It used to be a fact that Sprint and AT&T were on opposite ends of a spectrum: Sprint was cheap but had spotty coverage, and AT&T was pricier, but had solid coverage. That’s not necessarily true anymore.
In the past few years, Sprint has worked hard to revamp their network, claiming “less than 1% difference” in network reliability – and they’ve bumped up their prices to match. Meanwhile, AT&T has bolstered the perks they include with their unlimited plans.
But commercials don’t really tell you much, aside from making bold claims. So it can be hard to decipher what’s true and what’s exaggerated or cleverly worded. To combat this, we took both carriers apart at the seams to find out what’s changed and which one is best for you: AT&T or Sprint.
Sprint vs AT&T: Plans and Pricing
For the most part, Sprint beats AT&T on pricing – the former’s prices per month start lower and offer better multi line discounts, depending on which plans you’re comparing. Plus, Sprint offers frequent deals which lower the price even further.
But that said, there is a lot of overlap between the two carriers, with Sprint’s 3 unlimited plans (plus Kickstart makes 4) to AT&T’s 2 – and Sprint’s highest-tier plan comes out $10 bucks higher than AT&T’s.
||$60/mo. limited time, $70/mo. regular||View plans|
||$80/mo. limited time, $90/mo. regular||View plans|
|AT&T||AT&T Unlimited & More||
|AT&T||AT&T Unlimited & More Premium||
As we mentioned, Sprint has 3 primary unlimited plans: Basic, Plus, and Premium. The first 2 have a big 50GB of 4G LTE data depriortization threshold – the point where you still have data, but your speeds get slowed way down. Premium has a huge 100GB threshold — the only other carriers to come close to that are Verizon’s Above Unlimited plan and T-Mobile’s plans.
Sprint also offers some cool perks, like a free Hulu subscription starting at Basic, and a small (500MB) hotspot there, too. Moving to the Plus tier gives you a 50GB hotspot allowance, plus a TIDAL music subscription. And then at Premium level you get a few more: Hulu, TIDAL, Amazon Prime, and Lookout security.
AT&T gives you there exclusive WatchTV app with Unlimited & More, which includes 35+ desirable live channels – not bad. Jump to the &More Premium plan, and you get your pick of premium TV or music channels included for free, too.
The downside to AT&T’s 2 plans is that the base &More doesn’t give you any hotspot – while Sprint’s gives you a small one – and upgrading to the &More Premium level gives you just 15GB of hotspot allowance. Again, tiny in comparison to Sprint’s 50GB or 100GB (Plus, Premium, respectively).
Sprint has some downsides, too, though: for one, Hulu can only be watched on your Sprint device or hotspot-connected device, not your TV, which is a weird limitation.
Unlimited Family plans and Discounts
|Carrier||Plan||1 line||2 lines||3 lines||4 lines||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Basic||$60/mo.||$100/mo.||$120/mo.||$140/mo.||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Plus||$70/mo. regular||$120/mo.||$150/mo.||$180/mo.||View plans|
|Sprint||Unlimited Premium||$90/mo. regular||$160/mo.||$210/mo.||$260/mo.||View plans|
|AT&T||AT&T Unlimited &More||$70/mo.||$120/mo.||$140/mo.||$160/mo.||View plans|
|AT&T||AT&T Unlimited &More Premium||$80/mo.||$150/mo.||$170/mo.||$190/mo.||View plans|
But when it comes to multiple lines, AT&T actually wins the price battle in most cases. If you exclude Sprint’s Unlimited Basic and compare AT&T’s 2 plans to Sprint’s Plus and Premium plans, AT&T’s prices come out better by anywhere from $10-$40 per month.
This disparity is especially noticeable when you look at the costs of 3 and 4 lines for Sprint’s Premium and AT&T’s Premiums.
But — again with the but — Sprint often runs deals. Currently, you can get 5 lines on the Basic plan for just $20 bucks a line — $100 a month. That blows AT&T out of the water again.
Both carriers do have some fees to compare, as well: Sprint charges $30 for activation, while AT&T charges $45. Both also have line access charges – Sprint anywhere from $15-$25 a month per line (when you bring your own phone), and AT&T anywhere from $10-$40 per month per line.
Sprint also charges $25 per month per phone if you buy under the terms of “2-year agreemnt” or “instant discount.” Ouch.
So, with prices, perks, and discounts combined together, we’re going to have to give this category to Sprint – unless you’re a TV buff or need a lot of lines; then, AT&T takes the cake for its inclusion of free live TV and premium channels, plus (generally) cheaper family plans.
Sprint vs AT&T: Coverage and Speed
Sprint, top; AT&T, bottom.
Of the Big 4 U.S. carriers – which Sprint and AT&T are part of – Verizon always wins the overall coverage game. AT&T comes in 3rd place – or 2nd, depending on who you talk to. And while AT&T might not be the fastest of the Big 4, it’s at least faster than Sprint, which takes 4th place in both coverage and speed.
|AT&T weak coverage areas||Sprint weak coverage areas|
To talk further, AT&T takes either 2nd or 3rd place for network coverage. Why one or the other? Well, that’s a matter of spectrum: AT&T is close behind T-Mobile for 4G availability – or the amount of time that users can access a 4G LTE signal.
But, that’s only when you take into account T-Mobile’s new 600 MHz spectrum – and not all phones can access this spectrum. So for users with phones that can’t access this spectrum, AT&T cleanly beats T-Mobile to take 2nd place behind Verizon.
In any case, AT&T definitely has more widespread service coverage than Sprint. Sprint has been improving, but they’re still best in metro and city regions. The study by OpenSignal, as well as RootMetrics, back that up.
THe same goes for Sprint - but they take 4th place below AT&T. However, if you need highspeed data for longer, Sprint could still be the better choice, depending on where you live. Sprint’s 50GB 4G data cap gives you more than double what AT&T offers (22GB), no matter the network strength.
So if you live in a region with strong Sprint availability, the overall network strength might not matter, as you probably wouldn’t notice a difference between the two. And that larger data cap could make your overall speeds better with Sprint.
Sprint vs AT&T: Devices
|Sprint phones||AT&T phones|
Both carriers offer a pretty similar selection of phones - the latest iPhones, the latest Samsungs, and a good selection of LGs and more budget-friendly devices. Both also offer payment plans, so you can afford to get that iPhone XR for relatively cheap.
But, Sprint does have a leg up on AT&T with the inclusion of Google Pixel 3s to their lineup. AT&T is the only carrier that does not at present offer the Pixel – so hopefully for them, they’ll add that to their roster soon.
Because of that, Sprint takes the category.
Sprint vs AT&T: Customer Service
Neither AT&T or Sprint have the best score for customer service, taking 3rd and 4th place again according to J.D. Power. Although the wireless industry isn’t known for having impeccable customer support, both carriers fall below the industry average.
But saying that, AT&T scored considerably higher than Sprint here – so with those numbers, we’ll give this section to AT&T.
When it comes down to it, despite Sprint’s extra perks, their often discounted prices, and their higher data caps, AT&T is just the better carrier in most cases.
AT&T generally has faster speeds and better coverage. While their data cap leaves something to be desired and their perks may lacking in comparison (unless you’re a TV fan), they simply have a higher standard of performance and customer care.
- Best single-line price: Sprint
- Best family price: AT&T
- Best network: AT&T
- Best phones: Sprint
- Best customer service: AT&T
Between speed, coverage, pricing, and perks – AT&T wins. But if you need a straight-up lower price, Sprint can get you covered – especially in metro areas.