Tello Mobile cellular service - 2017 Review


Tello Mobile - a new Sprint MVNO offering simple, cheap cellular service

Tello Mobile
Rating: 5/5 by
Last Updated: July 24, 2017

Summary: Tello Mobile is a new Sprint MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator, aka reseller) that I think is well worth considering. They offer a good solution to low-use users who have good local Sprint coverage, and Tello is also an excellent low-cost option for a kid's first cell phone. I still recommend Republic Wireless as a simple, reliable low cost provider (we have three phones with Republic Wireless), or for those people who are willing to do a little extra work, FreedomPop offers truly free service (I use FreedomPop for my own cell phone service). But I think it's always good to have multiple options, and there are lots of good options in today's competitive cellular provider market. It's also good to be aware of your various options since it's not unheard of for cellular providers to disappear (like RingPlus). It continues to amaze me how quickly new options are being added (and/or changing) and how (some) prices keep coming down. Unfortunately, too many people stick with their old overpriced plans and providers because they don't know about the new lower cost options, or if they hear about them, they think they must be too good to be true and they're not willing to try them out. I think that's too bad, because those people are paying a lot more that they should.

Tello Coupon Codes, Special Offers, & Deals
last updated: August 7, 2017

15% off first month on any new Tello monthly plan

5% off on your entire Tello order
(5% off everything, including phones, sim cards, pay-as-you-go credits, and monthly plans)

 

About TELLO MOBILE:
Tello started providing cellular service in the UK in 2014, and then began offering cellular service here in the US last year (2016). The parent company of Tello is KeepCalling, which has been in the US since 2002. Tello uses Sprint as their cellular service provider, so you need to have a Sprint-capable (CDMA) phone, or you can buy a phone from Tello. The cheapest phone right now is an Altatel flip phone for $29 or a HTC Desire smart phone for $59, or of course Tello also sells more expensive phones, including iPhones, Samsung phones, and Motorola phones. So you can buy a phone from Tello, or you can use your own phone as long as it is CDMA capable (they have a phone checker on their website so you can confirm your phone will work on their network). If your phone doesn't already have a Sprint sim in it, you can purchase a Sprint sim from Tello for $10 with free shipping. With Tello, you can either do Pay-As-You-Go or have a monthly service plan.

PAY-AS-YOU-GO
1¢ per text | 3¢ per voice minute | 2¢ per MB

With Pay-As-You-Go, there are no monthly fees. You simply add money to your credit balance ($10 to start), and then you pay 1 cent per text, 3 cents per voice minute, and 2 cents per MB of cellular data. If or when your credit balance gets low or runs out, you just add more to it. Your credit balance will never expire, as long as you do something at least once every three months (like send a text). Thus, for example, if you only use your phone to text and you don't send very many texts, an $10 credit could last almost indefinitely (1000 texts). Just remember to send a text at least once every three months to keep your credit balance from expiring.

BUILD-YOUR-OWN Monthly Plans
no texts $0 | 200 texts $2 | unlimited texts $3
no voice $0 | 100 min $3 | 200 min $5 | 300 min $7 | 500 min $10 | unlimited min $15
no data $0 |  200MB $4 |  500MB $8 |  1GB $11 |  2GB $21 |  3GB $31 | 5GB $45

With Build-Your-Own monthly plans, you can configure a monthly plan with only the things and amounts that you want, and you can change your plan items and amounts whenever you want. If you want texts, you can select the number of texts or select unlimited texts, or select no texts. Since you can build any plan you want, there are lots of potential options. For example, you could get unlimited texts for $3 plus 100 voice minutes for another $3, or $6 per month total. For people who don't use their phones very much, Tello probably offers the lowest price monthly plans available anywhere.

PROS:
 * Low cost monthly plans starting at $5/month
 * No contract
 * Very straightforward, easy to understand pricing
 * No hidden fees (no overage, no administration, no activation fees, etc.)
 * Calls to Mexico & Canada are included, and are treated the same as US calls
 * You can change your plan anytime
 * Highly rated customer service (online chat, phone, email & call back)
 * Instead of a monthly plan, you can also use Pay-As-You-Go and just add a credit (e.g. $10) and pay for each text, voice minute, or actual data used. If you don't use your phone very much, your monthly cost could be minimal
 * You don't have to have a smart phone, you can get service for an old fashioned flip phone
 * You get a "real" cellular phone number
 * Voicemail is included for free
 * Tethering is enabled and included for free
 * Unlimited 2G data - On monthly plans that include data, after you hit your data limit you still get unlimited but slow 2G data,. So for example, if you pay $4 for 200MB of LTE data, after that gets used up, you still get unlimited 2G data, so you are never without data (thanks Dave1 for pointing this out in his comment below)
 * If you manually renew your monthly plan before it auto-renews, you can roll your unused minutes over to the next month (per a comment by Dave1 below)

CONS?
 * Tello uses Sprint for cellular service only (you can check your local coverage with the Tello coverage checker). There is no roaming. If you have good Sprint coverage, you will be fine, but if you have spotty or no Sprint coverage in your area, you should consider a different carrier. In contrast, Republic Wireless uses T-Mobile with voice/text roaming on AT&T, or if your area doesn't have T-Mobile good coverage, they use Sprint with voice/text roaming on Verizon.
 * Comparing Republic Wireless and Tello on price, the cheapest Republic Wireless plan is $15 per month for unlimited talk and text, or $20 per month for unlimited talk and text plus 1MB of cellular data. While Tello has monthly plans starting a $5, the equivalent Tello unlimited talk/text plan is $17, so Republic Wireless is both the better value and has roaming, if you are looking for unlimited talk and text. But if you just want some talk and text, Tello can cost less.
 * If you are a light phone user looking for a limited amount of talk, text, and/or data, and you have good Sprint Coverage, Tello is probably the cheapest paid option available. But if you a heavy user of data, there are probably better options with other carriers.

MY EXPERIENCE with TELLO:
I don't like reviewing a product unless I have actually tried it, so with that in mind, even though I don't really need another phone or phone number, I set up my Moto G4 on a Tello Pay-As-You-Go account and got a Tello phone number to test and evaluate. I used a Moto G4 that I have for testing purposes. The Moto G4 is both GSM and CDMA capable, so it can be used with any of the big four carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint), and as required for Tello, the Moto G4 is CDMA capable and works with Sprint. I needed to get a Sprint sim for my Moto G4. By the way, if you want to use your own Sprint-capable phone and need a sim for it, you can get a sim from Tello for $10. So I had my Sprint-capable Moto G4 and a Sprint sim for it, so I was ready to set up a new Tello account and "bring my own phone".

Ordering and setting up the new service on Tello was simple. They have a very good website interface.
 ✔ The first thing they ask you when you are signing up is if you want to order a phone from them (which is the simplest way to go) or "bring your own phone". I selected the "Bring My Own Phone" option. I was then prompted to enter my Moto G4 phone's IMEI number (you can find this by dialing *#06# or by looking under settings > about phone > status > IMEI Information (my IMEI is 3541240712xxxxx).
 ✔ The next thing you are asked (if you are bringing your own phone) is if you have a Sprint sim, or need a sim (Tello sells sims for $10). I selected that I already had a sim, and was then prompted to enter the sim ICCID (you can also find this under your phone settings if the sim is in your phone, or printed on the sim card) (my sim ICCID is 890112010005328xxxxx).
 ✔ I was then asked if I wanted to port my old number into Tello or get a new number from Tello. I chose to get a new phone number.
 ✔ I was then asked to pick a monthly plan or add a Pay-As-You-Go credit (or do both). I chose [ADD CREDIT] to add a Pay As You Go credit, and selected a $10 credit.
 ✔ I then took advantage of the Tello 5% off your order special, which dropped my cost down to $9.50, though taxes and fees then kicked it back up to $10.42 (taxes and surcharges are $.92, but that's not Tello's fault, instead that's thanks to the Federal government and State of California, but that's not the point of this review) :)
 ✔ I then entered my credit card information and submitted my order, and received my email confirmations.

After finishing and placing my order, I logged back into my Tello account to confirm I had the $10 credit and to see what my new phone number was. I immediately had my son send me a text, which didn't work. I probably just needed to wait a couple of minutes, but instead we turned the phone off and on, and did a carrier reset and a couple of other things, and then the new number worked. Again, I probably just needed to wait a few minutes and turn the phone off and on one time, but I was impatient. Once the phone was working, I called my son (standing next to me) and he called me, and we sent texts to each other. Overall, it was quite simple, and I now have a new phone number with a $10 Tello credit.

I also logged onto my Tello account and went to my dashboard, where I turned the 4G LTE cellular data off. I'm happy just having data available for free when I'm on wifi, and don't want to accidentally burn through all my credit. But I do now have a working phone number for calls and texts, and will pay 3 cents a minute for calls and 1 cent per text. I'll update this review as I have time and as I have a chance to use my Tello number a bit more. In the meantime, from what I have read and my own limited experience, I believe Tello is a great option for people who are happy with Sprint coverage and who don't use their phones a lot, and who are looking for a low-cost, reliable, easy-to-use option for cellular service.

Tello coverage checker

learn more about Tello

 

Comments / Questions / Feedback:

Comment by Dave1 on Monday, June 05, 2017
Hello Steve, Good overall Tello overview, I have also used it for a few months. Just a slight observation about the calls to Canada/Mexico, the calls are not exactly free, they are simply charged the same rate as in-US calls, meaning the rate of the calls is taken from your remaining minutes/balance.
I have been satisfied with Tello using a monthly plan, and I put my mother on the Pay-as-you-go plan. The pay-as-you-go plan is very convenient and affordable for someone who does not talk/text or use data a lot. You can get a plan for $10, my mom got 2 months out of it using the service almost every day for a few short calls and texts. People who rarely call or texts, or want to have a backup phone can get way longer mileage out of the $10. You can even turn off your data in the website to prevent unintentional data use/expense. You also get an itemized list of calls and texts received/made and voice mail is included.
The monthly plans are great too, you can get the lowest possible 4G (high speed) data of 200 MBs, and after you run out of it, you get unlimited reduced speed data at 64k, which is good enough for GPS apps, and even Uber app, checking emails, and sending MMS, although as expected such activities will take longer to accomplish, but considering that it is unlimited AND included at no extra charge if you use a monthly plan, I can not complain about it.
Additionally, if you don't use all your call minutes, and you manually renew your plan (instead of letting it renew itself automatically at end of cycle) you can roll those unused minutes over to the next month, and you can continue accumulating unused calling minutes. I had been using a combo of 100 minutes, unlimited texts, and 200MB, and the price was only $10 plus taxes, which is very affordable I think for reliable cellular (not VOIP) phone service. Of course, being a Sprint MVNO, the coverage will not be as extensive as the other 3 major networks, but I have not had trouble at all with it. Customer service is also great, I had to contact them via email twice, and I got a response with 5 minutes both times. You can use almost any Sprint phone I believe even the FreedomPop Sprint devices with Tello, you can use the tool in their website to make sure your used phone is compatible with it before signing up. I have used it with a Moto G4 Play, just had to find the correct Sprint sim card for it, and got it for a fraction of the cost from eBay. The first month after I ran out of 4G data, I found out I had to go to the "Cellular Network Settings" on the phone to change from LTE to 3G, in order to access the 2G speed data. Definitely a reliable and affordable phone service.

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Dave, Wow! Thanks for your detailed real-world report on using Tello, and for pointing out some additional benefits and tips. Best comment I've gotten in a long time. Thank you! I'll add your info into my review, and clarify that calls to Mexico and Canada aren't really "free" but they are included and treated the same as domestic US calls. Your experience with getting unlimited slow 2G data after you hit your data limit on a monthly plan is great to know. So your data never gets cut off, it just gets slowed down, but it still useable for checking email, etc. Thanks again!

Reply by Dave1 on Monday, June 05, 2017
Glad you found useful info in my experience with Tello, before I forget, if you ever need to port out, you would have to contact them to get your account number, as that information is not available in the website. Also, Tello does not use a pin number for the accounts, but most other companies require a pin number when porting in, the pin you would provide is 0000.
About the unlimited 2G data, it is indeed very useful to have, and at no additional cost it is a win for sure, but you might have to play around with the "Cellular Network Settings" depending on what phone you have as mentioned previously. I was able to even send picture messages, although it took sometime. I successfully used Waze and Google Maps, as well as WhatsApp, Uber, and Gmail app. Regular web surfing definitely is not an enjoyable experience at this speed, but if you need to do a quick Google search, it is better than not having data at all.
Be aware that with monthly plans, the renewal date does not fall on the same day every month, so if you want to renew manually to roll-over the used minutes, then you must keep track of the due date. The unused minutes from the ending month will not roll-over if you let the system renew your plan. I renewed my plan a day before just in case.
You can also download their app for more convenient access to your account.

 

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