Each year, Consumer Reports releases carrier ratings according to factors such as data and voice plans as well as customer service. The data and voice plans relate to your monthly bill for the ability to talk, text, and surf the Web, while customer service relates to the carrier’s ability to troubleshoot any problems the customer has and provide an effective solution. While many carriers believe they offer the best services for consumers, Consumer Report studies are effective because they examine carrier statistics across the board. Only the truth behind a company’s services stands in Consumer Reports studies. These annual reports are considered to be truth-tellers in consumer searches for the best phone carrier money can buy.
Of the three major carriers, Verizon fared the best. It was the top when compared to the three major carriers (Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T) in terms of voice, data, and customer service. Sprint fared second amongst the three major carriers, and AT&T came out last for the third year in a row. While things may seem bleak for one of the nation’s largest carriers, customers were pleased with AT&T’s 4G LTE service that allows voice and data simultaneously on its network – when compared to the other two carriers. AT&T has improved its 4G LTE speeds for its iPhone 5 customers who want the ultrafast wireless and 4G speeds Apple’s Senior VP Phil Schiller promised them.
While Verizon and Sprint fared rather well amongst the seven phone carriers, it was small carriers that fared the best out of the seven carriers, both major and minor. At the top of the pack stood Consumer Cellular, followed by US Cellular, which came in second out of the seven carriers compared by Consumer Reports. Consumer Cellular, which came in first, and Credo Mobile (which ranked third behind US Cellular) are called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and do not use their own independent networks but operate on other networks such as AT&T and Sprint. With that being said, the top carrier that operates on its own network is US Cellular.
What is the reason for small carriers such as Consumer Cellular, US Cellular, and Credo Mobile dominating the top spots in the Consumer Reports study? Paul Reynolds, a Consumer Reports electronics editor, says that smaller indicates better:
“Our survey indicates that subscribers to prepaid and smaller standard-service providers are happiest overall with their cell-phone service. However, these carriers aren’t for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smartphones” (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-57337424-17/at-t-rated-worst-cell-phone-carrier-for-second-year-in-a-row/).
To some extent, Paul Reynolds is correct. As a US Cellular customer, I couldn’t agree more. My carrier offers excellent customer service at affordable prices. Over Thanksgiving, I needed to have Internet service on my MacBook Pro so that I could get a 20-page research paper written. I contacted US Cellular on Thanksgiving Day, told them that I wanted to add a WiFi-hotspot plan to my monthly bill, and within minutes, had Internet service on each iPad, iPod Touch, and MacBook in the house. US Cellular is a wonderful company in terms of customer service, and the company is willing to plant itself in places that are “in the middle of nowhere” so that rural Americans can have access to 4G LTE, WiFi, and cellular services. My town now has Verizon Wireless service, but US Cellular was the only cellular service in my town for an entire decade! We even have a Boost Mobile prepaid service, something that I never thought my town would see in my lifetime.
With this being said, however, Reynolds’s statement is true when it comes to phone selection. As a tech writer and geek, I am always anxious to get my hands on the newest smartphone or tablet. When US Cellular offered the Galaxy S2 phone and S3 this past summer, it was a major hit with US Cellular customers. I went in to purchase my Samsung Galaxy S3 and was told that the S3 would run out of stock on the day it arrived at the carrier (this proved to be true). At the same time, US Cellular (like T-Mobile) has toyed with the idea of subsidizing the iPhone but has never purchased the smartphone for its customers. If I want to purchase an iPhone, I have to pay the unlocked prices (starting at a minimum $650) to have the Apple experience. My cousin, however, who jumped ship and became a Verizon Customer about three or four months ago, now has the iPhone 4S and loves his phone experience. He will not get the customer service that I do, but his phone selection is bigger and better than mine.
At the same time, there is hope for small prepaid carriers such as Boost Mobile, Cricket Communications, and Virgin Mobile. These small carriers have added the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5 to their selection of phones – making prepaid plans more attractive than ever before. While prepaid plans require the full premium up front ($550 +, depending on the age of the phone and the internal memory storage you prefer), you can get some of the latest smartphones available. Small prepaid carriers, like small postpaid ones, must work on increasing their phone brands and selection in order to attract customers who desperately want a way to get out of their 2-year contract agreements.
Consumer Reports studies provide the facts about phone carriers. While it is true that US Cellular is top of the line when it comes to service and monthly plans, it is also true that its phone selection is much smaller than that of Verizon or Sprint. When choosing a phone carrier, you must weigh out the pros and cons regarding a particular phone service. If you are not a tech lover and simply want an effective phone for daily tasks, then US Cellular, Consumer Cellular, and Credo Mobile are carriers you should try. If, however, you want better phone selection and cherish the idea of having “the latest and greatest,” you may want to do business with one of the three major carriers. While the majors are ranked below that of my carrier (for example), their phone selection will save you money in the long run.