTV App
Unlimited &MoreIncluded
Unlimited &More PremiumIncluded
Premium TV Channels/Music Perks
Unlimited &MoreNone
Unlimited &More PremiumChoose one: HBO, CINEMAX, SHOWTIME, STARZ, VRV, Amazon Music, or Pandora

Sign up for either of AT&T’s unlimited plans, and you’ll get access to its WatchTV app. That means you can scan through over thirty livestream channels and watch favorites like Fixer Upper on HGTV, or Adventure Time on Cartoon Network. Ah, Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia. Soak it in.

If you upgrade to the Unlimited &More Premium plan, AT&T will also toss in a premium TV channel or music perk. Bring on the Westworld or jam out to Drake—it’s your choice.

T-Mobile Unlimited Plan Extras

EssentialsONEONE Plus
NetflixNoYes, for plans with 2+ linesYes, for plans with 2+ lines
In-Flight Perks*NoIn-flight texts plus 1 hr. of dataIn-flight texts plus unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi
Netflix
EssentialsNo
ONEYes, for plans with 2+ lines
ONE PlusYes, for plans with 2+ lines
In-Flight Perks*
EssentialsNo
ONEIn-flight texts plus 1 hr. of data
ONE PlusIn-flight texts plus unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi

*On Gogo®-enabled flights.

Not to be outdone, T-Mobile offers a free standard Netflix subscription if your ONE or ONE Plus plan has two or more lines. Streaming Chill with Bob Ross and Black Mirror on T-Mobile? Yes, please.

And T-Mobile’s second set of perks is what makes it a favorite of frequent travelers. If your flight has Gogo® Wi-Fi, you get free in-flight texts and either one hour of Wi-Fi data or unlimited Wi-Fi data, depending on your plan. (P.S. You can see if your airline uses Gogo before takeoff.)

Our Verdict

This is a close one, and the winner really depends on what you’re looking for.

For families who don’t stream videos or play games on their cellphones, AT&T’s family plans are a good bet. But if you do love to watch TV and movies on your phone, you should still check out its unlimited plans for some stellar perks like the WatchTV app and access to premium TV channels.

If you find yourself on a plane a lot, T-Mobile’s unlimited plans can help you get comfortable—even if your seat-back is in the upright position. It gives you the gift of in-flight Wi-Fi and texting as well as some of the most extensive international calling and texting abilities we’ve seen. Even if you don’t travel a lot, its unlimited plans are some of the cheapest out there—and ONE and ONE Plus plans include taxes and fees in the price.

Want to know more?

What are T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s early termination fees (ETFs)?

Is it time to pull an NSYNC and say “bye, bye, bye” to your cellphone plan? Go for it. Just be aware you may end up paying an ETF. (Breakups are messy.)

T-Mobile Return and Early Termination Policy

  • Returned/exchanged within 14 days after purchase: up to $75 restocking fee
  • Returned/exchanged more than 15 days after purchase: no credit on your purchase price, plus any charges made to your account before cancellation
  • Read the full T-Mobile return policy here.

AT&T Return and Early Termination Policy

  • Returned/exchanged within 14 days after purchase: up to $45 restocking fee
  • Returned/exchanged more than 15 days after purchase: up to $325 early termination fee
  • Read the full AT&T return policy here.

Can I bring my own phone to AT&T or T-Mobile?

You can definitely bring your own phone to AT&T or T-Mobile—they both run on the Global System for Mobile (GSM) network, so that makes things a little easier.

Still, we recommend checking your phone’s compatibility before you fully commit. You can do this by checking out each carrier’s bring-your-own-device policy.

Can I keep my phone number if I switch to T-Mobile or AT&T?

Technically, your current wireless provider can’t keep you from carrying your phone number over to your new carrier. But your new wireless provider doesn’t have to let you keep your old number, so it’s best to ask before you sign a contract.

About the Author

After earning a degree in journalism at the University of Minnesota, Catherine McNally has been writing professionally for 10+ years. After falling head over heels into the black hole that is the internet in 1998, she taught herself to code websites and build computers. She has a soft spot for gadgets that make life easier (hello, Roomba!) and loves RPGs and MMOs. #PCMasterRace

Back to top

This site is a U.S. Consumer site. You can learn more about our site and privacy policy here.

Share This