If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that shopping for a family wireless plan can be a real chore.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, though. AT&T offers a variety of family plans on a solid network and packed with benefits.
AT&T is known for its extensive LTE network coverage and reliability, with cellular coverage second only to Verizon. I know what you're thinking: what's the rub? AT&T's Mobile Share Advantage packages are not exactly cheap. Their unlimited family plans are actually a slightly better deal, plus you'll avoid overage fees.
Despite their premium pricing, as of Q4 2016 AT&T subscriber numbers sat at roughly 135 million, falling right behind Verizon Wireless which boasts about 146 million subscribers. In case you're curious, T-Mobile and Sprint are serving 71.5 million and 58.5 million respectively. Straight ahead: I'll give you the lowdown on what AT&T has to offer you in terms of wireless plans for the whole family.
AT&T Family Plans
According to Pew Internet's "The Demographics of Device Ownership," a full 68 percent of adults now own a smartphone. Furthermore, as many as 85 percent of teens aged between 14 and 17 own cell phones, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. What does this mean? A lot of people are talking, texting, and surfing the web on their phones. Family cell phone plans are perfect for any group using multiple lines on a single account.
Gone are the days of the FamilyTalk plan. AT&T now offers a couple types of family cell phone plans that are similar to those offered by the other major carriers: prepaid, otherwise known as GoPhone, and the postpaid AT&T Mobile Share Advantage. Unlike the FamilyTalk plan, the newer plans all include free talk, unlimited texting, and customizable data options.
Pro Tip: If you are considering switching to AT&T and are worried about an early termination fee on your current contract, you may have an out. AT&T offers a $650 credit for switching to their service. What's the catch? The credit is spread out over 30 months, which could put you in a temporary bind.
AT&T's GoPhone is a prepaid cell phone plan, so you can either purchase a prepaid device directly from AT&T or bring your own phone! If you're determined to bring your own phone and switch to AT&T, you simply need to add an AT&T GoPhone SIM kit to your device for a small fee.
Read More: If you're hesitant on settling for AT&T as your bring your own phone provider, perhaps you should take a moment to compare bring your own phone plans among the four major carriers.
As for prepaid GoPhone plans, you can select the plan with only unlimited talk and text (though you can purchase a data package every 250MB), the plan with unlimited data but the first 4GB is at high speed, or the plan with unlimited data but with the first 8GB at high speed. However, you can also select the very small-priced cents per minute or the couple dollars per day for unlimited talk and text. That being said, you cannot apply multiple lines with the latter two plans.
In fact, the Multi-Line Discount only applies to the $45 per month plan and above. With the Multi-Line Discount, you will receive just $5 off the second line, $10 off the third line, $15 off the fourth line, and $20 off the fifth line. All prepaid monthly plans come with no activation fees, deposit, or overage fees, and of course no early termination fees. Also keep in mind that you can apply AT&T's AutoPay feature to the service, which will shave a few dollars per month off your plan.
Mobile Share Advantage
Mobile Share Advantage, on the other hand, is what AT&T shines the spotlight on. AT&T Mobile Share Advantage features no overage charges whatsoever, truly shareable data for up to 10 phones, tablets, and other devices, rollover data in the case that you don't use all of your data in the current month, and Stream Saver, which allows video to stream at 480p, so you will save more data. As a side note, you can turn Stream Saver on or off at any time.
Furthermore, on 10GB plans or higher, you'll receive unlimited text and talk to Mexico and Canada, as well as no roaming charges for voice, text, and data plan usage while in Mexico.
Mobile Share Advantage plan data amounts range from 1GB to a whopping 100GB, but the 100GB plan is incredibly expensive. These prices exclude the device access charges, which range from $10 to $30 per device unless you're on a two-year agreement, then your monthly access charge for smartphones alone will be $40.
There are two other plans to consider, however. Unlike the T-Mobile unlimited plan, Sprint Unlimited, and Verizon unlimited plan, AT&T offers two types of unlimited cell phone plans for talk, text, and data. One includes AT&T's fastest speed, HD video streaming, 10GB mobile hotspot, and savings when you include either DIRECTV or DIRECTV NOW service, and one gives you max 3Mbps speeds as well as SD video streaming.
If your family consists of data hogs, it may be a good idea to consider either unlimited package. You can use our data calculator to determine how much data you need.
AT&T Mobile Share Data
Need data on the go? AT&T's mobile share plans may be just the answer. AT&T has a set of Mobile Share - Data plans. These plans include a shared data amount that can be used by up to 10 data-only devices, including tablets, laptops, netbooks, mobile hotspot devices, and gaming devices.
With AT&T's share plans - data only, you pay a monthly charge, plus a monthly device access charge for each data-only device - just like with the Mobile Share Advantage plans.
Mobile shared data amounts range from 4GB to 50GB. You can't order Mobile Share - Data plans online, however. To add an AT&T Mobile Share Plan, you simply need to either:
- Chat with AT&T using the Chat button whenever it's available
- Dial 611 from your AT&T phone
- Call 800-331-0500
- Visit an AT&T store
Pro Tip: If you're not a heavy data user but still need occasional internet access while out and about, ask for the DataConnect Pass. This option allows you to either buy pay-as-you-go data or self-renewing buckets. Amounts range from 250MB to 7GB. The DataConnect Pass is also available for international use.
AT&T FamilyMap App
82 percent of parents believe that it is an overwhelming issue that they cannot always be around to monitor their kids' activity habits. With a family locator app, parents are able to at least monitor their children's physical location from a remote device.
AT&T FamilyMap is AT&T's version of a family locator and is one of several highly recommended parental control apps. You'll be able to locate up to 10 lines for a $9.99 monthly fee. You'll get the first 30 days for free if you're a new subscriber.
With the AT&T family locator, you'll be able to see your plans' devices on an interactive map, keep track of your family from your computer, tablet, or phone, and receive alerts when your children arrive at defined locations. FamilyMap also allows you to find a lost or stolen phone, as well as review the history location for each family member.
In the case of privacy becoming a major concern for a family member, phones will receive a text message from AT&T FamilyMap when they become locatable. Not only that but all locatable phones will receive notifications via text message that they can be located. These messages occur once every couple of months.
AT&T FamilyMap is compatible with the latest iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry devices.
How Does AT&T Compare to the other Family Plans?
As mentioned lightly throughout this article, AT&T is a tad more expensive compared to the other carriers. In fact, it can be just as expensive as Verizon Wireless. That being said, AT&T offers some advantages, such as the following:
- A strong and speedy 4G LTE network. In fact, the coverage is second to Verizon's cell phone plans. However, its speed falls behind both the Verizon and T-Mobile networks.
- Data rollover, but T-Mobile's cell phone plans, as well as Verizon's plans, offer the feature.
- An unlimited plan, but it is pricey compared to the T-Mobile unlimited plan (T-Mobile ONE), and Sprint Unlimited. Unlimited Sprint and T-Mobile family plans are also more affordable. AT&T's offering is, however, cheaper than the Verizon unlimited plan.
- AT&T FamilyMap, but it is more expensive compared to the Sprint Family Locator service. It is the same price as the T-Mobile FamilyWhere app and Verizon Family Locator, however.
Overall, AT&T is more expensive than the other major carriers, offering fewer incentives to switch over. However, it does feature a strong network. You're better off going to Verizon if you want better coverage at similar prices, though you could always opt for a T-Mobile family plan or Sprint's cell phone plans if you're craving an unlimited plan for your family.
Pro Tip: Ask and ye might receive. You may find the best multi-line deals by talking to a rep on the phone or in person. Ask about the latest specials, including bundling your services like home phone or U-Verse TV.
Is an AT&T Family Plan Right for You?
AT&T's Family Plans, whether prepaid or through Mobile Share Advantage, may be right for you if your area is covered by AT&T's reliable and speedy service. That being said, AT&T is more expensive compared to the average carrier, though depending on the unlimited plan you select, you could save big on DIRECTV packages or DIRECTV NOW.
Whether you choose a family plan from AT&T, or one on the Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile networks, the key is picking the plan that's right for your needs as well as your wallet.