Let's face it: changing wireless carriers can be confusing. Do I have to sign a contract? What plans are available? Most importantly - can I keep my own phone?
AT&T's bring your own phone plans comes with a variety of compelling incentives. For instance, you will receive a free SIM card and the opportunity to sign up for a Mobile Share Advantage Plan. Yet, is AT&T BYOP (sometimes known as BYOD - bring your own device) right for you?
In this guide, I'm going to tell you how to bring your own phone to AT&T, which devices may be compatible, and what to expect as you make the switch.
Bring Your Own Device: Compatibility
According to FierceWireless, AT&T has the second largest subscriber base. The provider was home to 131.805 million subscribers as of Q2 2016, which fell just slightly behind Verizon Wireless. It makes sense - AT&T sports a network that falls just behind Verizon in terms of coverage and strength. Not only that, but the carrier routinely releases new plans that fit snugly into AT&T's BYOD policy.
You're probably wondering: which phones can you bring to AT&T? The answer is: it depends.
- Verizon: You may be able to bring some LTE network-enabled phones, however, it's not a guarantee. Verizon uses the CDMA network, while AT&T uses GSM phones. Only certain devices are designed to work with both technologies.
- Sprint: Sprint is another CDMA carrier, so again, you may or may not be able to bring your Sprint device.
- T-Mobile: This carrier uses GSM phones, so you shouldn't have any trouble bringing your T-Mobile device over to AT&T.
- MVNOs: If you're a smaller company, known as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, your device's BYOP compatibility will depend on which network technology your phone is designed to operate on. For example, Straight Talk uses CDMA and GSM devices. If you have a GSM Straight Talk phone, you may be able to bring it. TracFone wireless phones are the same way - there are both GSM and CDMA wireless devices.
The other thing to consider when you bring your own device is that you will pay a $20 activation fee (also called an upgrade fee). This charge is unavoidable no matter what, however, because you'll pay the activation fee even if you buy a phone from AT&T.
Pro Tip: Don't worry about keeping your own phone number. Cellphone providers are required to allow you to bring your own phone number when you switch carriers. Beware: if you cancel your old wireless account before signing up for service with your new provider, your number will no longer be available.
AT&T's cell phone plans, as well as the company itself, are rather innovative; after all, AT&T has become the first carrier to announce the Internet of Things projects (thanks, AT&T Newsroom), which is strictly for developers and businesses. However, how do this provider's plans fare against competitors?
Mobile Share Advantage
You can sign up for a Mobile Share Advantage Plan if you bring your own phone. These plans allow you to thoroughly enjoy unlimited talk, text and shared data with no overage charges whatsoever. Not only that, but you'll be able to take advantage of Rollover Data, which lets you use any data you have left over from the previous month in the following month.
These plans also include Stream Saver, which reduces the amount of data you use when you're streaming video; you'll be streaming at a resolution of roughly 480p. AT&T will automatically turn it on, however, but you can turn the feature on or off at any time.
The final advantage relates to the 10GB plans or higher - you'll receive unlimited talk and text to Mexico and Canada, as well as no roaming charges for voice, text, and data plan usage during your visits to Mexico.
Mobile Share Advantage plans range from 1GB of high-speed data per month to a whopping 100GB per month. After your high-speed data has been exceeded, your speeds will be reduced to 128kps.
Read More: If you're considering switching to AT&T, you should take into consideration the procedures and incentives of switching to the company.
AT&T Unlimited Data Plans
Looking for some truly unlimited data? Then you may want to feast your eyes on the AT&T Unlimited, one of the carrier's new plans, which is available with ATT BYOP. In other words, yes, you can bring your own phone to AT&T and sign up for AT&T Unlimited.
You'll receive unlimited data for all devices on your plan, as well as unlimited talk and text including calls to Mexico and Canada. Furthermore, you can talk, text, and take advantage of data in Canada and Mexico, but only when you add the AT&T Roam North America feature.
Okay, maybe the plan isn't 100 percent truly unlimited. After all, after 22GB of usage, you may experience some reduced speeds, depending on whether or not periods of congestion occur.
Furthermore, you will not be able to use tethering and Mobile Hotspot with the Unlimited plan.
While AT&T used to require its customers to have DIRECTV or U-verse in order to be eligible for their unlimited plan. They have since amended this rule and the plan is available to everyone.
BYOP is also eligible for another set of plans: DataConnect. Just what is DataConnect? Well, with DataConnect, you'll have access to AT&T's nationwide 4G LTE network, which isn't as powerful as Verizon's network, but still incredibly reliable. DataConnect provides the customer with nothing but data.
Every data plan listed includes unlimited usage on the entire national AT&T Wi-Fi HotSpot network. However, you may want to beware of the overage rates. You may pay up to $14.99 every 250MB on the 250MB plan or $10 per 1GB for the 1GB, 3GB, and 5GB plans.
In short, plans range from 250MB to 5GB of data.
AT&T Prepaid GoPhone
There is one other plan to consider that allows you to bring your own phone: GoPhone. Simply put, GoPhone is AT&T's Prepaid service, which you can learn more about here. GoPhone can be quite tempting, especially if it provides incentives such as receiving a free month of AT&T GoPhone once you switch online to AT&T. You can bring your own phone or device to GoPhone - all you need to do is to add an AT&T GoPhone SIM kit.
There are three monthly prepaid plans to choose from: unlimited talk and text (plus data package, but that is optional), the 4GB high-speed plan, and the 8GB high-speed plan. All three plans include Stream Saver, unlimited talk and text in the U.S., unlimited messaging to Mexico, Canada, and over 100 countries, and eligibility for the Multi-Line Discount.
The 4GB high-speed plan, however, also includes Rollover Data. As for the 8GB high-speed plan, you'll enjoy unlimited talk and text from the U.S. to Mexico and Canada, as well as talk, text, and data usage in Mexico and Canada.
There are two other plans available: the 25¢ per Minute plan, which includes 20¢ per message pricing and 1¢ per 5KB of data for feature phones, and the $2 per Day plan, which includes unlimited nationwide talk and text. You'll also have the ability to buy a data package for only $1 per 100MB (smartphone) or 1¢ per 5KB or $1 per 100MB for feature phones.
These plans include basic voicemail, three-way calling, call forwarding, call waiting, and caller number ID.
Pro Tip: Whether you purchase a new device or choose the ATT BYOP option, you no longer have to sign a two-year service contract. This means that bringing your own phone is an even better choice than before, because if you're unhappy with the carrier, you won't be locked into a service contract. In fact, AT&T no longer even offers a contract option to new customers.
Looking for information on the SIM Card Activation Kit? Don't worry, I have you covered. These SIM Card Activation Kits allow you to receive 4G LTE speeds on the AT&T network. This kit is compatible with Standard, Micro, and Nano SIM devices.
GoPhone SIM is compatible with feature phones, the iPhone, select Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy series, various Windows smartphones, and the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10. Furthermore, AT&T SIM for GoPhone devices is free of charge. If you have a tablet, however, you'll need to purchase a GoPhone SIM Kit from an official AT&T store.
You need to refer to your phone manufacturer's website to check whether or not your device works with one of the following GSM network frequencies:
AT&T multi-band UMTS or LTE or unlocked multi-band UMTS (850/1900 MHz), or LTE (Band 2 1900 MHz / Band 4 1700 MHz / Band 5 850 MHz / Band 12 700 MHz / Band 17 700 MHz)
Finally, you need to unlock your phone. You may need to contact the carrier otherwise to have it unlocked. You can also rely on our guide on how to unlock a phone.
Read More: You can use our smartphone comparison tool to look at the specs and features of the most popular devices.
Activate Your Own Device
Once you receive your new SIM card, which is free, all you need to do is insert it into your phone or tablet, and from there, you should be ready to go. If the SIM card is a GoPhone SIM, then you will need to activate the phone on AT&T's GoPhone page. Keep in mind you'll still see the activation/upgrade fee on your bill if you're using a postpaid activation kit.
Read More: If you'd like to examine all of the BYOP plans among the four major wireless carriers, you may do so with our comparison guide on the best BYOP plans.
Are AT&T BYOP Plans Right for You?
AT&T offers a generous BYOD policy, offering plenty of incentives and a wide array of no-contract options. Couple that with a network that falls behind only Verizon and you have a provider that you should strongly consider switching to. Unsure of how to switch cell phone carriers? We can walk you through every step.
Looking to compare cell phone plans? Our comparison tool lists the best cell phone plans on the market and places them side by side where you can see their prices, plans, and important features.