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Everything you need to know about AT&T Wireless


Jul 27, 2020 — 6 min read

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  • AT&T has the best text performance of any major carrier
  • AT&T offers many phones for free for new customers, but you can also go prepaid if you’re afraid of exceeding data and/or call maximums
  • Download speed experience is rated higher than all competitors
  • Customer support is rated lower than Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and Spectrum

AT&T Wireless pricing

AT&T offers really affordable options and is great for a budget-conscious consumer, but if you like to be spoiled for choice you may prefer another carrier. 

AT&T has more than 153 million customers in the U.S., making it one of the biggest and most competitive providers in the country. There are three wireless plans to choose from, fewer than some other carriers, but the prices are quite impressive. Unlimited data plans start at just $65/mo. for one line. 

As with other carriers, AT&T drops prices per line as you add more lines to your wireless plan. For instance, while you’ll pay $65/mo. for a single line on the Unlimited Starter plan, you’ll pay just $35/mo. for four lines on the same plan. There are also additional discounts for nurses, teachers, first responders and new customers. 

AT&T has just three mobile plans available, which is fewer than some competitors, but the phones are also significantly more affordable (especially for new customers). In some cases, the price of a new iPhone is half the price for new AT&T customers than you’d pay at Verizon. 

The average prices of an unlimited AT&T plan is $75 for a single line and $67 per line for two lines.

In addition to their Unlimited Starter Plan, you can also choose from the Unlimited Extra and Unlimited Elite Plans. Unlimited Extra adds features like a 15GB mobile hotspot and 5G access, while Unlimited Elite includes unlimited international texting and free streaming services.

AT&T promotions and deals

AT&T offers free HBO Max and trade-in discounts, but the number of free phones is limited when compared to other carriers.

Discounted phones with trade-in

You can score some steep discounts with AT&T when you trade in another smart device. Unlike other carriers, AT&T even offers you some of the newest smartphones as a part of their trade-in program. Some of the phone discounts that AT&T offers for trade include:

  • iPhone Pro Max ($1,000 off)
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G ($1,200 off)
  • $400 off other approved devices from iPhone, Samsung or LG

New phones when you switch

AT&T also offers free devices on credit-approved new accounts or additional lines. Keep in mind that you won’t necessarily get the latest model smartphone — which is a standard practice with most carriers — but you can save hundreds of dollars by scoring a free device. Here are some the devices AT&T is currently offering for free with a new contract if you switch to one of their unlimited plans:

  • Samsung Galaxy A11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone SE
  • LG K40

Free HBO Max

HBO Max is included in all Unlimited Elite plans, even if you just have a single line on a compatible device. The deal is offered to new AT&T customers and existing customer plan upgrades. You are responsible for creating your own account on the HBO Max app, and you will lose service if you cancel your AT&T mobile plan. 

Discounts for teachers, nurses, physicians, military and first responders

Certain professionals also receive discounts with proof of eligibility. Approved applicants can get a single Unlimited Elite phone line for $37.50/mo. (compared to the regular price of $50/mo.). Discounts apply to all tiers of service. Eligibility may be confirmed through paystubs, official ID and other approved documents. Credits appear within three months of signing up for service. 

Visa® Reward Cards

Some phone purchases with AT&T reward you with a Visa card that can be used wherever Visa payments are accepted. You must order an eligible phone online or add a new phone line to qualify. AT&T currently offers a $150 Visa Reward Card promotion for iPhone XR and Samsung Galaxy S10e phones, and gift cards are delivered within four weeks of purchase. 

How do AT&T’s cellphone prices compare?

AT&T offers a wide array of cellphones to new customers, and their prices are more competitive than other major carriers. The Google Pixel 4, for instance, retails at just $150 for new AT&T customers — compared to $800 at Verizon or Sprint. 

The average price of a new phone from AT&T is about $200 cheaper than the average cost of a new phone from other major carriers.

Most available phones, including iPhones, are sold below sticker price for new customers or additional lines. Available phones include iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, LG G8 and Google Pixel models. 

AT&T Wireless coverage and speed

Verizon may be the leader for its coverage area, but AT&T takes the prize for download speeds and is competitive in nearly all other categories.

AT&T is the Download Speed Experience leader, according to OpenSignal, who noted that AT&T’s network saw their download speeds increase 22% from 22.5 Mbps to 27.5 Mbps in just a year. OpenSignal rates the company as tied in first place with T-Mobile in the first ever Voice App Experience Award. 

RootMetrics puts AT&T in second place behind Verizon for overall performance among the major mobile providers, and first place in text performance. J.D. Power ranks AT&T about average in terms of quality performance in every US region. 

Unfortunately, AT&T does not fare well over at Consumer Reports, where it has a Poor rating. Why is the difference between Consumer Reports’ evaluation and everyone else’s? Consumer Reports is based entirely off their readers’ responses, while OpenSignal, RootMetrics and J.D. Power do their own testing and analysis. These differing methodologies leave room for some discrepancies between technical performance and customer experience. 

How is AT&T’s 5G network?

AT&T offers 5G network access for both consumers and businesses in 47 states. The company continues to expand the number of cities where the faster network speeds are available to customers. 

AT&T 5G was rated Best Network based on GWS OneScore in September 2019, but OpenSignal notes that the company does not have the fastest speeds because it primarily relies on low-band spectrum that was repurposed from 4G service. However, this still offers good coverage and 850Mhz capabilities for AT&T customers on the network. 

How does AT&T compare to other wireless providers?

AT&T is generally very affordable with decent coverage, but you may sacrifice some customer satisfaction for the price drop.

You won’t find better deals than AT&T with most competitors, and HBO Max might be an appealing lure for those who want to cut their cable costs (or go full streaming). You’ll pay well below sticker price for the most popular devices, including the iPhone. 

However, customer satisfaction with AT&T yields mixed results. The company received a 74/100 in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (on par with Verizon and better than Sprint), but (as mentioned above) it has a Poor rating with Consumer Affairs.

AT&T received 793/1,000 from J.D. Power’s survey of customers who have called the company in the last three months (the average score is 805). 

AT&T wireless customer service

AT&T Wireless FAQs

How do AT&T upgrades work?

If you purchase an AT&T phone using an installment plan with Next Up℠, you can upgrade your phone after you’ve paid 50%. You must turn in your previous device to qualify. 

Can I bring my phone number to AT&T?

Yes. You can bring your phone number to AT&T. The company requires you to provide your name and other verifying details about your current account, your current mobile account number and you will need to get an AT&T SIM if you’re transferring from another carrier. Your number should port over within three hours. 

Is AT&T available in my area?

AT&T Wireless is available in all 50 states. Their coverage map makes it easier to see if you will have solid coverage where you live. You can also enter an exact address on the map for more detailed information. 

Can I return a phone to AT&T if I don’t like it?

You can return your phone for a full refund within 14 days of purchase, but you may have to pay a restocking fee up to $55. Apple devices will have the restocking fee waived if the box is unopened.

Should you switch to AT&T Wireless?

If you’re on a budget and enjoy frequent phone upgrades, AT&T may be the best option in your quest for a mobile carrier. You’ll score serious deals as a new customer and save over major competitors when you add a new line. 

For customers who frequently find themselves calling their carrier for assistance or who need faster 5G, Verizon or T-Mobile may be the right choice. 

By Lara Vukelich