Tello Mobile cellular service - 2017-2019 Review

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

Tello Mobile
Rating: 5/5 by
Last Updated: June 11, 2019

Summary: Tello Mobile is a Sprint MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator, aka reseller). I've had a Tello pay-as-you-go service plan since 2017, and it works fine. More importantly, Tello pricing is very good and their customer service (if needed) is great. Assuming your area has decent Sprint coverage, Tello offers a good solution for low-use users through either their low-cost monthly plans or through their pay-as-you-go plan for people who are very low-use users. Tello is also a great low-cost option for a kid's first cell phone. Tello Mobile has some of the best and highest rated customer service and satisfaction in the industry. If you think you need to pay a lot to get good cellular service, think again. In my opinion, the big four (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint) are taking advantage of most people, and people are paying a lot more than they should. With the advent of low cost MVNO operators like Tello, there are lots of cheaper options for service today, and Tello is one you should definitely consider. If you are looking for the lowest cost "low use" reliable, hassle-free solution and you have good Sprint coverage, Tello is probably one of best solutions available today.

JUNE 11, 2019 UPDATE: Big Price Cut!
  Tello cut all of their monthly plan prices by up to 35%. I think they are now probably the cheapest paid monthly plan option available, as long as you are okay with Sprint service. Here are a couple of their lowest priced custom monthly plans:
  * 500mb of data plus unlimited texts for $5 per month
  * 500mb of data plus 100 minutes & unlimited texts for $6 per month
  * unlimited talk & text for $8
  * unlimited talk & text plus 1GB of data for $10

Tello Coupon Codes, Special Offers, & Deals
last updated: June 11, 2019

Switch to Tello and save 30%!
Get 30% off your first month when you switch to Tello.

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)

Tello started providing cellular service in the UK in 2014, and then began offering cellular service here in the US in 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. Tello usually has a traditional flip phone available for $29, as well as smart phones starting as low as $49. 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 use Pay-As-You-Go or have a monthly service plan.

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 make a call or send a text (or you can send a text to your Tello number) at least once every three months to keep your credit balance from expiring. If you don't want to burn up your pay-as-you-go balance using cellular data, you can turn off cellular data on your account (and only enable it when you need it). Then you'll only be charged for calls and texts, and you can use wifi for data. If you don't call or text very much, a $10 credit can last a long time.

BUILD-YOUR-OWN Custom Monthly Plans
(add voice and/or data, all plans include unlimited texts)
no voice $0 | 100 min $5 | 300 min $6 | 500 min $7 | unlimited min $8
no data $0 |  500MB $5 |  1GB $6 |  2GB $10 |  4GB $15 |6GB $20
* unlimited texts are included free in all monthly plans
** prices are even lower if you combine voice and data
*** the most popular Tello plan is unlimited talk&text plus 1GB for $10/mo

With Build-Your-Own monthly plans, you can configure a monthly plan with the number of voice minutes and/or the amount of cellular data that you want. You can update and change your plan whenever you want. All monthly plans include unlimited texts for free. The prices for the number of minutes or amount of cellular data are shown above. For example, you can get unlimited talk and text for $8! If you add both voice minutes and cellular data, the monthly price is discounted even more. You can use their custom-plan-builder on their website to easily see what your options are and how much they would cost. For people who don't use their phones very much, Tello offers some of the lowest price monthly plans available anywhere.

 * Low cost monthly plans starting at $5/month (i.e. unlimited texts plus 100 minutes for $5, or unlimited texts plus 500MB for $5, or unlimited texts plus 100 minutes plus 500MB for $6)
 * Unlimited talk and text (no cellular data) is $8/month
 * No contract
 * Extremely simple, straightforward, easy to understand pricing
 * No hidden fees (no overage, no administration, no activation fees, etc.)
 * Calls to Mexico, Canada, & China 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 would be minimal
 * You don't need 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 pick a monthly plan with 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)

 * 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.

I won't review a product or service 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, and then to use as a secondary/backup phone and phone number. For reference, the Moto G4 is both GSM and CDMA capable, which allows it to be used with any of the big four carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint). Most importantly, the Moto G4 is CDMA capable, which means it can be used on Tello since it will work with Sprint (which requires a CDMA phone). I had to get a Sprint sim card (sim model SIMGLW446C) for my Moto G4. If you want to use your own Sprint-capable (CDMA) phone and you need a Sprint sim for it, you can get a Sprint sim card from Tello for $10. Once I had a Sprint sim for my Sprint-capable Moto G4 phone, 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 an excellent, intuitive, easy to use 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 got 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 special, which dropped my cost down to $9.50. Taxes and fees then kicked it back up to $10.42. Taxes and surcharges were $.92, but that's not Tello's fault . That's all courtesy of our 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 had 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 okay with only having data available when I'm on wifi, and I don't want to accidentally burn through all my credit by using cellular data. 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.

August 24, 2017 update: I've used Tello for a couple of weeks for sending and receiving texts and calls, and to occasionally check email (I turned my Tello cellular data back on). Tello works just as expected... which is great. As long as you have good local Sprint Coverage, Tello works just fine. Their pay-as-you-go credit (which is what I've been using) is a great way to go for really low-use people, or to test them out as I've been doing. Otherwise, their custom monthly plans are a good value. You can get unlimited texts and 100 voice minutes $5. You can add 200MB of LTE data for $4, or $9 total. If your monthly LTE data runs out, you still get unlimited (but slow) 2G data, or you can use a pay-as-you go credit to supplement your monthly plan data.

October 20, 2017 update: Tello is still working fine. I've been using the service for talking, texting, and light internet use, and it works, as expected. Our local Sprint coverage is just fine. And although I haven't needed to contact customer service for anything, I see that they continue to get high marks and great reviews for their customer service and support. If your local Sprint coverage is good and you're looking for an inexpensive option for cell phone service, I highly recommend that you consider Tello.

March 1, 2018 update: Tello continues to work as expected. I don't use it very much, but when I do use it, it works just fine. I continue to recommend Tello as an extremely affordable service for light users who are in an area with good Sprint coverage.

March 1, 2018 update: Important update for Pay-As-You-Go users. You need to use your pay-go balance every 90 days or less or it will expire. The Tello policy used to be that you needed to use your balance at least every 6 months, but they changed it to at least every 3 months or 90 days last fall. If you go more than 90 days with no use on your account, your pay-go balance will expire and your Tello phone number will be lost. Any call, text, or data used counts as usage, whether sent or received. Thus, to keep your balance active, all you need to do is send your number a text every 89 days or less. After you send or receive the text, check your dashboard to make sure your balance has dropped by a penny (the text costs one cent), and you'll be good to go for another 89 days. I wouldn't actually wait 89 days, but would send or receive a text every two months, unless you are regularly using your Tello service, in which case, you don't need to worry.

To my mind, one of the best things about Tello is their customer service, as they have some of the highest rated customer service in the industry. If you have any problems with your order, or your phone, or your service, they will respond quickly and efficiently, and will do everything they can to solve your problem. Tello uses TrustPilot to let their customers review their service. The nice thing about TrustPilot is that they have real reviews, and Tello can't delete the bad review. The reviews you see are the real unfiltered reviews. And the thing about real reviews is, when people are unhappy they'll often post a bad review, but when things work the way they should, people often don't take the time to write a review or say anything. So I am used to seeing negative comments (on companies that have poor products or service), but it's not very common to see that many positive reviews (because most people won't take the time to leave positive reviews) unless a company really is exceptional and really deserves all the positive reviews. The  cool (and amazing) thing about Tello is that not only do they not have many (or any?) negative reviews, but they have lots of positive reviews (which is uncommon). Check out the latest Tello TrustPilot reviews here. Based on all the happy customers (and reviews) that Tello has, they really do have great customer service.

"Have never experienced a large service company as responsive as this one and I have dealt with a LOT of them. Made the process clear and easy to follow. Everything worked as they described in a single email." - Robert Byers, August 24, 2017

"I am really amazingly happy with this amazing provider, amazing service, and great customer support!! Thanks!!" - I. Schipper, August 24, 2017

"Everything about tello is awesome. Thanks." - Steve C., August 24, 2017

"I've had the service for about 3 months. So far, it's been perfect and you can't beat the price." - Anthony Edwards, August 23, 2017

 read the latest Tello customer reviews (from TrustPilot)

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.

Comment by Reuven on Monday, August 21, 2017
Most of the reviews I came across merely highlight the monetary aspects of the provider, neglecting the customer support / technical support aspects. I started my cellular adventures with RingPlus, (R.I.P.) - they NEVER answered an eMail or a telephone call. From there I wandered to FreedomPOP; The sold me a Galaxy S4 that did not have any signal strength, and failed to call many times. Their tech support was moronic and laughable. After divorced them, miracle of all miracles, signal strength jumped from 0 to -80 dbm!!!
Now I've landed in TELLO Mobile land. I had a caller-ID problem, called them and the guy picked up the phone on the 2nd. ring. (!!!) They followed-up with an eMail AND with few phone calls to make sure I'm satisfied. Where else can one expect such a service nowadays?!!! I would highly recommend TELLO!

Reply by Steve (Cranial Borborygmus)
Hi Reuven, Thanks for your comment and for sharing your own personal experience with Tello. I agree that Tello's superior customer service is one of their strengths. From my own experience, when I was placing my order with Tello, I had a question and clicked on the online chat button on their website. Someone responded in under a minute. The person was very knowledgeable and answered my question quickly and efficiently. I believe Tello has one of the highest customer service ratings of any cellular service provider based on their TrustPilot rating. That's also the impression I get from just about everything I've read about Tello. I think they truly go the extra mile on their customer service.


* * * * * * * * * *

Do you have a comment or question? Would you like to share your own experience with Tello Mobile?
Fill in your name and comment below and click [Submit Your Comment].
note: Your comment will not show up above until after I have reviewed it, which usually takes less than 24 hours.

Your name:
Your email:

Your website:

Your comment:

Please include your email address if you are asking a question or providing information, as I may want to email you directly to answer questions and/or verify information. Email addresses will be kept private and will not be posted. I may only post comments that I think will be helpful to other readers. I won't post comments if I need to clarify or confirm information in them but am unable to email the person who commented, so please include your email address.