Consumer Cellular Offers Cheap, No-Nonsense Access to AT&T’s Cellular Network

Originally published at: Consumer Cellular Offers Cheap, No-Nonsense Access to AT&T’s Cellular Network - TidBITS

Fed up with Verizon’s high prices and poor service, Josh Centers decided to try the AT&T network through Consumer Cellular. After a successful test, he ended up switching.


I can confirm a CC sim works fine in an iPad, though $15/month is kind of steep for just adding a device to your plan.


It looks like the cheapest data plan for an iPad from AT&T is $25 per month.

Thank you, @jcenters, for a very nice article. If I ever get displeased with T-Mobile, I’d be happy to switch us over. We’re on 2 lines right now paying $90, looks like CC would get us down to about $75 most months.

Just one little thing I can add. If somebody needs to switch to another phone and only has a nano SIM on hand, there are very inexpensive little adapters to micro and mini SIM. In many cases these might be easier to get (and cheaper perhaps too) than to wait for your carrier to send you a a new appropriately sized SIM. Here’s just one typical example, can’t vouch for this exact make.

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My experience with Consumer Cellular ratifies everything in your article. If T-Mobile’s service is good in the area you care about, you’ll probably save a little money by choosing them, but Consumer Cellular completely delivers on the fronts of:

  • predictable cost, with no unexpected billing charges or persistent up-selling
  • straightforward, easy to deal with
  • good customer service (for a cell company)
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Yeesh. This is really my hang up with all the “cellular sidekick” type devices. It’s difficult to rationalize spending $100+/year to keep up a cellular connection that might be handy on occasion but is really mostly about the convenience of not dealing with tethering.

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Unless Consumer Cellular has changed, they actually use both AT&T and T-Mobile. Which network you get when you sign up depends on your location, or you can request to get a SIM for a specific network.

You can tell which is the preferred network for your area by the coverage map. If the map shows coverage in magenta, then it is T-Mobile.

The author’s issues with hotspot and Wi-Fi calling are because he is on AT&T. I had those same problems when I was on the real AT&T network. Consumer Cellular on T-Mobile worked for Wi-Fi calling and personal hotspot automatically.

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Consumer Cellular is not bad but there are better AT&T MVNOs. Airvoice WIreless offers unlimited talk+text and 3GB of data for $18/mo if you set up autopay with excellent US-based support. Tracfone offers unlimited talk+text plus 1GB with rollover for $20/mo, $5 discount for the first two months. They’re all AT&T underneath.

I have had AT&T since 2007 and currently my PRE-taxes rate is $62.50 for unlimited talk/text/data. The various taxes adds another $5.00. According to the plans shown in the article, I would only save a couple of bucks with CC (assuming the taxes stay the same). For me, I don’t think the savings would be worth the hassle of switching.

Well, they’re almost free of social media clichés. One of their newsletters last year starts:


We are stronger together.

Tmobile pre pay is $15 pm with 2GB data. Why pay $30 when you can pay $15 :slight_smile: At one stage we were on the magenta plan was some old plan where we were paying about $70 a month for two lines now we pay $30 for two lines saving $600 ± a year not too shabby. Just returned from Deutschland where we used eSIMS so we are still ahead!

The only gotcha is when you run out of data you really run out of data - they cut you off! You can get a top up before the end of the month but for $700 a year I’m going to put up with that!

The trouble with MVNOs, though, is that you don’t get all the frequency bands. You may notice that if you have someone with you that’s on one of the major’s, his/her’s reception indoors usually is better than yours and yours may not be usable. YMMV

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This is good info. I also have AT&T through my workplace discount (18%) and it went from $52/month (unlimited voice/text…not sure the data limit but I never exceed it…poss 7.4GB? from the app) to $58/month including fees/taxes, over the last 3 years. AT&T is notorious for their ‘administrative’ fee increases without recourse other than leaving. My issue with AT&T is poor coverage where I live, along with how when I travel, 10 miles from the Canadian border*, Rogers network tells ATT that I am roaming (I am not). I have to turn off cellular and use wifi calling on vacation. * top of the Adirondack Park, in NY State.
One question is: when it comes to data, you need to have wifi somewhere. The apps and iOS sizes are pretty much the limit of most data caps and wonder how that works when you are doing a 4GB update to iOS over cellular data…

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I changed to Consumer Cellular a few months ago and got two unpleasant surprises: 1. no cellular service for my Apple Watch and 2. very primitive voice mail. I probably could have lived without the Apple Watch though I liked knowing that I was still connected even if I forgot my phone.

But the Voice Mail was what finally cause me to go to Verizon (I had been on ATT since 2007). The reality is the CC gives you a 1990’s version of voice mail. It is like an old fashioned answering machine WITHOUT a counter. You have to play back the messages to determine whether there are any new messages and there is NO CALLER ID so you can’t even tell who called or what their number was. This can be a problem if your caller assumes your phone will record their number and forgets to tell you how to call back.

I will say the service was fine and if you don’t use either an Apple Watch with Cellular or care about modern voicemail features, you will get a great deal from CC. Don’t forget to get your AARP discount if you qualify.

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Good article, thanks. Just a note on other carriers and pricing. While I was on Republic Wireless with my Android phone ($15/mo no data) and needed to switch out since they did not do iPhone, I found Mint Mobile. They apparently use T-Mobile and are extremely reasonably priced. Since I use very little data I got on the $15/mo plan which does unlimited talk/data and 4GB data per month (no rollover). Sounds like they just throttle the data if you go over but I’ve never had a chance to find out. Been happy with them so far, YMMV.

I don’t use much cellular data (e.g., 299 MB last month); so I always look for plans that let me pay less for using relatively little cellular data. I had Consumer Cellular for several months a couple of years back and I was very happy paying only $23.30 per month for their lowest tier plan. I switched to Spectrum Mobile when that became available on the iPhone. I couldn’t pass up a flat-rate $14 per month for 1 GB of data.

Aside from getting service set up initially, I don’t think I’ve ever talked to a customer service person at a phone company. They are usually motivated to help you get their service set up, because otherwise they can’t take your money. Afterwards I’ve never needed them; so I don’t consider customer service a factor in choosing a cellular service. I certainly wouldn’t pay extra, month after month for potentially years, because a company had a friendlier person to answer the phone.

We’re paying $70/month (total) for T-mobile for two iPhones and unlimited data and phones can be used as hot spots. And it includes data in something like 70 foreign countries—not important to us now, but it helped in a European trip and will in the future. I think T-mobile is generally rated 2nd for coverage in the US. At times we use a lot of data (~8GB). Particularly when traveling and using various map/GPS apps and looking for hotels. Lately not so much. Also supports using Wi-Fi instead of data, but that doesn’t work reliably; don’t know if it’s Apple’s or T-mobiles fault, but suspect Apple. We have a weak cellular signal at home and in some parts of the house a web page or app will stall. I put the phone in airplane mode and pages load. Why doesn’t the phone know to switch itself? Just from reading the few posts here, one can see the pricing is not consistent. We changed about three years ago because of a foreign trip and a buy one get second phone free deal (iPhone X).

When I first switched to CC, my voicemail was like that too, so I chatted with their support and they poked at something and the exact same voicemail I had with AT&T returned. While you probably don’t want to switch back, for anyone else encountering that problem, try contacting their support.

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Hey, Josh. Great article and giving me much to think about. I’m moving from up north to Murfreesboro in about 10 weeks. Is it possible to contact you for a couple of brief questions directly?

Thank you to Josh and the many people who have made comments.

If anyone is with Boost and wants to switch (to any other network, I suppose, not just Consumer Cellular), learn from my experience and inexperience. I had a family plan with Boost. Nowhere on my Boost account web page did Boost disclose my account number, which CC required to port the numbers. But wait, it’s worse. It turned out that I had two account numbers, one for each phone number. Boost gave me one account number, CC tried to port the phone number associated with the other account number (that I didn’t even know existed), and said there was a mismatch. On the third iteration of being bounced between CC support and Boost support, I got transferred to (twice!) to higher level CC support. The nice tech set up a three way call and got everything resolved, but it took an entire morning (much of which was on hold, as you can imagine). The lesson is to get a Boost account number for each telephone number. And why can’t Boost just show the account number(s) when the subscriber logs into his or her Boost account?

The nice woman who finally broke through the Boost blockade asked me if I wanted Wi-Fi Calling. I didn’t know what that is and she did not provide an explanation I understood. (Feel free to educate me.) I asked Wikipedia and found the following.

Since the GAN system works over the internet, a UMA-capable handset can connect to their service provider from any location with internet access. This is particularly useful for travellers, who can connect to their provider’s GANC and make calls into their home service area from anywhere in the world.

Tell me if I understood that correctly. I can get an eSIM for overseas use but leave my CC SIM in the phone. To make an overseas call, I use the eSIM; to call someone in USA, I ensure I have a decent Wi-Fi connection and use the physical SIM. Is it that simple?

As I said, I moved two lines from Boost to CC. I put a T-Mobile SIM in one phone and an AT&T SIM in the other. I figured this gave us a better chance of having some service when we travel. (The other phone owner and I hardly ever separate while out of town.)