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Comparing Cell Phone Carriers

written by: Mihir Shah•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 12/14/2010

There are a lot of different cell phone carriers. It is a good idea to compare cell phone carriers and find out which carriers specialize in coverage, call quality, overall performance, and are the best cost-benefit match according to major surveys conducted nationwide.

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    Introduction to Cell Phone Carriers

    There are a variety of cell phone carriers to select from: Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Metro-PCS are the most popular. Recent history, circa 2000, has anointed AT&T and Verizon as the kings of the cell phone world. Currently, Sprint is using its "Everything Data" plan to reel in all the customers who refuse to pay the extra dollars to the big boys. In other words, the cell phone carrier industry, right now, is a dog-eat-dog world with companies competing feverishly with each other. As each carrier tries to outdo the others, the end result is a sweeter deal for the consumer. This article will compare cell phone carriers using elements such as coverage range, value and affordability, device options and customer ratings. Check out these reviews of cell phone carriers to find the best option for you.

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    Carrier Coverage Comparison

    In layman's terms, cell phone carrier coverage is more important than any other feature a carrier can offer. Why? Because a cell phone's primary job is to make phone calls. The phone can have a multitude of other assets, such as speedy web browsing, excellent text interface, etc; however, if you can't make phone calls that are clear and understandable, it defeats the purpose of having a cell phone. Therefore, each of the aforementioned carriers will be ranked based on coverage. As of 2010, AT&T and Verizon are slugging it out for best coverage honor. The fact is, both are excellent coverage carriers and neither option can be faulted. Verizon offers more overall coverage because of its expansion into rural areas. AT&T, on the other hand, offers excellent indoor urban coverage. T-Mobile has been smack dab in the middle of the cell phone coverage race, although it is steadily improving. The cellar-dwellers of the cell phone carrier industry, with respect to coverage would have to be Sprint and Metro-PCS. While Sprint has taken giant strides and has improved its overall service dramatically, it still suffers from dropped calls and poor network coverage in different areas--something that would be almost unheard of with AT&T or Verizon. Sprint offsets this with an excellent data plan, but it is up to the consumer what is of more value to them: being able to speak on the phone, or use a data plan with limited phone coverage. Metro-PCS is still a baby among giants and is known for poor coverage.

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    Cell Phone Performance and Device Options

    Aside from coverage, a carrier is judged on the performance of their cell phones and the variety of models available. Being new to the field, Metro-PCS falls well short of delivering a variety of models. For example, it offers only one BlackBerry cell phone, the BlackBerry 8530. In comparison, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint carry a plethora of BlackBerry models to select from.With respect to cell phone performance, AT&T's iPhone exclusivity catapults it to the top, with Verizon a close second. Sprint, T-Mobile, and Metro-PCS round out the bottom three. It is worth noting the long awaited iPhone on Verizon is likely to become a reality soon. Right now the best smartphones are available on AT&T and Verizon.

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    Using reviews of cell phone carriers, find out which carriers are stronger in customer service and which are stronger in terms of performance. Compare cell phone carriers based on actual feedback from users and discover the carriers' strengths and weaknesses prior to purchasing.
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    Cell Phone Value and Affordability

    Every carrier has the lower-end cell phones for affordable prices. However, examining the phones and cell phone carrier plans, Sprint and Metro-PCS clearly offer the best value, albeit with the greatest amount of risk. On one hand, there is reliability, but a greater price, and on the other hand, there is price, but not nearly the same reliability. For example, Sprint's "Everything Data Plan" gives users 450 minutes (individual plan) and 1500 minutes (family plan), with free any mobile to any mobile, unlimited text, unlimited web browsing, etc for $69.99/month indivdual plan and $129.99 family plan. Metro-PCS offers a similar deal, but for just $40/month for non-smartphones and $60.00/month for smartphones. On the contrary, AT&T charges $39.99/month for the individual plan, with $15/month for BASIC data services. Keep in mind that the $39.99/month does not include any text messaging and only includes 450 rollover minutes, not the unlimited any mobile to any mobile that Sprint offers.

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    Customer Cell Phone Carrier Rating

    According to multiple major surveys conducted by, JD Power and Associates, and, AT&T was rated at average to below average in customer service and cost; however, it ranks at the top for handset selection--due to the popularity of the iPhone. Pros of AT&T plans include the rollover minutes that last for the entire year, while the cons consist of higher pricing, with fewer plan options.

    On a scale of one to five, Verizon wireless is ranked at a 3.3 overall. It is ranked much higher in the performance categories, with a 3.7 coverage and a 3.5 call quality. It is ranked at a 2.8 in cost benefit and a 2.9 in customer service.

    Metro-PCS is solid for cost benefit, though it does poorly in call quality, with consistent dropped calls, and spotty coverage.

    T-Mobile is rated at 3.3 for cost benefit, 3.1 customer service, 3.0 call quality, and 2.8 call coverage.

    Sprint's overall rating is 2.7, with a decent 3.1 and 3.0 for call coverage and call quality respectively. It fails miserably in the customer service category with a 2.2 and a below average 2.5 in cost benefit.

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    Evidently, there are pros and cons that help compare cell phone carriers. AT&T remains near the cream of the crop, with Verizon because of the iPhone. Sprint and T-Mobile are comparable in the second rung of cell phone carriers, while Metro-PCS is steadily making its way up. T-Mobile is rated as one of the better cost-benefit plans in a review of cell phone carriers, while AT&T and Sprint are not so hot.

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