Consumer Cellular Review

This review is brief and not up to my usual standards.

Summary

Consumer Cellular is a mobile virtual network operator that offers well-priced plans on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks. The company aims to make its services especially simple and user-friendly to appeal to senior citizens. In my own experience with Consumer Cellular, I ran into a few hiccups, but I think my experience may have been out of the ordinary. If you value simplicity, live in an area where AT&T or T-Mobile offer good coverage, and don’t need an unusual amount of data, Consumer Cellular may be worth considering. If you’re unsure about the quality of T-Mobile and AT&T’s networks where you live, see The Ultimate Guide to U.S. Wireless Service Quality.

My experience

Purchasing a plan

I purchased a Consumer Cellular plan on 2/28/2019. The purchase process was extremely simple. I selected “plans” on Consumer Cellar’s website and my options were clearly laid out:

Based on the selections made, Consumer Cellular indicates the expected monthly price (red arrow) and notes that the quoted price doesn’t include taxes or fees. After selecting a plan, Consumer Cellular presented me with options for what devices I could purchase, but I went ahead and selected the option to just receive a SIM card.

From there I was presented with this:

I thought Consumer Cellular could have done a better job here to explain what phones and carriers its service was compatible with. If I was not knowledgeable about wireless service and tried to come to Consumer Cellular from Sprint, Verizon, or any other unmentioned carrier, I probably would have found this step confusing. The SIM was sent to me via free priority mail shipping. I also was able to take advantage of a promotion that made my second month free.[1]

Starting the service

A few days after ordering, I received some mail from Consumer Cellular.

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The materials that came along with the SIM card were clearer and more extensive than what I’ve received from any other MVNO. I immediately felt like Consumer Cellular was going above and beyond to make its service as user-friendly as possible. But then I ran into surprise complications when I tried to activate the SIM card. The materials said I could activate service online. To do that, I needed to log in with my phone number. I hadn’t been issued a phone number yet. The materials didn’t make it clear that my situation was a position a consumer could find themselves in. Since I couldn’t activate service online, I tried to call to activate my service. I couldn’t reach anyone. It turned out support was only available from 4am to 6pm Pacific Time. When I called back during open hours, I was put on hold for 5 or 10 minutes, but a convenient callback option was offered.

Using the service

I found Consumer Cellular’s service to be of roughly the same quality that I would expect from direct T-Mobile service. I didn’t identify any obvious throttling or speed caps. Below are a couple of images from unsystematic speed tests I ran in Boulder, CO.

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Footnotes

  1. I believe I still had to pay a couple of dollars in fees for the second month.

One thought to “Consumer Cellular Review”

  1. Christian,

    Nice review. I recently helpEd move my parents (late 70’s/ early 80’s) off AT&T postpaid to Consumer Cellular. We ported two lines, replaced a flip phone, and jumped on a number of discounts. We also shed a “free tablet” that was adding $20/mo. to the bill and a data hog teenaged niece off to Fi.
    Old bill $200+/ month.
    New bill $42.75/ month for two lines and three 3gb shared data. AARP discount lowered total from $45. Also, parents are getting a $20/ month discount for the next five months ($22.75/ month).
    The limited customer service hours are ok for the target market. The bonus, though, in my opinion, is that the PHX based call center has been great for dealing with seniors. Very patient and able to deal with technology and plan question with ease.

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