In a Nutshell
- It’s really cheap
- No contracts
- Strong customer approval ratings
- Limited amount of high-speed data
- Data slows down to 2G after monthly limit is exceeded
- Tello doesn’t sell the latest devices
Tello at a Glance
Best for: Cheap, bare-bones phone plan
Price: $5 - $39 per month per line
Plan: Free text plus your choice of minutes and data
Use your own phone: Yes
What Services and Features Does Tello Offer
Tello doesn’t offer much in the way of features or add-ons, but this is by design. Its target audience is people who want a phone without having their provider try to upsell them on things they don’t need. The one benefit to Tello – and it’s a big one if you’re looking to save on your phone bill – is that it’s cheaper than everyone else and doesn’t require any commitments.
- No contract
- Upgrade or downgrade your plan anytime with no extra fees
- Free calls to Canada, Mexico, China and Romania included in every plan
- Turn your smartphone into a hotspot with free tethering (requires a cable)
Prices, Plans and Value for Money
Tello lets you choose how much data you want and how many minutes you want, and calculates the price based on the combination of the two. Texts are always unlimited. There are never any overage charges; if you exceed your data limit, your data speed will slow down from the usual 5G / 4G LTE speed to 2G.
Minutes can be used on phone calls in the U.S. as well as to phone numbers in Canada, Mexico, China, and Romania. All other destinations are charged on a per-minute basis, e.g. United Kingdom, 0.7c/minute, Nigeria, 9.9c/min, and Philippines, 13.9c/min. See the Tello site for a breakdown of all overseas calling rates.
As cheap as Tello’s plans are, it is possible to get them even cheaper if you subscribe at the right time. For example, when we last checked in, Tello was promising half-price for the first three months to all new subscribers.
Tello’s family plans don’t include any discounts, but they do offer the flexibility of being able to choose different plans for each family member and pay for everyone in a single bill.
Signing up for Tello is as easy as can be. First, you’ll need to open a new account, build your plan, and decide if you wish to bring your own phone or buy a new one from Tello. After confirming your subscription, Tello will send you your new SIM card(s) and device(s) with free shipping. It takes only a few minutes to activate your SIM card; just click the “Activate SIM” button at the top of the Tello home page for instructions.
Selection of Phones Available
Tello stays true to its reputation as a budget operator, even when it comes to selling your devices. All its devices are new or refurbished. Costs start at $69 for a new Coolpad Snap or $79 for a refurbished Samsung Galaxy J2 Core to $449 for a refurbished Apple iPhone XR or $459 for a new Google Pixel 4. The selection constantly changes depending on availability, but rest assured that Tello always has a solid range of budget phones.
Tello Call and Text Performance
Tello operates on the T-Mobile network, one of the big-three U.S. wireless networks covering more than 99% of Americans. Based on a study of the IHS Markit RootMetrics map of the T-Mobile network, call performance is good across the vast majority of locations in the United States, with fair or poor performance in only a handful of rural areas.
Tello Data Speeds
When you use Tello, you get high-speed data through T-Mobile’s 5G and 4G LTE network until you hit your monthly data limit, after which it slows down to painfully slow 2G. The most high-speed data you can get with Tello is 25 GB (with its “Unlimited” plan). T-Mobile currently has the largest 5G network of the big-three wireless networks, covering more than 80% of Americans.
Tello Customer Service
Aside from its low prices, the other main reason to join Tello is its customer service. In contrast to the big mobile operators, Tello is a small company that really puts the focus on pleasing its customers. Want proof? Tello has a 4.6-star rating on Trustpilot, with 80% of users rating it “excellent”. This compares favorably to the big three operators who hover around the 1.3-1.5-star range with fewer than 3% excellent ratings.
When you become a Tello customer, you are given a login where you can make changes to your account (such as upgrading or downgrading your plan). You can get support through Tello’s online Help Center or by dialing 866-377-0294 (from any phone) or 611 (from your Tello phone).
What People Say About Tello
Here’s a sample of 5-star reviews from Tello customers:
“I love Tello. The flexibility of text/data/phone packages and excellent prices are unbeatable. I have been using Tello for three years and my mobile service has always been reliable. I have not had to reach out to Tello for customer service issues (a good thing), so I cannot comment on customer relations.” – Lori S
“I’m a minimal user of data, so Tello is perfect for me because I can purchase as little as half a gigabyte per month and not pay a disproportionately high price. Keep up the great work, Tello!” – David Bernhart
“Tello provided me expert & fast personal service. I had to call Customer Service a few times with minor technical questions about the cell service itself and a small amount of confusion I encountered with my new phone's menu functions. Customer service picked up my call quickly (*every time) with a courteous, helpful, and knowledgeable rep. This was a "refreshing" experience after several years of AT&T's otherwise terrible customer service! Thank you!” - Kurt.
Q. Who’s behind Tello?
A. Tello is owned by KeepCalling, based in Atlanta, GA. KeepCalling launched in 2002 as a provider of virtual calling cards to Romanians living in the U.S. It branched out into cell phone plans in 2016 with the launch of Tello Mobile.
Q. Does Tello have a referral program?
A. Yes. If you introduce a friend to Tello, you and your friend will both earn $10 off your next Tello bills.
Q. Do you have to buy a phone when using Tello’s service
A. No, you may bring your own phone. Just click “Bring your phone” at the top of the Tello home page to check compatibility.
If you have minimal data requirements and don’t speak on the phone for more than a few minutes a day, then it’s hard to go past Tello’s affordable and customizable plans. Tello offers bare-bones plans for about the same price as a couple of cups of coffee, and it does all this while offering good customer service and without locking you into any contracts. All up, Tello is one of the top budget cell phone providers.