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AT&T vs Sprint

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Is Sprint better than AT&T?

By Rob Webber - Last updated on

If you've ever seen a commercial for wireless service then you know that the rivalries between the major cell phone providers are fierce.

Being constantly badgered by cellphone advertisements only achieves one thing: confusion. With all of the competition, it can be tough to decide on the best choice for your mobile service needs.

What you may not know is that if you're weighing the pros and cons of AT&T vs. Sprint there are plenty of cheap cell phone plans available on both of these networks.

In this guide, I'm going to clarify each network's strengths and tell you how to get the best deal on your talk, text, and data.

Table of Contents
AT&T vs Sprint
Switch & Save $600/yr - Calculate Your Savings

AT&T vs Sprint MVNOs

Once you've decided on whether the AT&T or Sprint network is right for you the next order of business is finding a great deal on your cell service.

Believe it or not, there's a way to stay on the same great network you love without paying premium prices. By going with a smaller, alternative carrier you can enjoy the coverage you need at lower rates.

These carriers are called Mobile Virtual Network Operators, or MVNOs. You might know a few of them, like Tello, Mint Mobile, US Mobile, etc. MVNOs lease usage of the big three networks' towers and resell it to you at a discount.

Benefits of using an MVNO:

  • No contracts or early termination fees.
  • Bring your own device and phone number.
  • Lower prices.
  • Customizable plans that let you pay only for what you need.
  • Simple to switch by ordering a SIM card online.
  • Solid customer support, often available seven days a week.

MVNOs bring a whole new level of choice to the cellular service game - with the consumer coming out the big winner.

Powered by
4G/5G data
mins
texts
/mo
Same coverage - massive savings!YOU SAVE:
T-Mobile
Magenta - $70/mo
$840/yr
AT&T
Unlimited Extra - $75/mo
$900/yr
Verizon
Play More Unlimited - $80/mo
$960/yr
$0$20$40$60$80
Monthly cost
Average monthly data usage is only between 3-5GB
Avg. user rating
Benefits

    Sprint vs Tello comparison

    Keep your Sprint phone, number & coverage: Save $228 per year

    CarrierNetwork Coverage4G/5G DataPriceAnnual Cost
    SprintSprint 4G & 5G$0/mo$0/yr
    TelloSprint 4G & 5G5GB$19/mo$228/yr
    *Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$19/mo$228/yr

    AT&T vs PureTalk comparison

    Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $562 per year

    CarrierNetwork Coverage4G/5G DataPriceAnnual Cost
    AT&TAT&T 4G & 5GUnltd*$75/mo$900/yr
    PureTalkAT&T 4G & 5G6GB$30/mo$338/yr
    *Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$45/mo$562/yr

    AT&T vs Sprint: Best Prepaid Plan

    Winner: Tello 1GB - $10/mo (Sprint Network)

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    1GB

    4G/5G data

    $10/mo

    $10 per GB

    Powered by: T-Mobile

    Runner up: PureTalk 1GB - $15/mo (AT&T Network)

    PureTalk2GB plan* 25% Off for 3 Months

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    2GB

    4G/5G data

    $15/mo*

    $20/mo

    $10 per GB

    Powered by: AT&T


    AT&T vs Sprint: Best Value Plan

    Winner: Tello 4GB - $19/mo (Sprint Network)

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    5GB

    4G/5G data

    $19/mo

    $3.80 per GB

    Powered by: T-Mobile

    Runner up: PureTalk 5GB - $23/mo (AT&T Network)

    PureTalk6GB plan* 25% Off for 3 Months

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    6GB

    4G/5G data

    $22.50/mo*

    $30/mo

    $5 per GB

    Powered by: AT&T


    AT&T vs Sprint: Best Unlimited Data Plan

    Winner: Tello Unlimited - $39/mo (Sprint Network)

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    Unlimited

    4G/5G data

    $29/mo

    Powered by: T-Mobile

    Runner up: PureTalk Unlimited - $42/mo (AT&T Network)

    PureTalkunlimited data plan* 25% Off for 3 Months

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    Unlimited

    4G/5G data

    $41.25/mo*

    $55/mo

    Powered by: AT&T


    AT&T vs Sprint: Best Talk & Text Only Plan

    Winner: Textnow Talk & Text - Free (Sprint Network)

    TextNowunlimited talk & text plan

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    0GB

    4G/5G data

    $10/mo

    Powered by: Sprint

    Runner up:

    Boost Mobile5GB plan* 66% Off for 3 Months

    Unlimitedmins

    Unlimitedtexts

    5GB

    4G/5G data

    $5/mo*

    $15/mo

    $3 per GB

    Powered by: AT&T & T-Mobile


    AT&T vs Sprint: Network Coverage

    AT&T Coverage Map

    AT&T Coverage Map

    Sprint Coverage Map

    Sprint Coverage Map

    Network Performance Comparison

    NetworkOverallReliabilitySpeedDataCall
    Verizon9496909593
    AT&T9294899390
    T-Mobile8688889184
    Sprint8587818679

    Source: Rootmetrics

    Coverage Comparison

    You want reliable service that keeps you talking, texting, and streaming music. How do you make sure you get just that?

    There are a few things to consider when you look at a wireless network coverage map:

    • Percentage of 4G LTE coverage vs. 3G speeds
    • Where you spend the most time
    • Areas to which you travel frequently

    When a wireless carrier says they cover a certain percentage of the U.S., keep in mind that what that number actually refers to is the percent of populated areas which they serve. It doesn't include extremely remote areas with low or no human population.

    AT&T Coverage

    The AT&T network maintains a close second to Verizon in coverage, speed, and reliability. The carrier earned the top spot for text reliability in the 2017 mobile performance assessment by RootMetrics.

    OpenSignal, which uses crowd-sourced data in its State of the Mobile Network report, found that users on the AT&T network get a 4G LTE signal about 87% of the time. Although this puts them in third place among the big three networks it's important to remember that there are only a few percentage points separating each carrier.

    Weak/No Coverage Areas:

    • Middle/western Nebraska
    • Middle/northern Montana
    • Northern Arizona
    • Southern/northwestern Nevada
    • Southeastern/central western Utah
    • Central western New Mexico
    • Central Idaho
    • Spotty areas throughout California
    • Spotty areas throughout Oregon and Washington
    • Spotty areas in Maine

    For the most part, these areas are minor and largely unpopulated. Still, it's important to examine the areas where you'll need to use your cellphone on a regular basis.

    Sprint Coverage

    There's no way around it - Sprint trails AT&T in virtually every aspect of cell coverage. That doesn't mean the Sprint network is wrong for you, however. All four of the major carriers are very close in quality and coverage, meaning the Sprint network is still a very competitive choice.

    RootMetrics gives Sprint an overall rating of 87.9 compared to AT&T at 92.9. Sprint users experience a 4G LTE connection 85.7% of the time, less than two percent below AT&T's 87%.

    Weak/No Coverage Areas:

    • Large portions of the Midwest and West, from the Dakotas to Nevada
    • Non-metropolitan areas of California
    • Widespread spotty areas throughout the middle South and New England

    Sprint's strong point is its strong LTE network in large metropolitan areas. The network excels in highly populated locales, with less reliable wireless coverage throughout the Great Plains and western states.

    Switching Advice

    Here are some tips before you make the switch:

    • If you're bringing your own phone with you, make sure it's unlocked.
    • Shop around for the best fit - do you need calling to Canada and Mexico? Is HD video streaming important to you? Make sure the carrier you choose offers the add-ons you need.
    • Remember to check device compatibility on the carrier website.
    • You can typically save more by signing up for autopay.

    Smartphone Savings Tips

    No matter what your decision on which is better, AT&T or Sprint, if you go with an MVNO you will need to decide on a phone.

    The best way to save money on a smartphone is to bring your own phone when you switch or buy a refurbished phone. Most low-cost carriers sell devices but your current phone probably has a lot more life in it than you think. However, if you really want or need to upgrade, you'll get much better value from a refurbished device.

    In addition, you can sell your old phone online for cash, you'll often get considerably more than just trading it in-store.

    AT&T vs Sprint FAQs

    Is Sprint as good as AT&T?

    AT&T has better 4G LTE coverage than Sprint, however, Sprint has now merged with T-Mobile whose 5G network coverage is better than both Verizon and AT&T.

    Does AT&T own Sprint?

    No. AT&T doesn't own Sprint, but Sprint has recently merged with T-Mobile.

    Which is better AT&T or Sprint?

    AT&T comes second, just slightly behind Verizon, for its 4G LTE coverage, with Sprint coming last. However, Sprint has now merged with T-Mobile so customers will be able to access their network along with their top-ranked 5G network.

    Do Sprint and AT&T use the same towers?

    Sprint uses a CDMA-based network, whereas AT&T uses GSM. But since the Sprint and T-Mobile merger, Sprint will now be using T-Mobile's GSM network.

    Recap

    Due to the influx of alternative carrier plans in the mobile marketplace, you are no longer restricted to choosing among four (expensive!) cell providers.

    With MVNOs providing service on the most reliable networks in the United States, there's no reason not to take advantage of the incredible savings they offer on plan costs.

    Finally, we make finding the right plan easy. Compare cheap cell phone plans side-by-side.

    Rob Webber
    Rob Webber

    Rob has 15+ years experience in the US and UK running price comparison sites for cell phone plans, smartphone deals, TV, and internet. He loves thinking outside of the box to build tools that empower consumers to make more informed decisions.