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Cellphones

Truth Or Dare — What Is the Best US Cell Company? 395 395

Posted by timothy
from the 10-paces-turn-and-fire dept.
Epsilon Eridani writes "I am returning to the US after an extended time overseas and upon my return I need to jump head first into the data enabled phone bandwagon. I have to admit ... I am lost as to what is the best company to choose. Before I left the US I used a Sprint HTC phone running Windows with the 'simply everything' plan to communicate and stay organized and a Sprint Wireless Card to connect my laptop to the world. Coming back several generations of technology later, what is the best set up technology-wise to link phone and laptop or two to the Internet? (Open source solutions accepted too!) Can the Slashdot community verify some of the claims on quality of service before I give my first born up when I sign a service contract?"
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Truth Or Dare — What Is the Best US Cell Company?

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  • T-Mobile (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:42PM (#30800944)

    Unfortunately, I need to use AT&T for the iPhone's 3G.

  • huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by socsoc (1116769) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:46PM (#30800976)
    This is like asking what is your preferred way of being tortured. They all have negatives and are would not exist if they had the competition that Europe does. AT&T doesn't care to increase their network, T-Mobile doesn't have real 3G, Sprint and Verizon are still CDMA so you'll have to get a really expensive world phone if you want to go back overseas... Better off sending telegrams.
  • Re:slashdot poll? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:48PM (#30800986)

    If Epsilon Eridani was satisfied with Sprint and has returned to the same geographical area as in the past, why change now?

  • by v1 (525388) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:48PM (#30801000) Homepage Journal

    Polls are to get very general opinions, choices.

    This is about discussing the options. And since the vast majority of cell phone service providers are considered evil somewhere around that of Lord Sidius with their locked phones, deplorable customer service, and preposterous early termination fees, I expect there to be a great deal of negative comments relative to a very few positive ones.

    There is no "good" cell phone service provider - we're here to work out the "lesser of the evils" question.

  • by kd6ttl (1016559) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:49PM (#30801012)
    "Which cell phone company is best" really depends on your location, and on your definition of "best". In some places, Sprint will be best, in others it will be Verizon or T-Mobile, and it's even possible that AT&T is best somewhere. I personally have been happy with Sprint for both voice and data. If you live in an area where they have implemented high speed data, they might be the best choice. I have not experienced the constant data drops or poor customer service I saw at Verizon (people seem surprised when I say Sprint customer service has been good, but it has). T-Mobile supposedly rolled out high speed data across the country this month, but I haven't heard any reports of how well it works.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:50PM (#30801028)
    Where are you headed? The USA is a big place, and not all areas are served equally by the cell phone companies. If you're in an area where there's good coverage for all carriers, then the question is which network are your friends and family using? Mobile-to-mobile call rates will drop your usage of "anytime" minutes.
  • It depends (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MrOctogon (865301) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:55PM (#30801076)
    Coverage varies waaay too much to flat out say one is better than all the others. In any given location, any carrier could give the best coverage depending on your needs.
    One thing none of the big boys want you to know is that almost all of them have a 30 day escape clause in their contracts. If you are not satisfied, you can cancel (you'd have to give back the shiny phone or whatever they subsidize) and you won't even have to give up your firstborn to do it.
    Just read the contract and ask the salesman to get the details, but they all should have something like that, so try them all out and see what is best for YOU.
  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Sunday January 17, 2010 @04:56PM (#30801092) Homepage Journal
    I've been an AT&T wireless and 3G customer since the Cingular days. Don't go with them. Their 3G coverage is spotty as hell, even in major metropolitan areas. My 3G adapter went bad and it took them a month and a half to send me a new one despite complaints to customer service. They also still tried to charge me for the time that I was unable to use 3G, though they did give me a half-month's credit (wow) after much haggling.

    I moved to a more rural area where other networks have much better support. I'm reasonably close to a tower and calls are dropped all the time, and to even make calls requires luck and skill moving around. People, as well as ATT tech support, tell me that my phone is going bad but I didn't have that problem weeks earlier when I lived in a big city. Could be a coincidence, but others have similar complaints.

    One more thing - Once I called ATT customer service and the lady(domestic, not a foreign call center) answered, "Verizon customer service, how may I help you?" I asked her if it was ATT and she giggled and said, "Oh, that happens all the time." It could have been an innocent mistake, but it's possible that the two and possibly others all use the same damn call center.
  • Sorry, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:00PM (#30801118)
    ...if you're coming back from overseas, you'll find there is no 'best'.

    I've been back and forth for the last decade, and it is always a disappointment coming back into the US and trying to get decent cellphone service. The US is a backwater of customer abuse and services gone wanting.

    When living/working in Japan, South Korea and China, I learned not to discuss one countries offerings versus the US unless I was looking for laughs...

    I worked for Samsung in SK and for a major domestic telecom in China, so I had ample opportunity to see things from both the corporate and consumer sides.
    These days in the US I carry a cellphone only for emergencies. I don't text, don't use mobile banking, internet, etc. I make maybe one call every month or two, and those are usually from my car where the phone is coupled via Bluetooth to the head unit and everything is hands free. I can't bring myself to accept a locked in contract and the high fees are best spent elsewhere... For me, the whole cell phone experience in the US is a bust.

    Cell phones I brought back from Asia are going on 2 years old now and still have features that were ubiquitous there that aren't yet common here.
  • Re:slashdot poll? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:15PM (#30801252)

    Sprint. Their customer service has greatly improved over the years.

    -Sprint's astroturfing marketing department

    ahahahahahahahaha if only. there's a reason why sprint is shedding customers faster than the US economy is shedding jobs.

    Actually no I'm not a part of Sprint's marketing dept. I'm apparently a loser like you that's reading Slashdot on a Sunday with nothing better to do...though I edge you out since I'm not as paranoid/troubled.

    In any event, I could care less that Sprint was/is shedding customers for quite a while (though from what I've read, they're no longer losing customers). This fact doesn't change the fact they're still the best carrier, imo of course.

  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:16PM (#30801272)

    I'm up in Alaska and no national carrier works outside the three major cities. Up here AT&T is the only national carrier that works at all. The question asker needs to look at where they are going to be and research locally what is right for them.

    I had T-Mobile in Portland and it worked great, in Seattle/Everett it had meh coverage and sucked down by Tacoma/SeaTac.

  • by jeffstar (134407) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:21PM (#30801306) Journal

    I have a blackberry flip that does UMA. I've found the call quality to be bad over my time warner cable connection, which is generally good.

    why use UMA over 802.11 for .10 a minute when you can use GSM for .10 a minute?

    The UMA calls should be free or really cheap since you are not using their network or are likely in a place where they don't even have coverage!

    It is funny that they charge you 10 cents a minute when you are effectively providing your own network. You could just as easily be using skype at that point.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:27PM (#30801364)

    > Are there genuinely any great phones out there worth investing in?

    The N900.

    It's probably the most open platform right now. It's a phone, but also a little Linux computer. There are no issues with the vendor restricting what you can run/can't run - you have root access to your own device without needing any "jailbreaking" or other such things.

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:30PM (#30801388) Journal
    They're all bad. Verizon? Check out verizarape.com [verizarape.com]. ATT? It's got it's own facebook hate group. [facebook.com] Do you hate sprint? I hate Sprint was created for you. [wordpress.com] T-Mobile? They've got you covered [facebook.com]. And there are even youtube videos [google.com].

    Among the high quality comments you will find on these websites are things like this gem: "[carrier] had reeeeeally been bothering me lately! They think they're so cool, but if I could, I would DESTROY [carrier]!!" So now you know everything you know.

    Seriously though, the 'best' carrier depends on your needs and your area. In this story you will have posts from people who say "X carrier has horrible coverage" and others who say the same carrier has awesome coverage. It really depends on where you live.
  • by davester666 (731373) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:34PM (#30801420) Journal

    I believe it also depends on EXACTLY where you want to use the phone, particularly where you regularly want to use it.

    You can look at the carriers web site and it can clearly show you are right in the middle of their coverage area, but get no signal, or only an intermittent signal, or only 2G instead of 3G.

    I would suggest going and signing up for service by a major carrier and trying it out in the area's where you primarily will use it, and if it doesn't work well, return the equipment and cancel the service quickly [I believe most of them let you return everything for little or no penalty with a 1/2 month or a month].

  • Sprint or Verizon (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Ouchie (1386333) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @05:39PM (#30801464)
    First off, I will admit I receive mighty fine discounts from Sprint.

    Well if you Slashdot daily you will have heard GSM encryption has been hacked and the code is in the wild. The fact that the major GSM providers continue to downplay this is a good reason to steer clear. That leaves you with Sprint, Verizon or a local carrier.

    Both Sprint and Verizon have good deals on plans and they have decent phones. I am an unrepentant crackberry addict and will tell you why. It lasts more than 5 hours on push and I can change the battery my damn self if needed, (haven't had too except while camping).

    Sprint's everything plan is good and Verizon has followed suit with something similar. My preference for Sprint is that they discount their already low price by 25%. I have been with them for over 10 years which also means I get full upgrades on all my phones every year not two years. I pay $150/mo. for three phones with 1500 shared minutes, weekends and evenings starting at 7PM (not 9PM), any network roaming in US & Canada (quad band phone required), and everything data (including BlackBerry service). Minutes to me wasn't as big an issue as the data. I send and receive over 100 texts and emails a day.

    Verizon has a better pick of phones in my opinion, something I don't hesitate to tell Sprint as often as possible, especially when I want them to knock another $100 off a new phone. Verizon has wider coverage where Sprint seems to have stronger signal in Cities. I can often get in the elevator and keep my conversation going while friends drop off. As I said my Sprint signal fades faster though when I get away from the city. Having a quad-band phone is handy I can jump over to another network and I'm up and running.

    If your're dead set on the iPhone and you don't care about its limitations I say go for it. If you need a serious work phone that is rugged and long lasting I recommend a Blackberry. Keep in mind there are two families of BB, consumer (Pearl & Curve), and industrial (Tour & Bold), not sure where the touch screen one fits in since it seems to have features of both families. Android phones are getting better reviews every time I look at them. At the moment they seem to lack the finer polish of the iPhone but they perform just as well and they are an open platform.

    I am not sure where to come down on the Palm Pre and Pixi, they seem to suffer from the same lack of polish that Android phones have but they are also a closed platform meaning they will likely evolve out of that phase slower. Palm was great back in the day and if the Pre came out 3 years ago I would have said it was a game changer now it's like a relief pitcher brought in too late to win the game and is only there to keep the run lead down and salvage as much of the team's reputation as possible.

    My final opinion avoid the iPhone and AT&T or any other GSM carrier. Pick an Android phone if you want fun and a BlackBerry if you need a serious workhorse.

  • by gavron (1300111) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:09PM (#30801750)

    The question is clear and other people's answers appear to have the same problem I do -- namely that it's unclear WHAT kind of service you want (good voice quality, good data quality, good SMS, pricing, etc.) and no criteria for "Best."

    At this point I could stop having criticized the question, but instead let me offer you some answers, and you can pick and choose.

    I have a Nokia N900 on a T-Mobile "all you can eat" plan. The plan is great. The phone is great. In my area T-Mobile can't hold a call.

    I have a Motorola Droid on a Verizon "don't eat very much but enjoy your meal" plan. The plan is so so. The phone is almost great. Verizon coverage for voice and data is awesome here.

    I have a Treo 700wx running Windows Mobile 5. I believe it's three years old. It was my Verizon phone prior to the Droid, and while it was annoying in requiring reboots and factory defaults, it was reliable. I did not love it very much tho, as I'm not a big fan of Windows Mobile. Here it works on SPRINT or Verizon, which are good.

    If you go 1 hour north, there are totally different carrier coverages. However, on their respective maps they all appear to have equally good coverage here or there.

    SO: When asking what is the best US Cell company, realize that
    1. There are different companies throughout different parts, regions, and even cities in the same country.
    2. Some companies (e.g. Cricket) resell limited services of some other companies (e.g. SPRINT or Qwest or Verizon within a limited geo. area where I am)
    3. Some companies (e.g. Verizon) are an amalgamation of other companies, and their services vary greatly. (Verizon *in this area* formerly Cellular One formerly Bell Atlantic)
    4. Data services and voice services are a function of many different things including how they provision service to the cell sites. Literally moving two miles away may get you 700Kbps on 3G data and good phone service, but the other way no data and decent phone service.
    5. SMS is something I consider critical. Others do not.

    So, in sum, to wind up this post, Voice Coverage, Data Coverage, SMS Coverage, and availability of phones are what can be used to judge the best US Cell company -- in my little neighborhood. Your conclusions 5 miles away will vary.

    Good luck with your quest.

    E

  • by umghhh (965931) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @06:51PM (#30802102)
    This OT but quite some of the posts I read recently (not only in this thread) that mention QOS of mobile operators in US make me wonder - are they so bad as not being able to provide basic service throughout the country (something that seems to be put in license laws in Europe i.e. operators must provide service almost everywhere where humans are or their license is gone) or is it simply skewed view of a technically demanding audience of /. or something else? Anybody has a view on that?
  • Re:Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sznupi (719324) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @09:02PM (#30803124) Homepage

    Uhm...UMTS, WCDMA is very firmly in GSM family, being in 3GPP which builds upon GSM. You simply display a confusion stemming from the thing that one standard was often called not by its name (IS-95), but by the tech it used (CDMA); which stuck to such a degree that next version was simply called CDMA2000 (which is in 3GPP2 family)

    GSM is very fine, it wouldn't be behind of 80+ % of global subscribers otherwise. Often in places with much lower population density than the US, where funds for infrastructure are theoretically much more scarce; the tech isn't responsible why most networks in the US have failed in this regard.

  • Re:Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uvajed_ekil (914487) on Sunday January 17, 2010 @11:29PM (#30804088)
    I switched to T-Mobile from AT&T and got a G1 last June. I have been quite happy with not only the phone but also with the coverage. I can not get 3G where I live, though it was not available with AT&T, either. 3G has been available whenever I've been in or near a larger city, just not out in my suburban/nearly-rural town. The pricing is okay - not what I would call cheap, but less than AT&T. I have needed customer service twice since switching, and both times, the representative was surprisingly cheerful (like she was actually happy, not just going through the motions of her job and waiting for payday), listened to and comprehended my problem, and gave me a solution immediately. The first time was due to my own carelessness and they could have easily told me "tough luck," but they were very helpful and understanding.

    Overall, I was expecting an experience just like I had gotten used to with Alltel, Cingular, AT&T (old), Cingular (round two - slightly better coverage), AT&T (after taking over Cingular), and like friends have had with Verizon (horrible). I also strongly considered Sprint, but when I went to buy a Palm Pre, the sales folks were too busy and disorganized to help me, so I left. T-Mobile has been fine for the first six months. Careful where you buy though - one local, indie company insisted that their price for a G1 ($200, I think) was what everyone had to charge and insulted me for questioning them, even though it was $129 online, there was a brief promo around that time for less, and WalMart (ick) had it for $99.

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