As a frugal dude, I'm always looking for ways to save money on my daily expenses. But I'm also conscious of not cutting out the stuff my family really enjoys.
Instead of slashing our coffee or vacation budget, I like investigating ways to save on recurring bills or services I'm already using. One major bill that hits people each month is their cell phone bill. In fact, the average cell monthly phone bill in the US last year was around $127.
I'm a big proponent for not OVERPAYING for your service if you don't have to. There's gotta be a way to bring that number down for most people!
After being a loyal Verizon customer for over 20 years, I've been decently satisfied with their service, but the price has seemed consistently higher than the competition. When I got the opportunity to try out Tello Mobile, I was surprised at what I found.
In this Tello Review, I'll share what I experienced with their service and how it compared to our Verizon service.
What is Tello Mobile?
According to their website, Tello Mobile is an MVNO cell phone provider that runs on the T-Mobile network. They want to make customers happy with their wireless carrier again.
Their pillars for that happiness mission are as follows:
- No contract: With their prepaid model, you are able to go “no contract” and have the flexibility to stay with them if you'd like. And leave them if you'd like. (I think they'd prefer you stay, but the choice is yours!)
- No fees: One typical complaint from cell phone customers is excessive fees. Tello evidently listened. They have no activation fee, no early termination fee, no overage fees… and so on.
- Online, friendly and clean service: For me, the more I can do online the better. Tello seems to know that about busy parents like me. They communicate effectively through computer, phone or tablet.
- Flexible and economic: Tello has multiple plans to choose from. Some of them start at just $10 / month.
Tello Review: Our Experience With Tello Mobile
My daughter Zoey has been using an iPhone 7 at our house for the past couple of years. She's mostly been using it to watch videos, play games and take pictures.
We decided to try out a month of Tello Mobile for Zoey's phone. That way we could see how the service works for her and if it would be something we'd want to use in the future.
With an existing phone, we wanted to make sure Zoey's phone worked with Tello. They had a convenient section on their site called “Bring Your Own Phone”.
This area let us insert some quick information and see if her phone was compatible. Lucky for us, it was!
From there it was time to sign up for a plan.
Given that one of their happiness pillars is “online, friendly and clean service”, the signup and activation process occurred all online. This process was smooth and easy.
I created an account and signed up for the Unlimited plan which was $39 / month at the time. That plan included unlimited data, unlimited talk and text. Given that we were paying a higher price for less than unlimited data with Verizon, I thought I'd give this plan a shot.
As part of the activation process, Tello sends you a sim card in the mail. It took about 5 days to arrive and then I had to insert the sim card into the phone. For this process, I've always worked with Verizon and had them help me at their stores. I've never done the whole sim card thing before.
Surprisingly, it was really simple. The cardholder pops out of the side easily, you take out the old card and pop in the new one.
Related Article: 15 Ways to Save Money When You're Living Paycheck to Paycheck
One major area that I was excited about trying out was the wireless coverage. How will Tello actually compare to Verizon's service?
Surprisingly, it was equal if not better. I'm sure this all depends on where you live, but we have a weird pocket near our home that feels like a dead zone for Verizon service.
When I pull out of my driveway and leave my wi-fi connection, that's usually the time I experience very low data speeds on my phone. That's right about the time I need to access my Google Maps app or my Spotify songs. It's very frustrating.
The Tello service (which runs on the T-Mobile network) didn't seem to experience as much of a drop in data speed.
As a wild example that demonstrated this data speed difference, our power went out this summer after some major rain and wind hit our area.
We relied on our phone's data for our access to the internet. Unfortunately, our Verizon coverage was super slow and we could barely even check our email.
And that wasn't the case for Zoey's Tello phone! She had 3 bars and we had 1 flippin' bar!
She was happily watching her fidget YouTube videos and we were cursing our phones for 24 hours.
Calls & Texts
Outside of the data coverage, Zoey tested her Tello phone through calls and texts as well. We made calls in our home, outside of our home, and even at Grandma's house 20 miles away. Everything seemed very comparable to Verizon's service and worked just fine.
One of my favorite features of Tello's service is its online experience. When I visit Verizon's website, I'm often confused about where to go and how to access my plan information.
Tello's interface is clean and easy to navigate except for one major area …
My one major gripe with both Tello and Verizon's websites is they do not make it easy to find out how much data was used in total!
Both websites list out the data usage by day but do not total up the full usage.
In this family experiment with Tello, I wanted to get an understanding of how much total data was used to see if we could go with a lower plan than the “unlimited”. Unfortunately, I had to copy and paste all of the days and data totals into a spreadsheet to figure that out.
That's a pain! And, it might not be, but it feels a bit purposeful that there's no total usage of data for either carrier. They both want you in a higher-priced plan!
I'd love to see this remedied with both providers because the process is too difficult right now. It feels like they are working to make it complicated to find the right plan that actually suits your data needs.
Tello Packages We Considered
Through some annoying spreadsheet math, I found that my daughter used a little over 5 GB of data during her month of Tello service. I was surprised at how high that was because she barely goes anywhere!
Perhaps it was from watching YouTube videos in the car on the way to Grandma's house and it really added up!
Either way, Tello's Plan for 6 GB of data and unlimited talk and text came to $24 / month. Although Tello runs special discount prices from time to time, that is what our price would be after 6 months of the discounted service.
Zoey and I are in a conversation about this currently. As a 9-year old, I don't really think she needs a data plan for her cell phone just yet. And right now, she agrees.
When it came down to it, she wasn't interested in paying for it with her chore money each month and I wasn't either. Perhaps when she's 12 years old she might want one. For now, we're good.
Why We Switched from Verizon to Tello
Me on the other hand … I decided to make the switch from Verizon to Tello. After being a Verizon customer for 20+ years, this wasn't an easy decision, but after 1 month of use, I'm so happy that I did.
- The reception with Tello is better than Verizon (where I live)
- We're paying half of what we used to pay. $80 to now $40 per month.
- We have unlimited data, text and calling. I'm not sure we need that so the price may go down in the near future further.
- I've traveled outside of my area for work and the reception and data was equivalent to Verizon
As I was boasting about all of these benefits to Nicole, she decided to join me in the switch from Verizon to Tello as well!
Now, we're a Tello Mobile-only family. All in, it's $40 per month for both of our phones. (By the way, we have iPhones too so it's not like you have to use some random phone that Tello carries.)
Final Thoughts on this Tello Review
If you're looking to save some money on your cell phone bill and you're frustrated with your current provider, I'd give Tello Mobile a shot. They have some highly competitive plans and their use of the T-Mobile 5G or 4GLTE network makes them a powerful contender.
At a minimum, have a conversation with your current provider and let them know you're considering a switch. That conversation alone could save you hundreds of dollars per year because they may just discount your service to keep you as a customer.
Either way, competition (like what we're seeing here with Tello) is excellent for customers like me and you. More options can mean lower prices.
Do you agree with this Tello Review? How do you think Tello compares to Verizon in your area?
Please let me know in the comments below.
I had forgotten about the activity section of the Tello app, because that’s a bad place to get a feel for the total amount of data used so far in your billing cycle. Ting Mobile has a section like that too. But both providers have a central dashboard section in the mobile app and website showing one clean view of how much data each phone has used.
Perhaps the mobile app is what I need to be looking at instead of the main ‘activity’ section. Nevertheless, it still feels like my activity could be totaled up easily by Tello and Verizon on the desktop applications.
My Tello dashboard shows the total amount of data remaining in the month. Just check it right before the renewal date and you will see the total amount used.
That’s great to hear Janice!
I’d love to see it clearly stated in the “activity” area. When it gives me a list of all the data used, a simple total at the bottom would make a world of a difference to a busy parent like me.