Ting Review: Is The À La Carte Carrier Right For You?
Ting offers simple and highly affordable mobile data plans, paired with industry-leading customer service and network coverage. I took a look at all that Ting has to offer, and here’s what I found.
- Non-family plans
- 10GB, 5GB, and 0GB plans
- Broad coverage
- Customer service
Do you really use your phone enough to justify a $60+ “unlimited” plan?
This is the question many Millennials and Gen Zers are asking as they look for ways to spend less and invest more. After all, $700+ per year is a lot to pay for checking Instagram and sending reaction gifs.
Since the big dogs like Verizon and AT&T have generally stopped offering cheap plans, you might’ve considered switching to a smaller budget carrier. But won’t your coverage suck? Won’t they pepper you with gotcha fees? And will customer service even be a thing?
Well, what if I told you (in Morpheus’s voice) that up-and-comer Ting offers better coverage, better customer service, and plans start starting as low as $10/month?
Your next questions might be:
- What’s the catch?
- How can Ting offer better coverage than Verizon?
- If Ting charges $10, where are they making their money?
- What are their best features (or are they missing any key features)?
- Overall, what will I miss if I switch from a big carrier to a small one?
I’ll answer these and more as I investigate Ting.
What is Ting?
Ting, a subsidiary of Dish Wireless, is a special type of carrier called a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO.
MVNOs don’t have any technicians, towers, trucks, or satellites of their own – rather, they rent bandwidth from the Big Four: Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
By keeping their overhead extremely low, Ting is able to offer some of the best deals (and customer service) in the industry. It’s not all perfect, however, so I’ll discuss some pros and cons to the model.
First, the basics.
How does Ting work?
To switch to Ting, you’ll start by heading to their soothing, baby blue homepage. There, you’ll see a call-to-action to “check your phone.”
Ting is going to have you input your phone’s 15-digit International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number to see if it’s either a) unlocked or b) already compatible with Ting’s network.
My phone wasn’t, so my next step would be to either unlock my existing phone or buy a new one.
I really appreciate how Ting acknowledges that you can just buy an unlocked phone elsewhere, like Amazon or eBay. Not enough people realize that you don’t have to pay full price for a new phone with your carrier, and you can save hundreds by not doing so.
Once you’ve chosen a phone or unlocked your existing one, next you’ll choose a plan.
At first glance, Ting’s unlimited plans might look disconcertingly familiar. The Unlimited Pro plan probably looks like the plan you’re trying to leave.
Thankfully, if you scroll down a bit, you’ll see Ting’s killer app: its Flex Plan.
Yep – you can have a talking, texting phone for as little as $10/month. The caveat, of course, is that you’re charged for the first GB you use.
I’ll talk more about pricing next, but in the meantime, let’s finish our workflow.
I’ve chosen a phone and a plan, so next, I’ll register for an account and ensure my area is covered by Ting’s network:
Ting operates in my city (no surprise) so it’s off to checkout, and we’re good to go!
Now, I can’t buy a $1,300 iPhone to show the confirmation screen, but I think you’ve got a picture of the process by now. Being online-only, Ting is extremely easy to use and makes the entire process of picking a phone, picking a plan, and setting everything up quick and painless. So painless, in fact, that it makes you wonder why it takes 90 minutes at the store…
Anyways, let’s talk about pricing next.
How much does Ting cost?
Ting offers five data plans. Here’s how they compare:
Flex Set 5 Set 12 Unlimited Unlimited Pro
Monthly rate $10 $25 $35 $45 $55
Talk + text Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
5G data included (GB) 0 5 12 22 35
Price per extra GB $5 $5 $5 $5 $5
Hotspot data included (GB) 0 5 8 12 18
Prices are per line, and Ting doesn’t offer discounts for adding lines. That’s a bummer for families, but it keeps things simple for one-person plans.
Again, Ting’s Flex plan is the star of the show here. Most carriers won’t go below $25/month for unlimited talk and text, let alone $10. The caveat to the Flex Plan, of course, is that as soon as you use any data it triggers a $5 charge. In all likelihood, you’ll end up using up to a gigabyte by accident or in case of emergency, so it might be best to prepay for 1GB. $15 is still cheap as dirt.
In terms of competition, Ting’s rival Tello offers a 1GB plan for $10. That’s cheaper, sure, but Tello uses Sprint’s network, which is known for being spotty.
If you’d like to still watch the occasional video, Ting’s Set 5 plan is a solid choice. As long as you aren’t streaming too long or downloading much, 5GB should be plenty, and $25 is a steal.
Ting may not be the #1 cheapest MVNO out there, but they tend to offer more features than the competition. Here are some examples:
Superior coverage from three major networks
It’s impressive to think that a small, niche carrier like Ting actually has superior nationwide coverage than the big telecom giants. That’s because the company piggybacks onto the networks of Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint to cast a wider net than any of them can individually.
Excellent customer service
If you’re concerned about a small mobile carrier’s ability to take care of its customers, fear not. Ting didn’t just score higher than AT&T and Verizon in customer satisfaction – the little carrier that could actually topped the charts.
According to Consumer Reports, Ting and Consumer Cellular have shared the top spots for several years running in two categories: value and customer support.
Although Ting’s Flex Plan steals the show by charging as little as $10 per month, its other plans are notably affordable as well. $25 per month isn’t bad at all for 5GB of included data, which is probably more than you’ll ever need if you’re careful about disabling mobile downloads and tethering to Wi-Fi where available.
Included hotspot functionality
For the uninitiated, hotspotting is when you turn your phone into its very own Wi-Fi hotspot that you can connect to with your other gadgets. It’s a handy feature to have if you desperately need to email a file from your laptop or allow a friend to connect to Wi-Fi in case of an emergency.
Although it sucks up data quickly and shouldn’t be used lightly on limited data plans, it’s certainly a nice-to-have.
Fiber internet (in select cities)
It’s worth mentioning that Ting also offers “crazy fast fiber Internet,” but it’s not worth getting too excited about.
First, it’s only available in certain zip codes within nine select cities, including:
- Centennial, OH.
- Charlottesville, VA.
- Fullerton, CA.
- Fuquay-Varina, NC.
- Holly Springs, NC.
- Greater Sandpoint, ID.
- Solana Beach, CA.
- Wake Forest, NC.
- Westminster, MA.
It’s also available for pre-order in the following four cities:
- Culver City, CA.
- Encinitas, CA.
- Roaring Fork, CO.
- Rolesville, NC.
But even if you’re in those cities, Ting’s prices just aren’t competitive yet – its only plan, 1GB upload/download, starts at $89/month plus fees, which can’t compare to Google Fiber’s $60/month including fees. So Ting isn’t the place for Internet or mobile/Wi-Fi bundles.
My experience researching Ting
I’m glad Ting exists because somebody needs to keep offering Millennials and Gen Zers an affordable mobile data plan. You might’ve noticed that the giant telecom companies have slowly eliminated their budget plans, and the price of the most basic “unlimited” plan has crept up to $70 or more.
Half of Americans use less than 7GB of mobile data monthly, according to TeleGeography, and we can easily get that down to 5GB if we try. That means we’d qualify for Ting’s “Set 5” $25 monthly plan. That’s a savings of $45 monthly, or $540 annually, over big telecom’s unlimited plans.
But what would you sacrifice switching from a big telecom company to a small niche carrier? Not much, actually – in fact, Ting outranks the big telecoms in value, customer support, and network coverage.
I also love how Ting outright tells you to go buy a phone somewhere else because it’s cheaper. Most folks don’t know that you can just buy a new phone off of eBay or Amazon for 30%-70% off MSRP and slot your carrier’s SIM card in. I’ve saved thousands of dollars doing this, and it’s nice to finally see a carrier encourage it, too.
My only personal “criticism” of Ting is that I wish they’d market themselves better. Giant telecom is pushing a misleading narrative that Americans need unlimited data, and Ting should be pushing back. Ting should be helping Millennials and Gen Zers realize how little data they’re really using so they can save all that money.
Who is Ting best for?
All things considered, should you switch to Ting? Maybe if you fall into one of these categories.
Folks who use <5GB of mobile data monthly
Check your data usage last month; if you’re already using well under 5GB, you’re definitely overpaying for an “unlimited” plan.
If you’re between 5 and 10, challenge yourself to get it down. Digital Trends has a great piece on how to reduce your mobile data usage – it’s easier than you think, with plenty of simple toggles that won’t affect your daily habits.
Anyone seeking better coverage
What’s better than one network? Three networks, says Ting. As an MVNO without its own infrastructure, Ting “rents” bandwidth from Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon combined to greatly increase your overall coverage.
Those who prioritize customer service
Ting’s customer service sets a high bar for any customer support team in any industry.
To start, their dedication to keeping existing customers happy is so effective that they consistently rank highest in Consumer Reports satisfaction scores. They’re also easy to reach – you can chat with a human rep pretty much every waking hour of the day:
- Phone – Monday through Friday 8 am to 1 am EST, Saturday and Sunday 8 am to 11 pm EST.
- Chat – Same hours as above.
- Email – 24/7 response time.
What’s most impressive to me is that Ting’s CS team actively seeks out and answers questions about them on social media and Reddit.
Ting is clearly proud of their ability to provide legendary customer service, so if you value the idea of being taken care of by your carrier, Ting is probably your #1 best bet.
Who shouldn’t use Ting?
Ting is obviously pretty rock solid, but they’re not for everyone. Here are some groups that won’t get the most out of Ting’s unique structure and pricing:
Anyone who needs a truly “unlimited” plan
Ting’s “unlimited” data plans, Unlimited and Unlimited Pro, only include 22GB and 35GB of 5G data, respectively. After that, “you will be reduced to 2G speeds for the remainder of the month.”
You can “top off” your plan by paying $5 per extra GB, but let’s be honest: if you already use that much data, one gig isn’t going to do it. Therefore, “topping off” with Ting really isn’t cost-effective.
So if everyone on your plan (or even you by yourself) uses up more than 35GB of data monthly, you’ll probably want to look for a true unlimited data plan with a larger carrier.
Family plan shoppers
Similarly, Ting’s soft cap on 35GB of fast data is probably too restricting for families. The carrier doesn’t offer discounts for additional lines, nor do they offer BOGO deals on new phones like some of the larger carriers do.
Ting may still make sense if everyone on your plan already has a network-compatible phone and uses very little data combined (and to be honest, I don’t know many families like that). For everyone else, there are better-dedicated family plan options elsewhere.
Folks who use international and roaming data
Put simply, Ting doesn’t include roaming or international data for any of its plans.
I appreciate how Ting doesn’t have any fluffy site copy to dupe you into thinking they’re a viable option for either. Instead, they have a rather cold and antiseptic international rates page that reads “Calling and roaming rates are charged in addition to your Ting Mobile monthly plan.”
You’ll pay out of pocket for every international call or megabyte used, and the rates aren’t cheap. In China, for example, you’ll pay $0.30 per minute and $0.25 per MB used.
So if you plan to use your phone to send or receive any data outside of the US, you’ll want to consider a larger carrier that offers a roaming plan.
If you’re looking to saddle up to a single carrier for both mobile and Wi-Fi and reap all the perks and discounts these bundles provide, you’ll be disappointed with Ting.
Ting doesn’t provide bundle discounts between its mobile and internet services, and the latter is only available in nine cities anyhow.
Pros & cons
- Extremely affordable plans — Ting’s plans start at just $10 a month for unlimited talk and text. If you want to tack on 1GB in case of emergency (or accidental .gif downloads), it’s still only $5 extra. Ting’s Set 5 plan is also an excellent deal, with 5GB per month for just $25.
- Superb customer service — Ting’s customer support team is on another level, winning accolades on Consumer Reports and actively connecting with customers and non-customers on social media and Reddit. Rest assured, you’ll be taken care of at Ting.
- Superior nationwide coverage — Piggybacking off of not one but three giant telecom networks was a pretty smart move, and it means that Ting customers will get even wider coverage than they might with a single, brand-name carrier.
- No true “unlimited” plan — Ting offers two “unlimited” plans, but those are some big quotes - after just 22GB or 35GB you’re down to plodding 2G speeds. If you need gobs of fast data all month, you’ll want to shop elsewhere.
- No international plans — Ting offers no prepaid international/roaming data plans, so if you go overseas you’ll need a burner phone to save money.
- No discounts on hardware — Unlike most major carriers, Ting doesn’t offer any sort of discount on phones - if you buy through them, you’ll pay the eye-wateringly-high MSRP. To their credit, though, Ting encourages you to buy an unlocked phone elsewhere.
- No perks — Ting doesn’t offer free Disney+, Hulu, or any other services with their prepaid plans like the giant telecoms do.
Ting vs. competitors
Let’s compare Ting to its next closest MVNO competitor, Tello, and a telecom titan, Verizon.
Ting Tello Verizon
Cost for first line $10 starting $5 starting $70 starting
Network coverage Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint Sprint Verizon
Plans Flex, prepaid, unlimited Flex, prepaid, unlimited Unlimited
Internet options Fiber in nine cities starting at $89/month None DSL nationwide, fiber in nine states
Bonuses None None Free Hulu, Disney+, other streaming services with contract
Key feature Excellent customer service Rock-bottom pricing Discount family plans
Best for Overall value Budget shoppers Data-hungry households
Tello, Ting’s closest MVNO competitor, may not offer Internet and may only be tethered to a single network (Sprint), but nobody can beat their prices.
Plans with Tello start at just $5, which includes no data, 100 minutes, and free texts. If you bump that up to unlimited talk, the price rises to just $8 monthly – $2 cheaper than Ting’s Flex Plan. “Splurge” at $10, and you’ll get one prepaid gigabyte each month.
You can use Tello’s nifty slider to create your own plan or choose one of their four premade options: Economy, Value, Smart, and Data. Smart would probably be Goldilocks’ choice, offering 4GB plus unlimited talk + text for $19 monthly. Like Ting, Tello offers the flexibility to change your plan on a whim at no fee.
Tello’s chief drawback is that it piggybacks off a spotty network (Sprint), but if you’re a happy Sprint customer, you might consider the switch.
If Ting is a barebones Toyota Corolla, Verizon is a fully-optioned Lexus. Both cars use the same road, but the more expensive one has more features and is better for families.
In stark contrast to Ting, Verizon’s plans start at $70/month for a single line with unlimited 5G Nationwide/4G LTE data. Granted, even with the most basic plan you’ll still get 6 months of Disney+, Apple Music, and discovery+.
For $10 more, you’ll be upgraded to unlimited 5G Ultra Wideband/5G Nationwide (read: faster) data, plus unlimited hotspot data and a few extra streaming services including ESPN+ and Hulu.
If you want everything plus the kitchen sink in your mobile plan and a bevy of streaming services to go with it, Verizon has the plan for you.
Ting is a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, that “rents” bandwidth from Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile and sells it to consumers as prepaid plans. While its “unlimited” plans can’t compete with true unlimited plans offered by the telecom giants, its flex and 5GB plans are an absolute steal at $10 and $25 monthly.
As long as you don’t need roaming data or internet bundles, Ting’s affordable plans, legendary customer service, and feel-good, transparent vibe all make for a compelling reason to switch.
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