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AT&T vs T-Mobile: Which carrier is better for you?

It's time to see whether Big Blue or the Un-Carrier has your perfect plan.
By

Published onMarch 8, 2024

T Mobile logo at MWC

AT&T has played second fiddle to Verizon for a while now, and T-Mobile is steadily making up ground. The Magenta carrier continues to add new plans and changes in hopes of racking up subscribers, but is it working? If so, should you make the swap? Let’s place AT&T vs T-Mobile on center stage to see which carrier is right for you.

Let’s start by taking a look at a chart that shows how plans, pricing, data, and perks compare. From there, we’ll break down each section and give you a little more insight into the differences.

PlansCostDataHotspot accessInternational accessPerks and extras
Plans
AT&T Unlimited Starter SL
Cost
$66 for one line
$61 for two lines
$46 for three lines
$36 for four lines
Data
Unlimited basic 4G/5G
Hotspot access
5GB of 4G/5G
International access
Unlimited texting to 120 countries
Perks and extras
Device security and spam risk alerts
Standard definition streaming
Plans
AT&T Unlimited Extra EL
Cost
$76 for one line
$66 for two lines
$501 for three lines
$41 for four lines
Data
Unlimited 4G/5G
75GB premium data
Hotspot access
30GB of 4G/5G
International access
Unlimited texting to 120 countries
Perks and extras
Device security and spam risk alerts
Standard definition streaming
Plans
AT&T Unlimited Premium PL
Cost
$86 for one line
$76 for two lines
$61 for three lines
$51 for four lines
Data
Unlimited 4G/5G
Unlimited premium data
Hotspot access
60GB of 4G/5G
International access
Unlimited texting to 120 countries
Perks and extras
Device security and spam risk alerts
High definition streaming
Plans
T-Mobile Essentials Saver
Cost
$50 for one line

Data
Unlimited 4G/5G
50GB premium data
Hotspot access
Unlimited 3G
International access
Unlimted text in 215+ contries
Unlimted talk/text in Canada/Mexico, just 128Kbps data
Perks and extras
480p streaming
Plans
T-Mobile Essentials
Cost
$60 for one line
$45 for two lines
$30 for three lines
$26 for four lines
Data
Unlimited 4G/5G
50GB premium data
Hotspot access
Unlimited 3G
International access
Unlimted text in 215+ contries
Unlimted talk/text in Canada/Mexico, just 128Kbps data
Perks and extras
480p streaming
Plans
T-Mobile Go5G Plus
Cost
$90 for one line
$75 for two lines
$50 for three lines
$46 for four lines
Data
Unlimited 4G/5G
100GB premium data
Hotspot access
50GB 45/5G hotspot access
Unlimited 3G speeds
International access
5GB of data and unlimited talk text in over 215+ countries
15GB of data and unlimited talk/text in Mexico/Canada
Perks and extras
Full flight texting and Wi-Fi
Full flight texting and Wi-Fi
Up to 4K streaming
Netflix Standard for 2 screeens
Apple TV Plus
1-Year AAA membership
Next in Two upgrade program
Plans
T-Mobile Go5G Next
Cost
$100 for one line
$85 for two lines
$60 for three lines
$56 for four lines
Data
Unlimited 4G/5G
100GB premium data
Hotspot access
15GB 45/5G hotspot access
Unlimited 3G speeds
International access
5GB of data and unlimited talk text in over 215+ countries
15GB of data and unlimited talk/text in Mexico/Canada
Perks and extras
4 full-flight sessions
Netflix Basic
Apple TV+ 6-months
480p streaming

AT&T vs T-Mobile — Pricing

ATT logo stock image 2

The easiest place to start any comparison is with pricing. T-Mobile has the cheapest starting rates with its one-line Essentials Saver starting at $50, versus $66 for one line of AT&T Unlimited Starter SL. Even as you add more lines or are considering one of the more expensive plans, you’ll find that T-Mobile remains cheaper for most tiers. It is worth noting that T-Mobile does have a more expensive plan called Go5G Next that starts at $100 or as low as $56 per line for four lines, but this has extra perks like faster upgrades that set it apart from any of AT&T’s plans.

AT&T vs T-Mobile — Coverage

Both AT&T and T-Mobile are pushing their 5G rollouts as fast as they can. The carriers continue to fire up new towers every week, but T-Mobile still appears to have an advantage. Unfortunately, the 5G race hasn’t reached all corners of the United States yet, so it’s easier to compare the 4G LTE access.

This comparison used to consist of a few percentages for each carrier and some vague maps, but now the FCC is stepping up to give consumers better information. We’ve created a sliding comparison of both AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s LTE maps above, or you can head on over to the interactive page to check out your neck of the woods. The government hasn’t gotten around to a standardized 5G map quite yet, which means that we’ll have to rely on percentages for now. According to WhistleOut, T-Mobile leads the charge with 37% 5G coverage compared to a measly 16% coverage for AT&T.

Check out the carrier maps: AT&T | T-Mobile

AT&T vs T-Mobile — Perks and promos

amazon fire 7 2022 netflix

Reliable coverage should be your primary concern when it comes to a mobile carrier, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The truth is that most major carriers offer similar services in many areas, so they have to do more to stand out. This is where streaming perks and discounts come in.

Unfortunately, AT&T has moved away from offering perks recently. Meanwhile, T-Mobile continues to embrace it.

Over at T-Mobile, your best bet for a streaming perk is to sign up for Magenta, Go5G, Go5G Plus, or Magenta Max. All four plans offer a Netflix subscription, though it depends on how many lines you sign up for. If you choose Magenta or Go5G, you’ll need two lines on your account to get a single screen of Netflix Basic. You only need one line of Magenta Max or Go5G Plus to get Netflix Basic, but a second line grants you Netflix Standard instead. Apple TV is also included in the latter two plans, while the former two just give you a six-month trial.

Both carriers love a good discount. You’ll probably have to trade in your current device for the best bargains, but AT&T is offering up to $800 off the iPhone 14 for both new and existing customers. T-Mobile has a similar deal going on, so you can get the Apple flagship for free on two of America’s largest networks. The Magenta network also has several buy one, get one deals you can sink your teeth into if you’re upgrading your whole family. AT&T, on the other hand, leans more toward budget phones that don’t require trade-ins.

Right now, T-Mobile might have an advantage if you’re hoping to bring your own phone. The Un-Carrier is currently offering up to $800 in rebates when you pay off your bill and upload proof to your account. It’s only valid on select Google, Samsung, and Apple devices, but those tend to carry the highest costs anyway.

Looking for more deals? Check out our guides to the best AT&T deals and best T-Mobile deals.

AT&T vs T-Mobile — Phone selections

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Green Holding S Pen

Both T-Mobile and AT&T are considered GSM carriers, which means they operate on a slightly newer framework. The shared framework also means that both support nearly the same list of devices, including more options than rival Verizon can handle. One of the few major differences is that T-Mobile offers the OnePlus 10 Pro without any extra hoops to jump through. If you want either device on AT&T, you’ll have to buy from a third party.

Outside of T-Mobile’s relationship with OnePlus, the other devices are generally the same. You can tap into the latest Galaxy S23 series, Apple’s iPhone 14 range, and even the latest Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 if you have the money for them. AT&T and T-Mobile also offer a few budget-friendly phones, but they don’t always come with the same deals.

Which carrier is right for you?

File photo of SIM cards.

We’ve run through all of the major differences between AT&T and T-Mobile, and now it’s time for the million-dollar question. Is one carrier actually better for you than the other? Well, it depends on your needs. You should first check on your local coverage options to see if either option has a stronger presence in your area. If so, that should help to guide your choice. However, if the options are a wash, it’s time to move on to pricing. You can prioritize savings with T-Mobile, or you can go for AT&T. It costs more, but you’ll get more perks as well.

Ultimately, you might conclude that neither AT&T nor T-Mobile is your perfect match, and that’s alright too. You can certainly consider going the Verizon route. We also recommend checking out our guide to the best prepaid plans, as you might find something that is suited for you there as well.