Consumer Cellular Vs. AT&T: The Ultimate Guide

If you’re thinking about going with a new cell phone service provider, then you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices that are out there. If you have narrowed it down to just a few, though, then that should make the decision easier for you. Today we’ll be talking about two service providers, Consumer Cellular and AT&T. We’ll go over some of the most critical bullet points first, and then we’ll do a more detailed breakdown of their coverage, plans, perks, customer service, and more.

Consumer Cellular vs. AT&T

Consumer Cellular

  • Consumer Cellular does not offer very much when it comes to perks; instead, they try to lure customers with extremely low prices
  • They have limited talk plans for as little as $15, and you can add streaming data for $5 more per month; you can also get unlimited texting capabilities with any one of their plans
  • There aren’t many parts of the country where they don’t have service, as they use the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile
  • Those who don’t use many streaming data might be happy with this service; they cater mostly toward older adults over the age of 50

AT&T

  • They offer many of the most recent and popular phone models, and if you sign up with them along with some family members or friends, you can save some money
  • They have unlimited data plans for $65, $75, and $85 each for individuals; however, if you sign up for a family plan with at least four lines, those prices drop to $35, $45, and $55
  • They also provide DIRECTV and many other services, as they are a massive, highly diversified conglomerate
  • Their 4G LTE wireless coverage is third-best in the nation at 58% of the country; only Verizon and T-Mobile are better, at 70% and 59%, respectively

Consumer Cellular’s History

Consumer Cellular is a leading postpaid mobile virtual network operator that is based in the United States. It was founded in 1995 by John Marick and Greg Pryor. They offer cellphones, accessories, and no-contract cellphone plans. Their headquarters is in Portland, OR, and they are best known in the Northwest. They have more than 2,400 employees. They focus their marketing more on older adults, particularly those over the age of 50.

They use the networks of AT&T and T-Mobile, and they resell wholesale wireless services to other virtual operators. In 2019, the company reached 3.5 million customers. The Inc 5000 list has credited them as being one of America’s fastest-growing companies every one of the past ten years.

Their business model is somewhat unusual if you examine their focus and marketing. A lot of national providers are trying to get high-use clients as their base. Consumer Cellular is trying to entice more casual cellphone users. Those who don’t use a tremendous amount of data are probably going to like them best.

AT&T’s History

AT&T Headquarters in Dallas

AT&T stands for The American Telephone and Telegraph, and it was founded back in 1885. The current version is officially called AT&T Inc. They’re a multinational conglomerate holding company, and their headquarters is the Whitaker Tower located in Dallas, TX. They’re the largest telecommunications company in the world. Their distinctive circular logo is highly recognizable.

In years past, AT&T had several “Ma Bell” subsidiaries. However, they eventually broke off from one another following a 1982 antitrust lawsuit. AT&T is now the reconstituted former Bell Telephone system. It features 10 of the original 22 Bell Operating Companies, as well as what was the original long-distance division.

AT&T stock is publicly traded on the NYSE. They have many different cellular wireless plans, and also DIRECTV and other offerings. They are very diversified. Not long ago, they formed partnerships with healthcare providers interested in developing mobile health-related connective devices for better patient care. This demonstrates that the company is intent on pursuing previously-unexplored opportunities as we head further into 2020.

Which One of These Two Has the Better Coverage Area?

AT&T Coverage Map

You should always look to coverage area as one of the main factors when you are choosing which company to utilize, and that is certainly the case here. Consumer Cellular uses the networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. They are the third and second-best networks for 4G LTE services in the country, respectively. AT&T covers 58% of the country, while it is 59% for T-Mobile. Both of these are behind Verizon, which has remained number one for some time.

Consumer Cellular has the reputation of being a regional carrier. However, their coverage is better than several of the other small providers that exist. They’re a known commodity in the Northwest, but there aren’t going to be many areas where service is an issue. There are a few spots on the map that even the overlap of AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks are going to miss, but it’s rare.

AT&T, as the third-best 4G LTE provider in the nation, is doing pretty well for itself in this regard. If you live in a rural area, then you might run into some problems, but if you live in a metropolis, or close to one, you should be fine. The company is working on 5G across the country as well.

Since AT&T runs its own network, and Consumer Cellular uses both it and the superior T-Mobile, you probably aren’t going to notice a huge difference in coverage and dependability between these two brands.

Does Consumer Cellular or AT&T Have the Better Plans?

Consumer Cellular has a single line with a talk plan of 250 minutes per month for $15, which is excellent by today’s standards. You can also get a plan with unlimited talking capability for $20 per month. If you want streaming data, you can get a plan with 500MB per month for an extra $5. 3GB will be an extra $10 per month. 10, 15, and 25GB per month will cost you an additional $20, $30, and $40 each.

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Consumer Cellular Plans

With Consumer Cellular’s plans, what you are getting is low prices for a stripped-down service. This reinforces that they are trying to corner the market on individuals who don’t talk on the phone regularly and those who don’t use a ton of streaming data.  

With AT&T, you can get a single unlimited data plan for $65, $75, and $85 per month, with taxes and fees extra. That is considerably more expensive than Consumer Cellular’s plans, but you can do better if you sign up with friends and family members and get multiple lines. If you get four lines, for instance, you can get each one for $35, $40, or $50, respectively, depending on how many extra features you want.

AT&T Service Plans

In this area, it seems to be a matter of paying for and getting less with Consumer Cellular versus paying more and getting more with AT&T. 

What Perks Do You Get with Each Company?

Some people sign up with a company based mostly on what perks they offer you. In the case of Consumer Cellular, you don’t get a whole lot that is likely to impress you. You can receive a discount on your bill if you belong to the AARP. This makes it evident, once again, what the target market is for this company. You do also have the option of adding family and friends for $15 per line, which is Consumer Cellular’s method of trying to coax you to bring some new business their way.

AT&T will give you quite a bit more, especially if you spring for one of their more expensive plans for yourself and those you know. If you decide on four lines for $50 each, you get unlimited text and talk in the US and also in Canada and Mexico. If you have some friends or relatives who live in either of those countries, that’s going to be a standout feature that Consumer Cellular can’t match. You can also get 5G access wherever it is available in America through AT&T’s rapidly-expanding network.

You get HBO included for no extra charge, and that’s great if you travel a lot or if you have kids. You can keep the younger family member distracted on trips, and you’ll probably enjoy it just as much yourself. You can watch newer shows and movies, or catch up on classics like Deadwood and The Sopranos.

You Can Get HBO with AT&T

How About Limitations?

With Consumer Cellular, the real limitation is in the amount of cellular data you have, or even talk capabilities if you get their cheapest plan. Since you’re not paying as much, you’re not getting as much, and that includes things like hotspot usage and international calling and roaming as well. 

With both companies, there is also the chance that you might have a phone that is not supported by their network. If you own a well-known brand like Apple or Samsung, then you should be fine. If you have someone off-brand that no one has ever heard of, you should contact the company you are considering first to make sure that it is not an issue. You can also forego the problem entirely by buying a phone through either provider when you sign up with them.

Which Phone Models Can You Use?

With either company, you can use most new phones if you bring one of your own. If you don’t have a phone yet, then you are definitely going to get a more extensive selection with AT&T. They are sure to have the newest iPhones, Androids, etc. If you choose one of their high-end plans, then you might be able to get one relatively cheaply, or even free if you commit to a long-term contract.

With Consumer Cellular, you won’t get as many choices. You can get older models at lower prices, which probably isn’t that surprising. In the company’s way of thinking, their customers probably aren’t going to want to drop a large amount of money on the latest device with all the bells and whistles.

What About Customer Service?

The customer service for AT&T is well regarded. You have the option to talk with someone over the phone, or you can Live Chat with them via their website. You can do the same with Consumer Cellular. However, this is one area where AT&T has the edge. They have more than 16,000 retail locations in the United States, which is handy if you need to see someone face-to-face to discuss an issue. 

Consumer Cellular can’t match those numbers. Their products and services are only sold in about 350 Best Buy locations, mostly those in the Northwestern part of the country.

Which One is Right for You?

Deciding between these two seems to be the classic dilemma of whether you want to pay more to get more or whether you are content paying less and getting a more modest plan. Both of them have good coverage. Consumer Cellular has lower prices pretty much across the board, and they have little in the way of perks.

AT&T has more expensive plans, but they all come with more features. HBO is a key selling point for some people, while others opt for international calling and roaming, or hotspot capabilities. Still, others appreciate that there are more brick-and-mortar locations that they can visit with the better-known brand, or they are impressed by the expanding 5G network.

It’s probably going to come down to where you are in your life. If you don’t use your phone all that much for any reason, then Consumer Cellular is going to have its appeal. If you want more features and more data because your phone is always near at hand, then the better-known AT&T is likely going to get your business.