Ting Review 2016 | In-Depth Analysis
Posted: March 23, 2016
Ting has a totally different approach to wireless service compared to other mobile carriers. Instead of charging a set amount each month for a "plan" there are simply tiered rates for different services. Ting charges you for what you actually use in three separate categories: minutes, texts, and data - everything else is free.
Have you already read the review and are back for the $25 Ting credit? If so, use this $25 promotional link immediately prior to purchasing or activating your first phone or SIM card on Ting to lock in the credit.
Pros & Cons
- No contract
- Cost varies according to usage (in tiers)
- Additional lines only cost $6
- Choice of two nationwide cellular networks
- No limits on tethering & hotspots
- Free alerts and per-line limits
- Excellent customer service
- No hidden/extra fees
- Early termination fee relief
- Data costs are higher than some other carriers
- Phones are not subsidized so they can be expensive
- Coverage is not as broad as Verizon or AT&T
What is Ting?
Ting is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) which basically means that they pay the big nationwide carriers for access to their cell towers and mobile infrastructure while Ting provides their own unique features, billing, and customer service.
As a MVNO Ting buys wholesale wireless access from two of the major network providers in the U.S.: T-Mobile and Sprint. Because they are purchasing service at less expensive wholesale prices they are able to pass those savings on to their customers. Ting can do this because they do not have physical stores or the costs associated with maintaining wireless infrastructure.
At the end of 2015 Consumer Reports published their annual U.S. cell phone carrier ratings and ranked Ting the second highest overall, just one point below Consumer Cellular. Republic Wireless also did well coming in third. Unfortunately, you must be a paid Consumer Reports subscriber to view the full ratings. All the highest scoring carriers were MVNOs. Consumer Cellular primarily caters to seniors and Republic Wireless has integrated its service to work seamlessly over Wi-Fi to decrease costs. If you are reading this because you are frustrated with one of large U.S. carriers, you are not alone as the lowest scoring providers were the big four carriers: Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.
The two most important factors to consider in choosing a wireless provider are coverage and value. Consequently, before reading the rest of this review you should determine if Ting has good coverage in your area and if Ting offers good value for your specific needs.
Coverage and Network Performance
In the U.S. there are two different kinds of wireless carriers: those that use GSM technology and those that use CDMA. Ting has access to both types of networks so you can choose whichever is best for your needs. Some of the important differences are shown in the table below.
|Ting GSM||Ting CDMA|
|Coverage:||Better city/metro coverage||Better rural coverage|
|Roaming:||Voice and texting on AT&T (no data)*||Voice and texting on Verizon & U.S. Cellular (no data)|
|Phones:||Large selection - most unlocked GSM phones and all T-Mobile phones||Limited to the Ting Store and eligible Sprint devices|
|Cost:||Ting service costs the same whether you're using a GSM or CDMA phone.|
* A quick note regarding roaming: GSM roaming only occurs in designated partner areas while CDMA roaming should be available anywhere in Verizon's service area.
If you have no idea what GSM and CDMA are, don't worry, it doesn’t really matter for most people - just choose the network that provides the best coverage in your area. If you are interested in learning more about GSM and CDMA we wrote an article explaining the technologies and their main differences in plain English.
Although the table above is a good representation of nationwide coverage and network speed, it is best to check Ting’s local coverage maps for both GSM and CDMA in your area to see which provides the best coverage.
If the overall coverage is roughly the same, check RootMetrics reports and data speeds to see which network is faster. RootMetrics reports present information about the major U.S. carriers - just remember that Ting GSM uses T-mobile and Ting CDMA uses Sprint.
You must choose either the GSM or CDMA service as both cannot be in service at the same time on the same phone number. Although this has not happened yet, something to watch in the future is the possibility of switching between networks automatically since Google has developed a similar technology for its Project Fi network.
Ting GSM Coverage and Network Speed
Ting’s GSM coverage is identical to T-mobile’s in-network coverage. What does this mean? If you are already on T-mobile and have good coverage, switching to Ting GSM should make no difference. Roaming is free and occurs primarily on AT&T for voice and texts. There is no data access while roaming. Overall, if you are in a city or major metropolitan area you are likely to have good coverage, but in rural areas coverage can be spotty to non-existent.
One of the major benefits of Ting’s GSM coverage over their CDMA offering is that data speeds are significantly faster on GSM. In our testing it is fairly common to see speeds that are 2-3x faster on Ting GSM versus Ting CDMA even though both have ubiquitous coverage. This should be similar nationwide as places that have T-mobile LTE coverage are consistently faster than Sprint.
We have had the opportunity to use and test Ting’s GSM network since its inception in early 2015 and recommend it over CDMA unless you frequent areas with inadequate GSM coverage. Our recommendation of choosing GSM over CDMA is due to the higher data speeds, better device selection, and ease of switching phones on the GSM network.
Ting CDMA Coverage and Network Speed
Ting CDMA uses Sprint's wireless network to provide service that includes a voice and text roaming deal with Verizon and U.S. Cellular. That means that if you already have Sprint and are satisfied with the coverage in your area, switching to Ting should make no difference.
Sprint is still in the midst of a nationwide improvement of their wireless infrastructure they are calling "Network Vision." Areas that have been upgraded can provide significantly better coverage, voice call quality, and network speeds. However, many of these improvements are just catching up to the other three networks as Sprint consistently ranks last in network speed nationwide. If you plan to use a smartphone and having a fast data connection is important to you, then you are going to want make sure your area has 4G LTE as Sprint's 3G speeds can be very slow.
Value: Is Ting Worth it for You?
Ting will most likely save you money unless you need to use a lot of data. Grab your last couple of mobile phone bills and head over to the savings calculator to see your projected bill. It uses your current usage in minutes, texts, and data to estimate your monthly bill.
Before signing up and many times since then, we have compared Ting to the other no-contract providers such as T-mobile's no-contract service, Republic Wireless, Straight Talk, Cricket Wireless, Net10, Page Plus, AT&T’s GoPhone, Boost, and Virgin mobile. Besides Ting, they all have a few things in common - you either had to sign up for a very low allowance plan, they do not have good selection of smartphones, or you had to spend at least $40-50 per line per month for an "unlimited" plan that isn't actually unlimited. After running all the numbers, for us, Ting was the best value. Everyone has a unique situation, but on average our bills are half of what they were on our previous mobile provider. Since we started using Ting our average cost per line has been less than $20 per month overall.
You may be wondering, "But why is Ting so cheap?" Is there something lacking in Ting's service compared to Sprint and T-Mobile? From our experience there is nothing to complain about. Ting answered the "How is your service so cheap" question in a blog post that is an interesting read if you have time, but the bottom line is that Ting isn't that "cheap." You pay for what you use, Ting earns a healthy margin, and that is it. The reason Ting seems inexpensive is because the wireless industry as a whole in the U.S. is very expensive: prices are inflated and almost every carrier makes you buy far more usage (minutes, texts, data) through their plans than you will ever use.
Ting Charges According to Actual Usage
What first attracted us to Ting is that they charge you according to your actual usage without any contract. At the end of the billing cycle Ting will charge you according to your usage in the tiers listed below in 3 separate categories: minutes, texts, and data. There are no plans or overages - you just pay for what you use.
Also, knowing that we can save money by limiting our usage helps us be more aware of our usage and more likely to do things like connect to Wi-Fi when it is available or use Google Voice and Hangouts if we need to make an extended call. Those things help us limit our costs and are easy to do.
Rates and Tiers
Here is a table of the rates Ting offers. Remember you start out at XS (zero minutes, texts, and data) and the plan will adapt automatically according to your usage. Each line costs $6 per month to continue service. In the example below using up to 500 minutes, 1000 texts, and 500 megabytes of data on one phone would cost roughly $32 per month.
Ting Features: Dashboard and Controls
The Ting dashboard and subsequent bill are very intuitive and easy to use. Watch the video below to get a quick idea of what the dashboard is all about. The dashboard makes it easy to keep track of your usage throughout each month.
The online dashboard also allows you to completely control all the devices on your account: turning on and off any feature is as simple as clicking a toggle switch. Ting also includes usage alerts and individual line limits for free. Most other carriers we have used charge extra for those features and call them "parental controls" or something similar. If you have a family and your teenager is texting or using up data like crazy you can automatically warn them to slow down, and then if they do not heed the warning, cut them off until the end of the billing period - they will learn pretty quickly to stay within the limits you have provided ;-)
The image below shows an example alert and data cap for an iPad on our account. In this example, if we exceed 475 MB, alerts are sent and further cellular data usage on the iPad is disabled until the end of the billing cycle. You can easily create alerts and usage caps for your whole account as well.
Phones and Tablets
There are a few phones that are compatible with both GSM and CDMA networks, but for most people it is best to choose a network prior to buying a new phone.Phones for Ting CDMA
Ting offers some very nice high-end phones like the iPhone 6s, HTC One M9, Samsung Galaxy S6, and more. You can even buy an unlocked Nexus 5X or Nexus 6P and bring them to Ting. If you are interested in getting an iPhone on Ting’s CDMA service, but are not sure where to start, it is pretty easy to buy and activate any Apple iPhone on Ting.Phones for Ting GSM
This is where Ting GSM really pulls away from the competition. The number of devices you can use on GSM is massive compared to the relatively small number that Sprint allows Ting to use for CDMA. With a GSM phone your SIM card is activated and you can just take it out of your current phone and put it in another compatible device - no messing with switching it online or calling customer service - it will just work.
There are some minor restrictions in that the GSM phone must support the frequencies or bands that Ting uses. There are some phones (especially global phones - those intended for use outside the US) that will not work on Ting even though they are GSM. Finding a compatible phone is not difficult: simply make sure it supports bands 2 (1900MHz) and 4 (1700/2100 MHz) by looking at the “specifications” for the phone you are researching. If it is a T-Mobile branded phone it will be compatible. Although not required for service, in addition to band 2 and 4, it is best to have a phone that is band 12 (700 MHz) compatible as well. Band 12 provides better coverage inside buildings and in rural areas.
Ting sells a universal GSM SIM card that can be activated and used in any compatible phone or tablet. If you are bringing your own GSM device, the SIM card is all you really need. You can save a few dollars on shipping if you purchase them from Amazon instead of directly from Ting.
When we signed up for Ting we read about their "no hold" phone policy, but we were skeptical to say the least. However, in the process of signing up we had a question, so we called their main phone number and to our surprise and delight an actual human answered almost immediately! No automated system to navigate whatsoever and no holding. Since then we have called a number of times and everyone we have spoken to was knowledgeable and were able to answer our questions and resolve any issues right away. If you would prefer not to call Ting support, you can also reach them through email or online chat.
It is not an exaggeration to say that Ting customer service is the best customer service we have ever experienced. We say that not just because everyone else’s customer service is abysmal, but because they will do everything in their power to fix your issue and bend over backwards to make things right if a mistake or error has occurred.
If you cannot decide which phone to buy, Ting offers a service that will help you find a phone that is compatible with its network by asking you a few questions about what kind of phone you want and then searching Amazon and other retailers before giving you a list of possible options.
There is no "unlimited plan", so users who use a huge amount of minutes, texts, and data - this might not be the best for you. High data usage can get expensive quickly with up to 2GB costing $29. Every megabyte over 2GB costs an additional 1.5 cents or $15 per gigabyte.
Phones are not subsidized so they can be expensive. Ting doesn’t offer any sort of financing or payment plan, so if you want a new flagship phone it is going to cost you.
In regions where T-Mobile or Sprint do not provide good coverage but Verizon or AT&T do, Ting will not be your best choice.
Comparison to Other Carriers
We switched to Ting at the beginning of 2013. Since we have been on Ting for over 3 years, we wanted to make sure that our recommendation of Ting's mobile services is still valid. Does Ting still make sense in 2016? After all, there have been some significant changes in the telecom industry recently. T-mobile has rebranded itself as an "un-carrier," doing away with contracts and lowering prices. Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon now all have the option of unsubsidized plans that are less expensive than their subsidized counterparts.
So, we decided to see what the cheapest (unsubsidized) plans available from T-mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon would have cost for our last six months of usage compared that to what we were actually charged by Ting. We used the Wall Street Journal calculator in addition to the carriers' websites to determine the projected costs. Since we chose the cheapest plans that fit our actual usage for each month, we probably underestimated the cost as this would be the real-world equivalent of switching your plan every single month.
As you can see, T-mobile's new lower priced plans come the closest, but Ting was still consistently less expensive than all the other carriers. Compared to AT&T and Verizon, Ting was often about half the cost or even less. After reviewing this new data, we are confident that we are still saving a lot of money on Ting, and can continue to strongly recommend their mobile service. Click on the graphs below to go to the interactive versions.
Incentives and Promotions
As an incentive to switch, Ting also offers a credit equal to 25% of any early termination fees (ETFs) you paid in order to switch from another carrier.
Ting also has a referral program where each person you refer gets a $25 credit towards service or a new device and the person who referred them also gets a $25 service credit.
If this post helped you decide to switch to Ting please use our referral link before you buy your first SIM card or phone from Ting or activate a device you already own.
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|Description:||Ting's mobile service gets high marks on almost every category, including outstanding customer service. Ting offers an excellent alternative to other wireless carriers with transparent pricing and good coverage between two different nationwide networks.|
|Rating:||8.8 out of 10.|