Hello Mobile review: Affordable and reliable unlimited 5G for $25 per month

Just don’t expect international roaming…

Hello Mobile review
Hello Mobile review

Summary

Hello Mobile delivers reliable unlimited nationwide mobile service for a reasonable price, with the additional perk of unlimited international voice and text from the US to 60 countries, plus a free (second) month of service. But it lacks international roaming options.

Overall
4.2

Pros

  • Affordable pricing
  • Reliable coverage
  • Usable data speeds, including 5G in some areas
  • Mobile hotspot possibly works without paying extra
  • Easy to swap phones

Cons

  • No international roaming options
  • Mobile hotspot is technically $15 per month extra
  • Limited new handset selection when buying from Hello Mobile

A year ago, I took Altice Mobile for a spin — a prepaid mobile phone plan with unlimited nationwide voice, text, data, and tethering along with (almost) unlimited roaming abroad for just $30 per month (plus a $10 activation fee). Overall, it was a fantastic deal, but unfortunately, it didn’t last. Altice’s current $30 plan limits data to 20GB, and lacks international roaming. Enter Hello Mobile, which offers a prepaid mobile phone plan with unlimited nationwide and international voice and text, plus unlimited data (including 5G) for just $25 per month (with no activation fee). Tethering is an extra $15 a month, but there’s no option for international roaming. Still, this may just hit the spot for some of you, so here’s my hands-on Hello Mobile review.

What network does Hello Mobile use?

Hello Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that relies on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and sub-6GHz 5G networks, and supports Sprint’s legacy CDMA/LTE network (now owned by T-Mobile) for pre-2021 customers.

When it launched in 2018 — and when I joined back in October 2020 — Hello Mobile primarily used Sprint, with T-Mobile as a backup. As such, which service you’d end up with after signing up (Sprint or T-Mobile) and which handset you’d be able to use depended on where you lived. If, like the vast majority of Hello Mobile customers, you lived in a Sprint coverage area, you’d be restricted to using Sprint-compatible phones, ie. mostly popular Apple and Samsung handsets, plus a handful of Google and Moto phones.

This changed sometime in late 2020, when Hello Mobile fully switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile, allowing a much broader range of handsets to be used. And it radically changed our perspective on this MVNO.

For $25 per month and no activation fee, Hello Mobile offers the following:

  • Second month free
  • Unlimited video streaming
  • Unlimited data, voice, and text nationwide
  • Unlimited international voice and text from the US to 60 countries
  • Tethering (mobile hotspot) available for an additional $15 per month
  • No international roaming

Other plans include:

  • $5/month for 500MB data, plus 500 mins voice and unlimited text
  • $10/month for 1GB data, plus unlimited voice and text
  • $14/month for 2GB data, plus unlimited voice and text
  • $15/month for 4GB data, plus unlimited voice and text
  • $20/month for 5GB data, plus unlimited voice and text

The second month of service is free for all plans.

All plans except the $5/month plan include unlimited international voice and text from the US to 60 countries. The $5/month plan includes 500 mins nationwide or international voice, plus unlimited nationwide and international text.

Unlimited tethering is available as a $15 per month add-on to any plan. There is no option for roaming abroad.

These plans let you bring your own unlocked device (BYOD) or pick from a limited selection of low- to mid-range Samsung, Google, Moto, and LG smartphones.

Does Hello Mobile have 5G?

Yes. Hello Mobile utilizes T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and sub-6GHz 5G networks.

Does Hello Mobile have WiFi Calling?

Yes. Hello Mobile offers WiFi calling using the My Mobile app.

Any caveats?

As usual, there are some caveats. These will be acceptable to most people, but showstoppers for other folks.

  1. If you bring your own unlocked device, you’ll have to either provide its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number or its originating carrier and brand when signing up for service so Hello Mobile can check whether your handset is compatible. When I signed up in October 2020, before Hello Mobile fully switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile, IMEI lookup was the only option, so I tried registering a few older Sprint-compatible unlocked phones — without success. Undeterred, I tried a newer, unlocked Samsung Galaxy S20 5G, and that ended up doing the trick. If you sign up today, you should have a lot more options, since T-Mobile supports a much wider variety of unlocked devices.
  2. Alternatively, Hello Mobile can bundle a new, compatible smartphone with your plan for an upfront cost or an additional monthly fee. For example, you can get a Google Pixel 4a for $400 (or $45.66 per month for one year), or a Galaxy S10e for $500 (or $38.72 per month for 18 months), or a Moto G Stylus for $300 (or $35.24 per month for a year). Check out Hello Mobile’s full selection of handsets.
  3. Once you receive your Hello Mobile SIM, you should be able to simply pop it into your phone. In my case, though, since I signed up before Hello Mobile fully switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile, I had to activate the SIM on Sprint’s legacy CDMA/LTE network by inserting it into the same device I registered when signing up. Sounds simple enough, right? While this first activation appeared successful, and calls and texts worked fine, data speeds were abysmal — I’m talking a measly 10Kbps here. So I called Hello Mobile technical support, and the automated system immediately suggested I reset my device’s carrier settings by dialing ##87328#. The second activation worked like a charm. Apparently, this is a common issue.
  4. Once your SIM is active, you should be able to swap phones by simply putting it into another unlocked handset. But, since I signed up before Hello Mobile fully switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile, I couldn’t test this. My service relies on Sprint’s legacy CDMA/LTE network. This means I couldn’t switch phones by just inserting the SIM into another device. It also means no 5G support, despite using an unlocked Galaxy S20 with 5G. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to change handsets (by registering another IMEI) after logging into my Hello Mobile account.
  5. While tethering is supposedly available as a $15 per month add-on, I couldn’t find this option anywhere after logging into my Hello Mobile account. In fact, tethering worked just fine for me without adding the feature to my plan. Your mileage may vary.

How well does the mobile service work?

Beyond the initial activation problem described above, everything works as advertised. I’ve been using Hello Mobile occasionally in and around San Francisco and in my VW camper van up and down the west coast (from Palm Springs, CA to Portland, OR) without trouble.

Obviously, since I signed up before Hello Mobile fully switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile, my service relies on Sprint’s CDMA/LTE network. This means I can’t easily swap phones and there’s no 5G support, so this isn’t the best experience. But if you sign up today this shouldn’t be an issue. Being able to tether — albeit unofficially — without adding the $15 per month feature is a welcome bonus.

Hello Mobile review: Affordable and reliable unlimited 5G for $25 per month 13
Hello Mobile 4G LTE speed tests

I wasn’t able to test 5G, but data speeds are decent — pretty much what you’d expect from LTE. I typically saw speeds up to 50Mbps down and 8Mbps up. Sure, upload speeds could be faster, but everyday performance is just fine. The few calls I made sounded loud and clear, and texts worked fine.

Hello Mobile review verdict

Ultimately, Hello Mobile delivers reliable unlimited nationwide mobile service for an extremely reasonable price, with the additional perk of unlimited international voice and text from the US to 60 countries, plus a free (second) month of service. The biggest negative is the lack of international roaming options, but that’s not gonna matter to most people. I also don’t think most folks will care about Hello Mobile’s limited handset selection. You’re better off bringing your own unlocked phone anyway.

Since I signed up before Hello Mobile fully switched over from Sprint to T-Mobile, my service relies on Sprint’s legacy CDMA/LTE network. This means I can’t easily switch handsets and there’s no 5G support. But now that Hello Mobile relies on T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and 5G networks, this shouldn’t be a problem.

If you’re a tech-savvy early adopter who swaps phones often and prefers using obscure unlocked devices, but don’t need international roaming, Hello Mobile may be right for you. There are other options for globe trotters (once it’s safe to travel again), like T-Mobile, or even Google Fi. Let’s just hope Hello Mobile remains affordable (or even sticks around) long term — that’s always a legit concern with MVNOs.