It’s time to choose a phone now that you’ve decided on AT&T as your carrier. Because AT&T has essentially eliminated phone subsidies, customers have more options than ever before. The majority of customers still purchase their phones from their carriers using monthly payment plans or fast-upgrade schemes like AT&T Next Up. However, there is no longer any economic advantage to purchasing an unlocked phone, and AT&T supports more unlocked devices than any other US provider. That leaves you with a lot of options, so we’re here to help you narrow them down.
In our 2021 Fastest Mobile Networks tests, AT&T came in second, with a superb 4G network held down a little by a confused 5G situation. Customers on AT&T can expect great LTE performance if they disregard the icon in the status bar: AT&T markets its 4G network as 5G Evolution or “5GE” (despite the fact that it isn’t 5G), and it also operates a “nationwide 5G” network that isn’t significantly faster than its 4G network. AT&T’s performance in rural areas also impressed us.
Even if AT&T doesn’t provide good 5G, you’ll need a newer phone to take use of its high-speed 4G. The majority of phones released after 2019 contain 4×4 MIMO antennas and 256 QAM encoding, both of which are essential components of the 5G Evolution experience.
Keep an eye out for models that support C-band and the new 3.45GHz 5G if you want to make your phone a long-term investment. By the end of 2022, AT&T expects to have covered 70 to 75 million people with this faster network. For the time being, only the Samsung Galaxy S22 series supports 3.45GHz, although AT&T claims that more phones will support the new spectrum in 2022.
Remember that all of the phones on our top unlocked phones list are AT&T compatible.
The Best 5G Phone for AT&T
There are no good 5G phones for AT&T right now because AT&T doesn’t have a 5G network worth mentioning. In terms of the future, the Galaxy S22 series of phones are the first to support both C-band and 3.45GHz, making them more future-proof than previous phones. The iPhone 12 and 13 series, the Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, and the Samsung Galaxy A32 5G all have C-band, but they don’t have 3.45GHz, so they’ll see some improvements, but not as much as the S22 devices.
Right Currently, AT&T is using two types of 5G. Your phone is on 4G even if it reads “5GE.” Low-band “5G” uses a small slice of set-aside, former 4G airwaves for 5G, with no discernible performance change. AT&T’s high-speed “5G+” service is available in limited areas of some cities and offers up to 2Gbps download speeds, but it’s exceedingly difficult to find.
For the time being, don’t be concerned about missing out on too much if you don’t have AT&T 5G. See our current list of the best 5G phones for more information.
The Best Flip Phone for AT&T
If you want to buy a flip phone or a voice phone, be sure it supports voice over AT&T’s 4G network, as the carrier’s 3G service has been discontinued. The Kyocera DuraXE Epic is our favorite. It’s tough and has great voice quality, which helps to compensate for its hefty price. The Nokia 6300 is an unlocked phone with limited smartphone functionality like WhatsApp and social media access that still feels like a voice phone.
Check out our story on the best cheap phones if you need additional help choosing a phone. While you’re at it, check out our listings of the top T-Mobile and Verizon phones.