Our friends at Tello Mobile offered us the opportunity to try out their network for a month to see what we thought of their incredibly affordable cell phone service.
At first I was skeptical, but after seeing the nearly 4,000 reviews with a 4 star rating, and a strong BBB rating, I was intrigued. Plus, I love phones and gadgets so I was thrilled to learn more about Tello and see how they performed against the phone service I already have. Especially if Tello Mobile offered our readers an opportunity to save some money!
Before we get in to the official Tello Mobile review, let’s talk a little about who Tello Mobile is and why they’re different.
Who Is Tello Mobile?
Tello Mobile is an MVNO cell phone service provider owned by KeepCalling, a company that has been around the mobile phone industry in the US and Europe since 2002. Tello provides nationwide 4G LTE coverage at an unbelievably affordable price with no contracts or commitments.
Tello Mobile is an MVNO on the Sprint network. This means they use Sprint’s cell towers (which are CDMA) as their backbone so if you’re in an area that has good Sprint coverage then Tello might be a good fit for you if you’re looking to save money on a wireless phone plan.
With plans starting at just $5 per month for a barebones plan and standard calling plus data plans around $14 per month, Tello is a wireless carrier to consider if you’re looking to cut down your cell phone bill.
Tello Mobile Pricing
As we mentioned earlier, Tello’s pricing starts at just $5 per month for their barebones plan which gets you 100 minutes of talk with no data allowance.
If you want to add more minutes or data, Tello’s website provides a fun slider tool that lets you build your own plan and customize the talk and data portions of your plan until you find the plan that is perfect for you.
Calls / Text Pricing
100 minutes for $5 is great if you’re a minimalist but if you need more minutes you can increase your plan to 200, 300 or 500 minutes for a few extra dollars a month. If you love to talk you can simply jump to unlimited calls for $4 with a data plan ($11 more on its own).
If you’re not a talker you also have the option to choose no minutes and go with a data only plan.
If you’d like to add data coverage to your plan, you can add as little as 200MB, 500MB or 1GB for $1, $2 or $3 (with a call plan), or add more data by the gigabyte for $5 per GB up to 4GB.
If you’re a power user you can jump up to 10GB of data for $10 more ($39 per month total with unlimited calls). For most people this is probably overkill, but it’s an option if you need it.
Unlimited texting is also included with any data plan.
If you’re not sure which plan is right for you Tello also offers a great deal of flexibility with their phone plans. You can change your plan as often as you like, even in the middle of the month!
When you change your plan in the middle of the month, Tello will even carry over your remaining minutes at no extra charge. How cool is that?
Tello Mobile Phones
Tello offers a wide assortment of phones at price points that satisfy every budget with prices ranging from $25 to $699. They also offer a big selection of refurbished phones, which can help you save even more money. The test phone Tello loaned me was a refurbished Moto E4 Plus and it was in great shape. You’d never know it wasn’t brand new!
Most of the phones they sell are a year or more old so you won’t get the latest and greatest, but the phones they sell are solid performers at reasonable prices. If you need the latest and greatest you can also buy it elsewhere and bring it to Tello (more on that in a minute).
At the time of this writing Tello is currently selling phones from Apple, Samsung, Moto, LG and Kyocera. Of course the phones available change over time so I would recommend checking out their phones page.
Phones I’ve used and recommend:
- Motorola Moto E4 (Refurbished) – $79
- Motorola Moto E4 Plus (Refurbished) – $125
- Apple iPhone SE (Refurbished) – $179
- Apple iPhone 6s (Refurbished) – $329
- Samsung Galaxy S8 (Refurbished) – $499
- Apple iPhone 8 (New) – $699
Bring Your Own Phone
Of course if you already have a phone that you like, you can use it on Tello in most cases.
If your existing phone has antennas that work on a CDMA network (specifically on the Sprint network) then you should be able to use your phone with Tello. If you’re not sure (don’t worry most people aren’t), Tello’s bring your own phone page will look it up for you. Most flagship phones from brands like Apple, Samsung, Google and LG contain Sprint bands, but some bargain phone manufacturers cut bands out to save costs.
Tello Mobile Coverage
As we’ve mentioned a few times, Tello runs on the Sprint network. If you live in an area where Sprint coverage is strong then Tello could be a good fit for you. If Sprint coverage is spotty then it may not be an ideal fit.
If you’re not sure what coverage is like in your area Tello’s coverage page will tell you how coverage is at a specific location. The tool will tell you whether coverage is Good, Fair (could be better), or Non Existent.
What I especially like about this tool is that it is brutally honest and if coverage is bad it will tell you so without pretending to be something it’s not.
Does Tello Mobile have roaming?
Tello does not provide roaming coverage with their services so I would suggest checking not only coverage where you live, but also in areas where you typically travel.
Other Benefits Of Tello Mobile
Tello also offers their customers a variety of other benefits including no fees or contracts, international calling, free tethering, and even a referral program that will pay you money when you sign other people up.
No Fees or Contracts
Unlike some carriers that love to nickel and dime you to death, Tello Mobile has absolutely no fees outside of government required charges and taxes (which all carriers pay).
Additionally Tello does not require a contract so you can join and leave anytime you like without worrying about being locked in or paying some ridiculous buy out fee.
If you do a lot of calling to Canada, Mexico or China then I have good news for you. Tello includes calls to these countries with your plan at no additional charge. If you place international calls to countries other than the three listed you can pay as you go with those calls.
Tello believes the data you pay for should be used in any way you see fit so they included tethering from your phone at no extra charge!
Simple Plan Management
Tello also provides you the ability to manage your account from their app or website, without having to call their customer service department (although you could if you want to).
For example, you can switch phones, switch sims, add more data, change your plan or even turn off text messages right from their account management interface. You can also block your phone number if you lose your phone.
If you love Tello Mobile, you can also refer friends, family or complete strangers to their service and Tello will give both you and your friend $10 in “Tello Dollars” which can be used towards your bills.
Referring friends is easy, all you need to do is send them your referral link (which they provide to you in your account dashboard) and the system will give you credit for the referral.
Last but not least, I have some great news for those of you who love your iPhones.
Unlike some budget carriers, Tello supports the iPhone and even sells them if you don’t have one already. If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, or just love the look an feel of an iPhone then Tello may be a good fit for you!
My Official Tello Mobile Review
Tello was nice enough to provide us with a test phone (a Moto E4 Plus – more on this later) and one month of service to let them know what we think of their plan. We put it through the paces to see how this budget carrier stacks up with some of the largest carriers in the country.
How We Tested
To give Tello a thorough test I wanted to use the phone in as many different types of areas as possible so I connected it to my car’s Bluetooth system and drove around a mix of city, suburban and semi-rural areas and called friends and family to see how the service held up. My car’s dashboard also displays a signal strength meter so I was able to keep an eye on how strong of a signal I was getting even when I wasn’t talking.
I also ran simultaneous speed tests on the Tello phone as well as my personal phone (an iPhone 6s on Verizon) at various locations along the way to see how Tello compared to the self proclaimed “world’s best network.”
As I drove through cities and suburbs near my house I was very impressed with Tello’s call quality and signal strength. I had between 3-5 signal bars at all times in these areas and on the highways strength was usually closer to 5 bars.
All together I talked for about 2 hours around the cities and I did not experience a dropped call, interference or even static throughout the trip. Call quality was excellent and one person I spoke to repeatedly mentioned how clear the call was and how much of an improvement it was over my Verizon powered iPhone 6S. Her exact words were “I thought you were on a landline.”
So far so good!
When I did the same test in semi-rural areas (think farms mixed with housing developments) and the results were… not as good.
As many will attest, Sprint’s coverage isn’t he greatest in rural areas (honestly no network is great in these areas) and the service really struggled during my test.
To be fair, Tello’s own site tells you that these areas are not good, but in the interest of being thorough I wanted to test them anyway.
Test calls in these areas took a long time to connect (often taking upwards of 30 seconds) and my calls dropped a few times due to the lack of roaming. I was able to call the person back right away but dropped calls could be frustrating if you needed to make an important call.
Overall I was very impressed with Tello’s signal strength and call quality in areas of good Sprint coverage (Cities, suburbs and highways in my experience), but I would definitely take a look at their coverage page to make sure you’re covered first.
One area where Tello (and Sprint’s network) excelled was their data speed, especially in the cities and suburbs.
To test data speeds I ran simultaneous speed tests on the Tello phone and my personal Verizon phone using Fast.com at various locations around the cities. I made sure to include both residential and business areas of the cities to be sure I got a good sample of each.
Not only were Tello’s data speeds generally faster than my Verizon phone, they were sometimes A LOT faster. In one area Tello’s data clocked in at 47mbps while Verizon posted just 1.8mbps, and this was in a very busy downtown area! In fact, my Verizon phone was faster than Tello on just two tests in the cities/suburbs, and one of them was barely faster (0.3 mbps faster to be exact), which quite frankly makes me wonder why I’m paying so much money to Verizon each month.
In rural areas the data speed tests were not as good – which is not totally unexpected – but none of the 4 major carriers have amazing coverage in these areas.
Speed tests aside, I had no problems in normal everyday use of the phone including browsing the web, checking email and even streaming videos.
Out of everything I tested, Tello’s data speeds surprised me the most and I came away very impressed by their network. If you live in an area with good Sprint coverage I think you’ll be very happy with their coverage.
Moto E4 Plus Review
Although this is a Tello review, I thought I would throw in a quick review of the Moto E4 Plus that I used as a test phone for anyone considering buying it.
My first impression of this phone was that you’d never know this is a budget device, let alone a refurbished one.
The phone feels very solid and well made. Little details like the grooves on the power button (to separate it from the volume rocker) let me know that Moto didn’t cut corners on this budget device. I generally prefer smaller phones but this one felt good in the hand, despite its large size.
The 5.5″ screen provides a lot of real estate, and colors were excellent to my eye. The screen had good brightness and I had no problems seeing the screen outdoors in bright sun light. Videos looked great as well and that large screen made them very enjoyable to watch.
The E4 Plus wasn’t a speed demon but it was fairly snappy to use and should be more than enough for the typical smartphone user who simply checks email, surfs the web and watches the occasional YouTube video. Apps and web pages loaded quickly and I had no trouble using any of the day to day apps I use on my personal phone.
The phone’s had so-so performance while gaming, though to be fair this isn’t intended to be a gaming phone. Simple games like Angry Birds performed fine, but more graphics intensive games like Roblox struggled a bit. This is definitely not a phone you’d want to play a game like Fortnite on.
The E4 Plus’s massive 5000mAh battery lasted quite a long time on a single charge, which would be very convenient on a business trip or vacation. My only real complaint is that it charges VERY slowly, but that’s the trade-off for having such a massive battery.
Overall this is a great phone for the price. It’s not going to make anyone forget the Samsung Note 9 or iPhone Xs Max, but its a mere fraction of what those $1,000+ phones cost and it would be more than fine for the vast majority of smartphone users to get their day to day tasks done.
I really enjoyed my time reviewing Tello Mobile’s network and the Moto E4 Plus. I have tested a few budget wireless carriers that have let me down so I came in to the review not expecting a whole lot but after testing Tello I came away very surprised.
My coverage in the city was outstanding and data speeds were as good, if not better than my current Verizon phone. Tello has a really nice customer management interface that makes it easy to manage your account on your own. Additionally, the E4 Plus was a snappy little device that I had fun using – I always love testing new phones!
On the downside, coverage wasn’t great in rural areas (which Tello’s website told us it wouldn’t be) and the lack of roaming could be an issue if you drive in spotty areas.
Overall though I would have no problem recommending Tello Mobile to someone who is looking for an inexpensive phone carrier, provided they make sure coverage is good in their area.
- Excellent Pricing
- Affordable Phones
- WiFi Calling
- Plan Flexibility & No Contracts
- Free international calling to Canada, Mexico and China
- iPhone Support
- Spotty Coverage In Rural Areas
- No Roaming
Frequently Asked Questions
Which network is Tello Mobile on?
Tello Mobile uses the Sprint network to provide their service.
Is Tello Mobile CDMA or GSM?
Since Tello Mobile use Sprint’s CDMA network, they are CDMA and do not support GSM at this time.
Who owns Tello Mobile?
Tello Mobile is owned by KeepCalling.
Can you keep your number with Tello?
Yes, you can port your existing phone number over to Tello as you would with any other carrier.
Does Tello Mobile have roaming?
Tello Mobile does not support roaming at this time so be sure to check out Tello’s coverage area before you sign up. You also have the option to use WiFi calling in areas not supported by Sprint if WiFi signal is available at your location.
Will my phone work with Tello Mobile?
If your phone has antennas that support Sprint’s CDMA network you should be able to use your phone with Tello. To be sure you can use the tool found on Tello’s Bring Your Own Phone page to be sure.