Tello Mobile: what is it, and is it worth it?

Tello branded sim card on blue background
(Image credit: Future)

For cheap cell phone bills, Tello Mobile is definitely one of the top choices on the prepaid market right now. Of course, there are tons of great options out there. The prepaid market is, after all, absolutely flooded with companies vying for market share, but Tello definitely stands out when it comes to value. With plans as low as $5 a month, Tello is easily positioned as one of the cheapest options overall currently, and, if you're looking for a quick introduction, we've got all the information right here on this page.

Firstly, we're breaking down how much you'll be paying per month should you go with Tello and also giving our two cents on which Tello plan is best for you. We're also laying out the key facts around coverage and networks, plus what existing user have said about Tello on customer review sites. We've also included some good alternative options courtesy of our cheap cell phone plans buyers guide, should you want to compare Tello to what else is on the market currently. Consider what Tello promo codes are currently available too for extra savings. So, read on for a quick overview of Tello as a service, or simply use the navigation link to skip onwards to the section that's most relevant to you. 

Tello 101

In a nutshell: what is Tello?

  • Tello is a prepaid cell phone service (MVNO)
  • It currently operates on the T-Mobile network and Sprint network
  • It historically used Sprint only, but that's being phased out now
  • It specializes in offering basic plans for extremely competitive prices
  • Plan prices range from $5 a month to $39 a month
  • Also features great options for designing your own plan

How much does Tello cost?

Tello Economy | 1GB data | Unl. talk & text | $9/month

Tello Economy | <a href="https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-6361382-12769247?sid=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https://tello.com/buy/custom_plans" data-link-merchant="tello.com"" target="_blank">1GB data | Unl. talk & text | $9/month
Tello’s cheapest ‘ready-made’ plan is its Economy plan - which comes in at a super-low cost of just $9 a month while offering 1GB of data, unlimited minutes and texts. This is easily one of the cheapest pay-monthly plans on the market, but it’s worth noting that 1GB of 5G doesn’t go far at all, so really bear that in mind. 

Tello Value | 2GB data | Unl. talk &amp; text | $10/month

Tello Value | <a href="https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-6361382-12769247?sid=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https://tello.com/buy/custom_plans" data-link-merchant="tello.com"" target="_blank">2GB data | Unl. talk & text | $10/month
For a little bit more each month you can bump up to the Tello value plan - which comes with 2GB of data per month. Again, that’s not much data, but it’ll definitely last longer than the Economy plan and makes this one a good option if you mostly use a WiFi connection but would like a little bit of data each month just in case. This particular plan used to be $14 per month before Tello's recent price cuts, which means you're getting a really good deal here for the basics. 

Tello Smart | 5GB data | Unl. talk &amp; text | $14/month

Tello Smart | <a href="https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-6361382-12769247?sid=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https://tello.com/buy/custom_plans" data-link-merchant="tello.com"" target="_blank">5GB data | Unl. talk & text | $14/month
The final Tello plan with a strict monthly data allowance is the Smart plan, which comes with 5GB each month. That’s a pretty good amount if you’re going to be messaging a lot, browsing, or shopping with your device. If you’re going to stream video or music, however, then we’d probably recommend bumping up your allowance a bit further. This particular plan used to be $19 per month and feature 5G of data so your money goes a lot further now. 

Tello Data | Unlimited data | Unl. talk &amp; text | $25/month

Tello Data | <a href="https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-6361382-12769247?sid=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https://tello.com/buy/custom_plans" data-link-merchant="tello.com"" target="_blank">Unlimited data | Unl. talk & text | $25/month
Tello's unlimited data plan has recently received a hefty price cut - going from $39 per month to just $25. On top of that, the monthly 5G data allowance has been bumped up from 25GB of data to 35GB, which makes it one of the most competitive prepaid unlimited plans on the market right now. While it's a little pricier than the set-data monthly options at Tello, this unlimited plan is a fantastic choice if you're a heavy data user. 

Image

Design your own plan | <a href="https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-6361382-12769247?sid=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https://tello.com/buy/custom_plans" data-link-merchant="tello.com"">0 to Unl. data | 0 to Unl. talk & text | $5 to $25 /month
The above Tello plans not fitting your requirements? Luckily one of the main selling points of Tello is that it actually allows you to customize a plan to exactly fit your needs. At the top of the Tello plans page is a slider you can use to set the amount of data, minutes, and texts you’ll need per month. If you’d like to alter your plan at any time then you can do so - the remaining balance will just simply roll over into the next month. 

Tello Pay-as-you-go | $20 minimum | 1c per minute &amp; text | 2c per MB of data

Tello Pay-as-you-go | <a href="https://www.anrdoezrs.net/click-6361382-12769247?sid=hawk-custom-tracking&url=https://tello.com/buy/pay_as_you_go" data-link-merchant="tello.com"">$20 minimum | 1c per minute & text | 2c per MB of data
Finally, there’s an option at Tello to throw away those monthly bills entirely with the company's Pay as you go SIM card. Simply put, you can pre-loaded SIM card with anything from $20 to $50 of credit at a time, which will only be charged when you actually use your device. Rates are currently 1 cent per minute of domestic call time or text, and 2 cents for every MB of data used. Note - credit expires after 3 months of inactivity. 

Is Tello any good?

Value for basic plans
The market is absolutely flooded with fantastic cheap cell phone plans right now but Tello still manages to stand out as one of the best value options. It’s particularly good if you simply want the basics - say a plan under 5GB data per month or under $20. Unlike some of the cheapest out there, Tello doesn’t hard cap your data either, so after your 5G data allowance is up each month you’ll simply be throttled down to 2G speeds rather than being completely out of data. 

Flexibility
One of the things we absolutely love about Tello is that you can literally tailor a cheap cell phone plan directly to your own needs. Don’t need much data but want to keep those unlimited minutes? That’s a completely viable option, as is a data-heavy plan without minutes, and you can also freely alter your plan each month if your needs change. 

What are the drawbacks to Tello?

Unlimited data value
In our opinion, when it comes to unlimited data options at Tello, there are slightly better prepaid phone plans options out there value-wise right now. Tello’s unlimited data plan comes in at $39 a month, which is cheaper than the big carriers, but definitely more expensive than competitors like Mint Mobile (as low as $30 a month), and Visible (as low as $25 a month). Tello’s 5G data allowance on its unlimited plan also caps out at 25GB per month, after which you’ll be reverted to 2G speeds. This isn’t quite as good as Mint’s allowance of 35GB per month, or Visible - which never caps out. 

No family plan options
Tello’s cheap cell phone plan options are fantastic for kids, but unfortunately there are no bespoke family options or discounts if you’re looking for a multiple line solution. It’s not a deal-breaker in our eyes because the name of the game here is very much single-line value, but fingers crossed in the future Tello will expand its excellent lineup of plans with even more great options.

Tello: FAQ

Tello review is it any good

(Image credit: Tello)

What network does Tello use?

Tello uses the T-Mobile network. Historically it has used the Sprint network, but since the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint all sub-carriers (MVNO’s) have been migrating their service over to T-Mobile’s 5G network. If you sign up now, you’ll be given a fully GSM-compatible SIM card, which will work with the vast majority of unlocked devices. If you’d like to see if your current phone is compatible, then you can find instructions on how to check on the Tello bring your own phone page. 

How is Tello so cheap?

Tello is an online-only carrier that doesn’t operate any physical stores or even the actual cellular network it uses. Like most smaller companies it essentially ‘rents out’ service from a bigger network - T-Mobile in this case. Put simply, with lower overheads comes bigger savings for Tello customers, although there are definitely trade-offs you should consider. 

Firstly, being an MVO (sub-carrier) means Tello is subject to what’s called ‘deprioritization’. This means its customers may experience slower data speeds when the local area is experiencing heavy traffic as T-Mobile will tend to prioritize its own customer service over sub-carriers. Secondly, not operating out of a physical store means you’ll have to resort to online and phone-only support should you get into trouble, although Tello does operate 24/7 customer support if you run into any issues.

Does Tello have 5G?

Yes, Tello does have 5G data speeds on all its plans, although once your monthly data allowance is up (35GB in the case of the unlimited plan) you’ll revert right down to 2G speeds. That’s enough to send and receive messages, maybe browse a few pages, but not much more, so bear that in mind.

What do customers say about Tello?

Trustpilot currently has over 7,400 customer Tello reviews, and, so far, it’s looking like feedback is generally really positive. The service maintains an average score of 4.6 out of 5, which is much, much higher than cellular carriers. T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon for example all maintain fairly abysmal scores of 1.4 stars, 1.3 stars, and 1.2 stars respectively. The only smaller carrier that we’ve found so far that manages to beat Tello in Trustpilot ratings is Red Pocket, which manages a whopping 4.4 stars out of 5. So, in a nutshell, it’s currently looking like customers are generally very satisfied with Tello as a whole, with affordability and flexibility being the main areas of praise. 

What other carriers should I consider?

As we’ve already briefly mentioned in this article, we consider Tello’s main competitors in the cheap prepaid phone plans market to be Mint Mobile and Visible Wireless. Mint is especially good if you’re perhaps looking for a bit more data than you’d normally find on a Tello plan but don’t quite want to go fully unlimited. You generally get a bit more data for your money with Mint Mobile, but it comes with the disadvantage of having to pay for a whole year's worth of service upfront at a time. Visible on the other hand is fantastic if you’re looking for a cheap unlimited prepaid plan as you can get monthly rates as low as $25 right now. That said, that monthly rate is only possible via the company's Party Pay feature, which means you’ll have to find three other Visible members to party up with to be eligible (you pay $40 a month otherwise).

Verdict: is Tello worth it?

Verdict: Is Tello worth it?

If you’re looking for a prepaid plan that’s really basic but also really cheap then we’d definitely recommend checking out Tello. We think the ‘Economy’ and ‘Value’ set-data plans are especially competitively priced versus the competition right now, and, even though we think Tello is challenged on value when it comes to the more data-heavy options (especially by Mint), the ‘design-your-own’ feature is a great consumer friendly option. 

Alex Whitelock
Deals Editor

Alex is deals editor at TechRadar. With over three years of experience on-site and eight years working in e-commerce, Alex has made it his personal mission to share all his favorite tips, bargains, and deals with our readers here at TechRadar. At work, he specializes in computing, phones, and covering huge sales events like Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day. Outside of work, you'll find him indulging his keen love of photography and PC gaming, or down at the local climbing gym hanging off boulders far too difficult for his abilities. His editorial bylines also include contributions to T3 and GamesRadar.