AT&T offers three postpaid unlimited plans to choose from:
AT&T Unlimited Starter is AT&T’s entry level plan. It starts at $65 per month for unlimited data.
Unfortunately, being the entry-level plan also means that Unlimited Starter has fewer features.
First, it has deprioritized data. This means that any time the AT&T network is busy, such as at a sports game, stadium, concert, airport, or other crowded area, Unlimited Starter subscribers will notice slower speeds compared with Unlimited Elite and Unlimited Extra subscribers.
How much of a difference does this make?
It can be tough to say in real-world use cases, however from our testing it appears that Unlimited Starter customers may notice speeds up to 80% slower than other customers.
Again, data priority levels only come into play in crowded environments, and oftentimes you will still get speeds plenty fast enough for what you need even if you are deprioritized.
In fact, most people will be perfectly happy with the speeds and performance of AT&T Unlimited Starter and will not notice the deprioritized speeds at all.
It’s just helpful to know that if you do happen to notice a slow connection in a crowded area, the deprioritized speeds are likely why. Plus, it can make AT&T’s other plans more appealing, as they include priority data with a slightly faster connection in crowded situations.
The second drawback to Unlimited Starter is that it doesn’t include any hotspot data. You can’t share your phone’s cellular connection with your tablet or laptop for getting work done on the go.
And finally video streaming is limited to 480p standard definition.
Unlimited Starter does include some nice features though, like 5G access, unlimited high-speed data roaming in Canada and Mexico, free international texting from the U.S. to 120+ countries, and 6 months of Stadia Pro for free.
AT&T also tosses in “Standard Mobile Security,” which they say blocks spam and fraud calls.
I ran a poll on Twitter to see how effective my followers thought AT&T’s spam and fraud call blocking was, and the poll ended with an even 50/50 split. So it seems like this feature can be hit-or-miss.
Here’s a recap of what you need to know about AT&T’s entry-level plan:
AT&T Unlimited Starter - $65
AT&T’s mid-tier plan is Unlimited Extra. This is $75 per month, and it includes two key perks over Unlimited Starter.
First, Unlimited Extra includes 50GB of priority data. This means that in crowded environments where the AT&T network is busy, Unlimited Extra customers will notice slightly faster speeds than Unlimited Starter customers.
However, this is only for your first 50GB of usage. After 50GB, you’ll have the exact same speeds and performance as Unlimited Starter.
Second, Unlimited Extra includes 15GB of high-speed hotspot data, and then unlimited hotspot data at 128Kbps. This is great for sharing your cellular data connection with your tablet, computer, or other devices while you are traveling.
The rest of the plan features are the same between Starter and Extra. You still get 480p video streaming, 5G access, unlimited texting from the U.S. to 120+ countries, and unlimited high-speed data roaming in Canada and Mexico.
The only other difference is that AT&T upgrades the “Standard Mobile Security” to “Advanced Mobile Security.”
“Advanced Mobile Security” includes the same spam and fraud call blocking as the Standard Mobile Security, and it adds on three new features. You now get caller ID, identity monitoring, and expanded Wi-Fi protection.
Your 6 month free trial of Stadia Pro is also still here, as well.
Here’s the recap of what you need to know about AT&T’s mid-tier plan:
AT&T Unlimited Extra
AT&T Unlimited Elite is AT&T’s top-tier plan. It includes the best features, perks, and benefits AT&T has to offer. It also comes with a higher price tag: Unlimited Elite is $85 per month.
So what do you get for the extra cost?
There are four big improvements with Unlimited Elite compared to Unlimited Extra or Starter.
First, AT&T doubles the amount of priority data from 50GB to 100GB. AT&T also puts Elite customers on a slightly higher priority tier, so they will get even faster speeds than Unlimited Extra customers when the AT&T network is busy.
Again, I’d like to emphasise that most people probably won’t notice a difference between priority levels of the plans, and that typically ALL AT&T plans get fast enough speeds, however it is nice knowing that you are getting the best speeds available on Unlimited Elite.
Second, AT&T doubles the hotspot data from 15GB to 30GB. This is excellent for people who are frequently traveling or trying to get work done on the go.
Third, AT&T finally gets rid of the 480p video streaming limit. Unlimited Elite customers can enjoy their favorite TV shows and movies in up to 4K quality on their mobile device. That said, the 480p video streaming limit is enabled by default on the plan with a feature called “Stream Saver.” To enable 4K video streaming, you’ll need to dive into your account settings and turn off Stream Saver.
And finally fourth, Unlimited Elite customers get the added perk of getting HBO Max bundled in with their service for free.
I was originally skeptical of HBO Max, but after trying it for my AT&T review I must say I’m impressed. HBO Max has a huge catalog of high-quality content, and it’s definitely a value-add for AT&T subscribers.
The rest of the plan features remain the same as with the other plans. You’re still getting 5G access, unlimited texting from the U.S. to 120+ countries, unlimited high-speed data roaming in Canada and Mexico, the “Advanced Mobile Security” for spam and fraud call blocking, and your 6 months of Stadia Pro for free.
Here’s a recap of AT&T’s top-tier plan:
AT&T Unlimited Elite - $85
This is a great question, and there are two answers.
First, if you are a single-line user looking for an unlimited data plan on the AT&T network, the best option is actually none of the plans we’ve covered so far.
Yup. That’s right. None of them.
Not Unlimited Starter. Not Unlimited Extra. And not Unlimited Elite.
Yes, I know, it’s a weird thing to say, but hear me out.
The best unlimited data plan for single-line users actually comes from AT&T Prepaid.
Yes, that’s right. AT&T Prepaid.
It’s the AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus plan. This plan is a gem. Let me explain.
AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus is normally $75 per month, but AT&T is currently offering a promotion where new subscribers get the plan for just $50 per month with auto-pay. And yes, you can even get that auto-pay discount on your first month of service.
And don’t think that just because this is AT&T Prepaid this is a bad plan or that you are missing out on features.
On the contrary. AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus is packed with features and value.
It includes 22GB of priority data with the exact same speeds and performance as AT&T Unlimited Extra.
Plus, AT&T Prepaid includes 10GB of high-speed hotspot data and even up to 4K high-definition video streaming.
You’re even still getting the same features as the more expensive postpaid plans: 5G access, spam and fraud call blocking, unlimited high-speed data roaming in Mexico and Canada, and unlimited texting to over 100 countries.
What did I say? This plan is a gem.
AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus is basically the same as AT&T Unlimited Extra, the mid-tier plan, but for 33% less per month.
It’ll save you $300 per year.
So that’s why for single-line users, AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus is simply the best unlimited plan available. You get great perks at the best price possible.
You could even add-on the $15 cost of HBO Max, and the prepaid plan would still be cheaper than AT&T Unlimited Elite.
The only downside with AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus is that you are not able to finance your phone through AT&T. Instead of having a nice $23.61/month payment plan over 36 months for your shiny new iPhone 12, you’d need to pay the full $830 up front.
HOWEVER, you’re also saving yourself $300/year by going with AT&T prepaid, and by buying the phone up front you are giving yourself the flexibility to upgrade whenever you want to.
You could even consider buying your next phone off of a site like Swappa and saving 10% to 20% off the retail price of the phone.
So overall I’d say the AT&T Unlimited Plus prepaid plan for $50 is a great value and the best option for single-line users.
AT&T Prepaid Unlimited Plus
The best AT&T unlimited plan for families is where things can get a little more nuanced.
Most people will be totally fine with the AT&T Unlimited Starter plan. It’s the most affordable option at just $35/month for four lines, and I think it’s a great plan to consider.
However, with AT&T’s introduction of “Unlimited Your Way” in mid-2020, you can now mix and match unlimited plans. You can pick exactly what plan each line is on.
You can have your kids on Unlimited Starter, put yourself on Unlimited Elite, and have your spouse or partner on Unlimited Extra.
And you know what? That’s exactly what I recommend. Customize your plans so they meet the needs of the people who will be using them.
I think put most people on Unlimited Starter. It’s the lowest-cost plan, and it’s likely going to meet the needs of 99% of people.
Even though it doesn’t have hotspot data, most public places that are great for doing work, such as libraries, hotels, coffee shops, etc., typically have decent public Wi-Fi. So most people probably don’t even need hotspot data with their plan.
If there is someone who needs hotspot data, then bump them up to Unlimited Extra.
Finally, if you want the HBO Max perk, or if there is someone who needs more than 50GB of priority data or more than 15GB of hotspot data, then bump that one person up to Unlimited Elite.
It only takes one line on Elite to get the HBO Max perk, and considering it’s only $10 to upgrade a line from Extra to Elite compared to $15 for getting HBO Max as a standalone service, it is easily worth upgrading that one line for the perk.
And if you don’t want or need HBO Max, then keep your lines on Starter or Extra.
My final bit of advice is if you should switch to Cricket Wireless.
If you have a family plan on AT&T where ALL lines are on AT&T Unlimited Starter for the best value, then you should 100% consider switching to Cricket Wireless.
The reason is because Cricket Wireless is an even better value.
Cricket is a prepaid carrier that is actually owned and operated by AT&T, so you get the exact same coverage and performance.
Cricket is so compelling as a carrier because they offer an amazing family discount. Four lines on Cricket’s Unlimited More plan comes out to just $33/line, and all taxes and fees included.
Compared to AT&T Unlimited Starter, Cricket’s plan saves you about $25 per month ($300 per year). Plus, Cricket also includes extra features like 15GB of high-speed hotspot data and 150GB of free cloud storage.
Those are nice perks to have, especially for a lower cost.
Furthermore, Cricket’s plan is also deprioritized on the AT&T network, just like AT&T Unlimited Starter is, so you’ll have the exact same speeds and performance.
So if you’re going to end up getting a family plan where all lines are on Unlimited Starter, why not switch to Cricket and get a better plan for a lower cost?
Heck, Cricket’s Unlimited More plan could even be a good option for people on AT&T Unlimited Extra who need the hotspot data but who want to save some extra cash.
Either way, Cricket’s plan is worth considering given the value it offers at such an affordable price point.
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