Tello Review

5 Things to Know Before You Sign Up for Tello Mobile

Tello Mobile is one of the cheapest cell phone service providers in America, but do you get what you pay for? 

I first tested Tello in 2019, but I decided to give it another look in 2021. 

Tello Mobile Review From a Real Customer

  • What is Tello Mobile?: Tello is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that offers prepaid cell phone plans with no contracts or hidden fees. 
  • What towers does Tello use?: As an MVNO, Tello Mobile doesn’t own and operate any cell phone towers. It partners with T-Mobile to offer 5G and 4G LTE service. 
  • How much is unlimited data on Tello Mobile?: The regular price for Tello’s unlimited plan (25GB high-speed) is $39 a month for a single line, but the service regularly offers a discount for new customers.
  • Can I bring my phone to Tello?: If your phone is unlocked and GSM-compatible, you can likely bring it to Tello. Check compatibility here.
  • Does Tello Mobile have phone customer service?: Tello offers customer support by phone, chat, email and through its online help center. There are no retail locations. 

So much has changed since I first tested Tello several years ago and wrote a review for Clark Howard’s website. 

For example, Tello runs on an entirely different wireless network.

In this article, I’ll provide you with an updated review of Tello’s plans, performance, customer service and more.

Keep reading for the five things to know before you sign up for Tello Mobile! 


Table of Contents:


1. Plans and Pricing

Tello Mobile lets you choose from a ready-made plan or customize a plan to have more control over your monthly bill. 

At the time of this writing, Tello offered four ready-made deals: 

All of these plans include unlimited talk and texting. You can then choose how much high-speed data you want to pay for. 

For example: The plan with 1GB of data is $10 a month, while unlimited data (25GB high-speed) is $39 a month. 

Don’t like any of the ready-made plans? Customizable plans start at $5 a month.

If you run out of high-speed data, your data won’t stop altogether. It will be slowed to 2G speeds for the rest of the billing cycle.

To add fast data, you have two options:

  1. Upgrade to a new plan with no penalty
  2. Purchase Pay As You Go credit starting at $20

Tello frequently has new customer deals available. At the time of this writing, the company offered 25% off the first six months of service

Tello says it doesn’t charge extra fees, but some taxes are added to the bill. From my experience, the taxes are minimal. 

For example, I paid $14.30 for my monthly plan and only 37 cents in taxes. 

Although Tello is a prepaid service with no contracts, your plan renews automatically every 30 days unless you cancel at least 24 hours in advance. 

You can cancel at any time by logging in to your account from Tello’s website

2. Network Coverage

Tello Mobile runs on T-Mobile’s network and includes 5G access for some customers.

This is a change for Tello. Prior to the merger of T-Mobile and Sprint, Tello provided service using Sprint’s network. Check Tello’s coverage map here.

During my month-long test, I experienced zero dropped calls and zero missing text messages using Tello’s service. 

The audio was slightly muffled on my end compared to my main provider, Verizon-owned Visible. However, everyone I spoke to rated Tello’s call quality as excellent. 

(I have two Apple iPhone 12 devices: one for my main provider and one for testing.)

Tello’s data speeds have improved since I last tried out the service. Download speeds averaged 40 Mbps from the 20 tests that I conducted.

See the results of the speed tests below or click here to skip past the chart: 

DateDownload MbpsUpload MbpsPing
8/26/21
5:12 PM
18.40.0830
8/27/21
3:58 PM
28.80.79 28
8/27/21
7:02 PM
25.71.1620
8/29/21
2:53 PM
15.30.07 67
8/30/21
10:23 AM
39.20.9731
8/30/21
9:00 PM
64.21.3732
8/31/21
9:00 PM
72.6 4.8038
9/3/21
9:10 AM
57.21.3433
9/3/21
10:46 AM
36.20.5333
9/5/21
9:34 PM
44.05.57 30
9/9/21
5:37 PM
19.60.5233
9/9/21
7:02 PM
47.0 1.9735
9/11/21
8:48 AM
92.84.0066
9/12/21
12:09 PM
30.84.8861
9/13/21
11:15 AM
55.11.5326
9/13/21
8:41 AM
49.32.7034
9/15/21
4:04 PM
34.10.9640
9/16/21
7:51 PM
28.41.27 32
9/20/21
8:02 AM
16.10.8938
09/21/21
10:51 AM
32.7 0.82 31

IMPORTANT: Although Tello Mobile includes 5G access, it was limited to Android users at the time of my review. I only had 4G LTE data on my iPhone.

Even without 5G, Tello’s speeds were more than adequate for my needs. 

During my previous review of Tello in 2019, I remember using Google Maps while driving in an unfamiliar area and losing data completely. 

Thankfully, my cellular data was always usable this time around. 

3. Additional Features 

Tello Mobile includes some international features that other low-cost providers don’t. With Tello, plans include calls and texts to more than 60 countries.

Wi-Fi calling and texting capabilities are also available with most compatible devices. 

Another option is to make calls over Wi-Fi from the My Tello app, which is available to download for iOS and Android users.

I was able to make a test call from the My Tello app without a problem. 

My Tello App screenshots


Wi-Fi calling comes in handy when you’re traveling overseas or when you’re in a remote area where cellular coverage is not available. 

Finally, Tello plans include mobile hotspot at no additional charge. 

I connected a computer to my Tello mobile hotspot and recorded a download speed of 13 Mbps, which was fast enough to view YouTube videos without buffering.

Mobile hotspot data comes out of your monthly balance, so monitor usage from the My Tello app.

4. Phone Options

Tello Mobile lets you bring your own phone or purchase a new one, but the selection of devices for sale is underwhelming.

At the time of this writing, Tello sold fewer than 15 phone models. 

Tello phones for sale, new and refurbished

When I reviewed Tello’s website, most of the new and refurbished phones available for sale were affordable — more than half under $200. 

The list included Apple and Samsung devices, but not the latest models.

For those reasons, most Tello customers will want to bring a device to the service. To do so, it must be unlocked and compatible

You can check your phone’s compatibility on Tello’s website.

If you’re purchasing a new phone to bring to Tello or any other service, Amazon and eBay are two places where you can find deals.

Like all services, you can keep your existing phone number if you want to. 

5. Customer Service

Tello Mobile has no retail locations. The three primary ways to get customer support are by phone, chat and email. 

Tello is known for its solid customer service, including 24/7 support by phone. 

When I previously tested Tello back in 2019, my call to the company’s customer service number went to voicemail.

During my latest 30-day test, someone always picked up. 

I reached out to Tello three times to ask why I was unable to connect to 5G with my iPhone 12. Unfortunately, I got three different answers: 

  1. The towers near my test location are under maintenance.
  2. Tello uses non-standalone 5G, which still relies on the existing 4G LTE network.
  3. 5G is not available on iPhones yet.

All three answers could be true, but the third is the one that I would have liked to know about first so that I could have stopped troubleshooting.

As I later discovered, the 5G limitation is mentioned on Tello’s website:

5G on Tello limitation

Getting started is probably the biggest mental roadblock for most people, but Tello’s online setup instructions are simple and easy to follow. 

Activating service with Tello took me about 10 minutes from start to finish. 

If you’re transferring your number to Tello, it could be longer. The company says the port-in process takes anywhere from two hours to two days.

Tello walks you through the steps to transfer your number in this article.  

Pros and Cons Summary

Tello Mobile’s cheap phone plans are best for people who don’t use a lot of data.

If you want an unlimited plan from a low-cost provider, consider Mint Mobile on T-Mobile’s network or Visible on Verizon’s network.

Here are the pros and cons from my latest review of Tello: 

ProsCons
Affordable basic plans with fixed dataUnlimited plan is limited: 25GB of high-speed data 
International featuresNot the fastest data speeds 
Mobile hotspot usage included Plans renew automatically
Phone customer service available Few phones available for sale 

Learn more about Tello Mobile and compare its plans here. And if you’ve tried Tello, add to my review in the comments below! 


More Phone Plan Reviews From Michael Saves:

3 thoughts on “5 Things to Know Before You Sign Up for Tello Mobile”

  1. An important thing to know if considering using Tello is this very really weird and inconvenient Tello “rule”: If you allow your monthly plan to AUTOMATICALLY renew (which it does every 30 days unless cancelled or changed 24 hrs prior), whatever minutes and data you have remaining from the previous month will be lost, they will NOT roll over (texting is always free). However, if you go online, log onto your account, and MANUALLY renew (or change) your plan 24 hrs before the current plan expires, your remaining minutes and data WILL carry over to the next month, whether you renew your current plan or choose a new plan. As long as the new plan has the same features as your current plan, they will roll over to the next month. (EXAMPLE: If your current plan has minutes and data (and free texting), the new plan must also have minutes and data (texting is always free). If you choose a new plan that only has minutes but no data, the leftover minutes will carry over, but any leftover data will be lost, and vice versa. The renewal takes affect immediately, not on the date of current plan’s expiration. So, when you renew 24 hrs before current expiration date, your new expiration date will be 30 days from the date you manually renewed. Basically, you lose a day every month, but, when you compare that to losing all your leftover data and minutes, one lost day doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
    SO, you must manually renew 24 hrs before your current plan expires in order to have unused minutes and data roll over, BUT you must not renew TOO early, meaning not too much earlier than 24 hrs prior to your plan’s expiration date! You can’t just do it any time you think of it, like a week ahead, for example. If you renew too early, too many times, you’ll lose all built up data and minutes, and other perks you’ve received will be forfeited. How early is too early?—- 48 hrs, 36 hrs, 72 hrs? I have no idea since it’s not specifically stated in any Tello documentation (only states not “too early”), and I’ve always been within an hr or two of the 24 hrs prior to my plan’s expiration date. I also don’t know what perks will be lost since I don’t know what, if any, perks I have, nor do I have a clue as to why such a whacked-out rule is in place!! It makes no sense and is a HUGE inconvenience! Only thing I can say is it’s a good thing Tello is so cheap and, in my case, is one of the very few MVNO carriers who provide reliable service in my rural area AND accepts my particular phone, which I do not want to give up. Otherwise, I’d have left Tello after the first month for this one reason alone. It’s a weird “rule”, it’s dumb, it’s inconvenient, bothersome and beyond logic and understanding. Nevertheless, as of this date (4/13/22), it’s still in place. I know that for a fact since I just renewed my $6/month plan today; tomorrow is the expiration date. PHEW!

  2. PS – Regarding my comment on tello, I should have noted that I am talking about tello’s pay-as-you-go (customizable) plans, not their more “traditional” monthly plans. Tello’s customizable pay-as-you-go plans can be had for as little as $5/month + a minimal tax. That’s SUPER if you’re not a heavy cell user (which I’m not) AND if you manually renew every month so you can roll over remaining minutes/talk and data (texting is always free on pay-as-you-go plans). My monthly plan is $6.00 + $.91 tax for a total of $6.91/month. You only get 500 MB of data & 300 minutes of talk for that amount, BUT, as long as I remember to manually renew every month, I can roll over, keep and use all my remaining talk and data from month to month. For my low usage, that service is plenty good enough for me, and at a price that none of tello’s competitors match, much less beat, at least not that I’m aware.

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