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AT&T (Cingular) Review

Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been replaced by another product.

Our Verdict

AT&T is an excellent phone provider that's well worth your consideration, thanks to its diverse selection of phones and plans, its broad coverage, and its blisteringly fast data speeds.

For

  • AT&T's 4G LTE average data speeds are, hands down, the fastest in America.

Against

  • Its plans are quite a bit more expensive than many of the alternatives we've reviewed, and its network is a little spotty in some areas.
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AT&T image: From AT&T's website, you can take advantage of online-exclusive deals, buy phones, sign up for plans or simply manage an existing account.

AT&T image: From AT&T's website, you can take advantage of online-exclusive deals, buy phones, sign up for plans or simply manage an existing account.
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AT&T image: If you want unlimited talk and text, AT&T's Mobile Share plans give you the best value, even if you only need one line.

AT&T image: If you want unlimited talk and text, AT&T's Mobile Share plans give you the best value, even if you only need one line.
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AT&T image: For families who don't need data but want to cheaply call each other, AT&T offers family plans. Each plan comes with two lines, and extra lines only cost $9.99.

AT&T image: For families who don't need data but want to cheaply call each other, AT&T offers family plans. Each plan comes with two lines, and extra lines only cost $9.99.
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AT&T image: Three different individual voice plans are available: a 450-minute plan, a 900-minute plan and an unlimited plan.

AT&T image: Three different individual voice plans are available: a 450-minute plan, a 900-minute plan and an unlimited plan.
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AT&T image: If you make a lot of calls to Canada, AT&T offers special voice plans that include calls to the country in your anytime minutes allocation.

AT&T image: If you make a lot of calls to Canada, AT&T offers special voice plans that include calls to the country in your anytime minutes allocation.
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AT&T image: AT&T offers multiple generations of popular phones like the iPhone. Depending on how old the phone is, you may be able to get it for free with a two-year contract.

AT&T image: AT&T offers multiple generations of popular phones like the iPhone. Depending on how old the phone is, you may be able to get it for free with a two-year contract.
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AT&T image: Some older phones are available for just 99 cents with a two-year contract.

AT&T image: Some older phones are available for just 99 cents with a two-year contract.
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AT&T image: Phones are available from a variety of manufacturers such as HTC and BlackBerry.

AT&T image: Phones are available from a variety of manufacturers such as HTC and BlackBerry.
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AT&T image: If you buy refurbished phones, you can generally save about $50 off their regular price.

AT&T image: If you buy refurbished phones, you can generally save about $50 off their regular price.
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AT&T image: The web store offers tablets of every shape and size from popular manufacturers like Samsung and Apple.

AT&T image: The web store offers tablets of every shape and size from popular manufacturers like Samsung and Apple.
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AT&T image: If you're in the market for a prepaid phone, AT&T offers prepaid plans through its GoPhone brand.

AT&T image: If you're in the market for a prepaid phone, AT&T offers prepaid plans through its GoPhone brand.
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AT&T image: AT&T is rightfully proud of its 4G LTE network, which delivers average speeds of 18.7Mbps, the fastest in the nation.

AT&T image: AT&T is rightfully proud of its 4G LTE network, which delivers average speeds of 18.7Mbps, the fastest in the nation.
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AT&T image: Since the AT&T network uses GSM technology rather than CDMA, you can talk on the phone and browse the web at the same time.

AT&T image: Since the AT&T network uses GSM technology rather than CDMA, you can talk on the phone and browse the web at the same time.
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AT&T image: AT&T's 4G LTE coverage stretches from coast to coast. It's not the most widespread in the country, but there's a good chance it covers you.

AT&T image: AT&T's 4G LTE coverage stretches from coast to coast. It's not the most widespread in the country, but there's a good chance it covers you.
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AT&T image: If you plan to travel outside the United States, you can get international roaming plans to help reduce the price of phone calls and text messages.

AT&T image: If you plan to travel outside the United States, you can get international roaming plans to help reduce the price of phone calls and text messages.

Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been replaced by another product. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.

AT&T is one of the two biggest cell phone providers in the country. Its network features the fastest mobile broadband that's available in the United States. It offers single-line, family and business plans to satisfy every mobile need. And its device selection is excellent: You can buy tablets, mobile hotspots and any new or last-generation phone you could want, all at subsidized prices. AT&T isn't our top carrier – its network isn't quite strong enough, nor is its customer service as consistently dependable as we'd like – but it's very much deserving of our praise.

When compared with other major carriers, the prices of AT&T's plans are about average. You can pick from a wealth of options, including different tiers of voice minutes, text messages and data allocations. If you almost never text, for example, you could forgo a dedicated plan and instead opt to pay for text messages on a per-use basis. If you always need to be connected to the Internet no matter how far away you are from a computer, you could sign up for the company's sizable 5GB data plan. Unfortunately, AT&T doesn't offer an unlimited data plan, so be sure to keep an eye on your downloads and take care not to incur any overage fees.

If you're a heavy phone user, paying for your phone services a la carte can get expensive. AT&T's Mobile Share plans come with unlimited talk and text by default. They're designed for multiple users, but you can sign up for one with just a single phone and take advantage of their savings. On a regular individual plan, for example, a single line with unlimited talk and text and 3GB of data would cost you almost $120 a month. With the mobile share bundle, you could get a similar plan with 2GB of data for $95, or with 4GB of data for $110. Either way, you'd save money over the individual option.

All contract-based AT&T plans are significantly more expensive than comparable plans at no-contract providers, but signing up for one lets you buy a new phone at subsidized cost. Generally, this will save you about $400 up front. Keep in mind, however, that over the course of a two-year contract, the amount you'd initially save will be eclipsed by the extra you'll pay over those two years.

AT&T's coverage isn't the best in the nation, but it comes very close. The carrier has 4G LTE from coast to coast and in many rural areas in between. It offers LTE service in more than twice as many markets as the next largest provider. It also features the fastest data rates of any cell phone company in America. The average AT&T user can expect to get download speeds of 18.7Mbps – fast enough to stream crystal-clear HD-quality movies and have video chats with ease.

As much as the company has tried to improve its network, it still suffers from the occasional poor connection or dropped call, problems that are compounded the further you get into rural areas. There aren't many places in the United States that lack some sort of AT&T signal, but depending on where you are, it might not be particularly strong or dependable.

As one of the top carriers in the country, AT&T is no slouch when it comes to device selection. Every major operating system, brand and model of phone is available, from heavyweights such as Apple's iPhone 5s and Samsung's Galaxy S4, to less common models such as the BlackBerry Q10 and Nokia's Lumia 1020. You can buy a wide selection of tablets from manufacturers like Apple, ASUS and Samsung, or purchase mobile hotspots so your laptop can connect to the Internet without Wi-Fi.

AT&T offers both new and refurbished devices. Despite being called "certified like-new," its used phones aren't necessarily free of dings or scratches from previous owners; rather, they've been put through a series of intense benchmarking tests to ensure they can hold up to rigorous use. In return for buying refurbished, you can get these devices for about $50 less than their normal, subsidized cost.

As does every contract-based phone provider, AT&T charges a number of fees to its users. If you sign up for a two-year contract and want to opt out early, you'll have to pay a termination fee that can get as high as $325. The company will charge you a $36 activation fee for every line you add to an account, and returning a phone will incur a $35 restocking fee. Finally, for every gigabyte of data you use that hasn't been factored into your plan, you'll be charged a $15 overage fee.

AT&T's service and support team is perfectly helpful, though with its lack of a general customer service phone number, you may find yourself navigating long telephone menus as you try to find the right person to talk to. Fortunately, you can always hop online and consult with one of its specialists over live chat, or ask a quick question using Facebook or Twitter.

AT&T may not be the best cell phone provider in America, but it's a great option nonetheless. It matches superb phone selection with solid customer service and a broad nationwide network that covers the vast majority of Americans. If you want to enjoy the fastest mobile broadband in the country, look no further.