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

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the 10-paces-turn-and-fire dept.

Cellphones 395

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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Frist tsop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30800904)

Frist tsop wtf

Choices man. Choices. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30800928)

Does which phones you are allowed to choose from matter?

Re:Choices man. Choices. (3, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801420)

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].

slashdot poll? (5, Funny)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800932)

wouldn't this be best done as a slashdot poll?
 
.
 
.
 
(the correct answer, by the way, is Cowboy Neal Mobile)

Re:slashdot poll? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30800986)

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

Re:slashdot poll? no. (2, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801000)

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.

Re:slashdot poll? no. (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801244)

True, you are in a situation similar to choosing something to watch on TV late at night on Saturday. (Who, Me? a Life?). Its the old "least horseshit selection process".

But Features and Capabilities do matter to anyone who wants to do anything other than make phone calls.

Since TFA mentioned "data enabled phone" you now have to consider coverage area, bandwidth, multi-tasking, data-caps, and a few other things.

The device becomes more important than the carrier. Once you pick your device, your carrier choice may be limited or non-existent.

Re:slashdot poll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801016)

Sprint. Their customer service has greatly improved over the years. They offer fantastic pricing on plans (atleast when compared to other carriers), great 3G and in some limited cases 4G coverage. When worse comes to worse and there is no Sprint coverage, you get free roaming on Verizon's network.

Re:slashdot poll? (0, Troll)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801206)

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.

Re:slashdot poll? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:slashdot poll? (1)

rootofevil (188401) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801292)

really? ive had the service for nearly 4 years now, and had very little issue with them customer service wise. ive called about several billing issues and theyve always been corrected completely and promptly.

yea its a cellphone company, and in general they are evil and such, but ive gotten much better service from them than att/cingular, who removed a frequency my phone was using at the time, and denied it until they suggested i purchase a new phone and 'maybe it will work better'.

biggest issue i have with sprint is the general coverage limitation to cities and such.

Re:slashdot poll? (2, Informative)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801370)

I was a customer with sprint for 4 years. I left them specifically due to how awful their customer service is. It's like wrestling a... very difficult thing to wrestle with every time you need a small thing changed or adjusted. And there's usually a fee for that small adjustment. T-mobile has bent over backwards to help me out in every situation, and has never charged me an additional fee for something. I won't go into details here but here's what I wrote about them last week [slashdot.org] .

Re:slashdot poll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801322)

sprint are bastards. never ever go for sprint. they change the plan under you if the feel youre making too many calls and getting too much free service. they are absolute dicks with roaming charges. they suck balls.

Re:slashdot poll? (2, Funny)

jonpublic (676412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801180)

[ ] ATT
[ ] Verizon
[ ] Sprint
[ ] Tmobile
[ x ] cowboyneal communications

Re:slashdot poll? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801202)

Don't you mean...

[ x ] CowboyNeal's WiFi

(with Skype) ?

Re:slashdot poll? (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801304)

I don't think anybody's really interested in getting their phone service from CowboyNeal!

The statistics repeatedly say (4, Funny)

ifwm (687373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800940)

It's AT&T.

With that in mind, I fully expect nothing but a torrent of complaints about them.

Re:The statistics repeatedly say (3, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801092)

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.

Re:The statistics repeatedly say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801278)

Verizon operates their own call center here in Lincoln Nebraska. You most likly were roaming on verizons network and accidentally got routed to their customer service. Actually prob verizons network that screwed the pooch there.

Re:The statistics repeatedly say (2, Funny)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801342)

Actually.. I think the best coverage might be WiFi + Skype. Not any cell provider. The speed is a heck of a lot better, and you are pretty much guaranteed to be able to find WiFi coverage in almost any coffee shop, even in fairly small cities that have very poor or non-existent 3G coverage from major providers.

Also, the price is less.. usually a $3 cup of coffee you would buy anyways, and no per-kilobyte billing -- you may be able to get it less-expensively also. At home, you don't have to pay any monthly fee at all (other than for your internet service and electricity, which you already buy).

When considering the statistics, regarding cell phone providers, the trouble is it's really hard to determine if the reports that provided those statistics were unbiased, or if funding or influence was received from ATT.

In addition, other providers in their war against ATT, very likely have paid shills whose job is to influence public opinion, by creating an impression their network has the best coverage, instead of ATT.

So it's really hard to determine from a conversation like the comments on this slashdot post.. who really is the best anecdotally.

Are posters' anecdote's real?

Which company has the most customers that visit slashdot?

Which company has the most satisfied (or unsatisfied) customers that visit slashdot?

Are the characteristics of slashdot visitors similar to characteristics of the general population? For example, are Slashdot users likely to notice problems (or features) that the general population doesn't know about, or doesn't prioritize so much?

Which of the cell providers have the most paid shills in this forum?

T-Mobile (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30800944)

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

Re:T-Mobile (-1, Troll)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800956)

jailbroken iphones work with tmobile's 3G where avalible (every major metro area in the US)

Re:T-Mobile (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30800982)

No, they don't. AT&T's 3G network is on a different frequency than T-Mobile's, and the iPhones only support the AT&T 3G band. You can use unlocked (a step beyond jailbroken) iPhones on T-Mobile, but only with Edge support.

Re:T-Mobile (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800996)

I jailbroke my iphone on ATT to use tethering. The process is very simple, you just have to hope they don't stick you with a mammoth bill a year from now. You're looking for a piece of software called blackrain.

ATT service sucks ass, btw. I don't know if Tmobile is any better.

Re:T-Mobile (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800998)

Is T-Mobile's service really enough better than AT&T's to warrant buying an iPhone and jailbreaking it? If so, how so?

My impression is that when people complain about the iPhone being stuck on AT&T, they would rather move it to Verizon because their data network is more robust and has better coverage. (I don't actually know that Verizon has better service, but that seems to be the consensus.)

Re:T-Mobile (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801164)

depends what plan you're on. i pay $60 a month for unlimited data (and SMS, and 1000 minutes a month)with tmobile through an old blackberry cell plan with tmobile but i get 3g speeds on any phone i've plugged my sim card into. i don't know what an iphone plan costs but i'm guessing it's more than that. also tmobile allows tethering, be it officially or unofficially. an AT&T serviced iphone would have to do my laundry and clean my bathroom twice weekly for me to switch away from my current plan.

Re:T-Mobile (1)

capnkr (1153623) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801380)

Very similar here - ~$65/mo after some discounts (wrangled from customer service at contract re-sign) nets me unlimited data and voice. Unlimited SMS for another $5/mo if wanted. Tethering to an older Blackberry works fine if I am not in an area where I can scarf up some wifi - and these days that only happens when I am out in the woods or on the water somewhere. T-mobile customer service has always been quick and responsive.

The phone and plan are cheap enough that even on a minimalist budget, I can have an 11.6" netbook as a secondary device instead of a tiny-screen phone - and for _much less_ money in the longer term.

Re:T-Mobile (1)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801154)

You are confused. Jailbroken means that you can run non-Apple approved apps. You need to unlock in order to get a phone off of its default network.

Re:T-Mobile (1)

Alan Shutko (5101) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801442)

No, they work with T-Mobile's EDGE coverage in the US. AT&T and T-Mobile use different frequencies for 3G, and the iPhone is not capable of using the 3G frequency T-Mobile uses.

And now (5, Funny)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800962)

For a list of entirely subjective replies.

Re:And now (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801048)

"Subjective" doesn't necessarily mean "worthless" or "unhelpful". Even anecdotal evidence is evidence, and the submitter may prefer making his decisions based on the experiences of like-minded individuals to making his decisions based on nothing.

Re:And now (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801324)

This is the internet. There is no such thing as "like-minded individuals".

Re:And now (2, Funny)

M8e (1008767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801386)

I concur.

Re:And now (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801410)

4chan seems to be quite a lot of work for a single person.

Related question (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800966)

What are the best options in the US & Canada for somebody who visits and wants just a prepaid deal? (just voice & sms or also one with data). With an option of getting only starter SIM card (some phones cover also US frequencies)

Re:Related question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801090)

ATT gophone and rogers all day prepaid.

Re:Related question (2, Interesting)

jeffstar (134407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801286)

i have t-mobile pre-paid. if you do $100 refills the minutes don't expire for a year and you get 1000 minutes for your $100. texts are 10c I think.

The 7-eleven speakout was the only sim card I could find in canada that didn't expire your unused minutes every 30 days or require you to add more minutes every month.

Re:Related question (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801426)

If I read their website correctly, after you do the first $100 refill, any later refills also last for 1 year, regardless of the amount (they only offer roaming coverage in the areas where I use a phone, so they won't initiate a phone to those addresses and I haven't gone through the process of misleading them).

Re:Related question (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801296)

If they have a store where you are going to be, T-Mobile.

If not, go to a Walmart and pick up a prepaid phone for $20 (you would have to spend a minute and figure out which one made the most sense at the given time). Note that some of the prepaid carriers do use GSM, but the phones and SIMs may still be locked.

Re:Related question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801316)

I've used T-Mobile USA for this. It cost about $10 USD to get a bare SIM activated at a T-Mobile shop, and you can buy "refills" in various sizes. After the first $100 USD through the account, the price per minute drops with "gold status". The price per minute is also lower for the larger packages. The $100 refill provides the lowest price of $0.10/minute.

Re:Related question (1)

hldn (1085833) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801396)

i use page plus [pagepluscellular.com] . the service and prices are great, but i hear customer service is lacking. i've never had a need to contact them though, so i wouldn't be able to comment on that. per minute price varies from $0.06 to $0.10 depending on how many minutes you purchase. balance expires after 120 days but will rollover if you add more before the expiration date. i don't use data transfer, so i can't comment on the specific costs of that. they provide service over the verizon network and you can activate pretty much any verizon phone on their service. obviously your sim card requirement isn't met here though.

Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (5, Informative)

malakai (136531) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800972)

From a pure technical perspective, Verizon will get you the best coverage. But the sales people are vicious.

AT&T has iPhone obviously, but shitty coverage. I lend my phone to friends on AT&T in a couple different cities.

T-Mobile is worse coverage then AT&T. But has more open phones.

If you've got nothing right now, I'd go Droid on Verizon, pay 40 bucks for the unlimited data and use Google Voice for routing of your calls and LD service.

Re:Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801052)

Outside of cities though, AT&T has pretty good coverage. Verizon is going to get you the best cell service, but like you said, its Verizon. T-Mobile would be the company that I would reccomend, but sadly their coverage isn't too great.

Re:Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801054)

I'd agree with Droid on Verizon (it's what I am using now after several years of AT&T - during which I had no problems; I switched because I was cancelling my work provided plan on AT&T and wanted to go with the Droid), but the submitter mentioned connecting notebooks too. From what I've seen, Verizon wants an extra data plan to tether your phone to your computer. I realize there is an app store app or two that enables tethering, but since Verizon seems to want to use tethering as another income stream I don't know if it will end up being disabled by some technical measure. Anyway, something to consider strongly is the cost of tethering on the plan you go with.

Re:Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801068)

US Cellular doesn't suck.

Re:Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801074)

As for T-Mobile, my experience has been that there are many places where T-Mobile does outshine AT&T for coverage. Which is NOT to say they cover more area, just that this is site dependent.
2 cents

Re:Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (3, Interesting)

AnswerIs42 (622520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801168)

Define coverage though... I have AT&T and a friend has Verizon.. I get a lot more coverage in areas than he does, but he gets more 3G coverage.. but since I use my phone for... *gasp* calls.. 3G is a moot point.

It all depends on what you want to do... I still keep AT&T mainly because of the rollover minutes. I have some months where I may only use half my minutes.. then there are months I use well over my minutes.

comparing costs... they are all pretty much the same... over priced.

Re:Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801388)

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.

Re:Verizon has best coverage... but it's verizon. (2, Interesting)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801432)

Check the coverage maps for where you expect to be. For the places I normally hang and travel, ATT provides very good coverage, even 3G. This may or may not be true for others.

We also have a sprint phone because it provides some options that are useful. I have a cricket data device because they have a very reasonable no contract plan for data. Speeds are very good but coverage is not. I can use it in 90% of the time.

The other issue is that Verizon is not GSM, which makes it incompatible with most of the rest of the world.

huh? (4, Insightful)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:huh? (1)

Dumnezeu (1673634) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801276)

This is like asking what is your preferred way of being tortured.

True, true! But most our our decisions are similar: "Who should I vote for?" "What brand of food should I buy?" etc. The truth is, I rather lose a finger than a whole hand.

T-Mobile (5, Informative)

mactard (1223412) | more than 4 years ago | (#30800984)

If you're in a major metro area, T-Mobile is by far the best and cheapest. They also let you tether with all their smartphones without an additional tethering charge. If you're in the boonies, it seems Verizon is the only way to go.

Re:T-Mobile (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801246)

I tether my AT&T BlackBerry without an additional charge.

Agreed (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801290)

I've been w/T-Mobile since they started in the US. Here's why I like them:

* Avid supporter of Android. First one to introduce the G1, and now the first partner w/the Nexus One.
* Support advanced android features like visual voice mail for free and auto-notification when you near your minutes limit
* Reasonably priced, as cell phone companies go.
* Customer service has been shockingly fast/friendly whenever I've needed them (which admittedly, hasn't been often)
* Great coverage in US. Every city I've been to has had solid coverage. I've only been to fairly large cities though.
* After 3 months of service, they give you unlock codes for your phone.
* GSM network so most phones can be used overseas-- successfully used my US G1 in US, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, etc. T-Mobile's parent company is Deutsche Telekom.
* They are not AT&T.
* As far as I know, they did not spy on Americans when Bush asked them to.

And no, I don't work for them.

Re:Agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801398)

Just to add a few more points:

* Haven't had any hassles with certain off-label [cyanogenmod.com] applications such as tethering and SIP phone [sipdroid.org] .
* To get you to dump your landline, they also offer a little-known $9.99/mo unlimited home phone via your existing Internet called T-Mobile @Home [t-mobile.com] . I haven't tried it.

Re:T-Mobile (1)

wooferhound (546132) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801334)

For Cell service I am also too happy with T-Mobile. They have great coverage here in the Southeast US which is probably why I like it so much. Plus talking with customer service isn't like a 1000 papercuts as with AT$T.

My experience is that AT$T has pretty good coverage & service, but I was forever getting different extra unexplained charges that would never stop month after month. These were significant charges in the $100 range. And then there was the time that they tried to charge me $899 for long distance charges that should have been less than $20. I complained twice about it and they reduced the charges to $300 only overcharging me by $280. Since that day last year I have sworn to never again have anykind of AT$T service. At home I changed to home phone from the Cable company and I am too happy with it, and no more stupid extra charges.

Re:T-Mobile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801360)

I agree with this poster. T-Mobile for the urban areas, verizon if you have absolutely no choice. I have an HTC magic(mytouch) (I just moved to canada, used to be on T-Mobile) and love it.

go Vzw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30800994)

Verizon just topped Zagat's survey, won nielsen baseline, and a few others.

Re:go Vzw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801224)

Zagat is for food. So Verizon is edible now? So that's why their customer service tells me to "eat it."

And the answer is.... (1)

vasago17 (972827) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801008)

Dare

It depends on where you are (2, Insightful)

kd6ttl (1016559) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Welcome to America (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801014)

Where the technology hasn't advanced as much as you think and phone plans still really suck and are designed to lock you in to contract deals that are almost impossible to get out of.

I think your best bet is to stick with Sprint - Great phones, good service, great wireless for the PC. The prices are not as high as Verizon, and the Customer Support is better. AT&T is good too and Tmobile is good depending on where in the US you are, ie California is great with Tmobile...NJ is not.

Depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801020)

Depends on what your priorities are and where in the country you are. For instance, AT&T absolutely bites if you're in NYC, especially if you want to use data; but isn't so bad in some smaller cities. Verizon has great coverage (especially if you travel a lot in the US) and reliability, but cruddy customer service (not that anyone has good customer service), mediocre data options, and a history of crippling the discounted phones that come with their plans. Etc.

Your location may vary... (2, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

T-Mobile, UMA, and $0.10 per minute (3, Interesting)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801032)

Once you have used T-Mobile and UMA at $0.10 per minute, you will NEVER go back to standard plans.

UMA is basically "GSM over IP over 802.11g", and it allows you to make GSM cellphone calls [billed at a standard $0.10 per minute] from any publically accessible WiFi hotspot.

I'd buy an older UMA phone [umatoday.com] off of eBay, and purchase a $50 [$0.125] or $100 [$0.10] prepaid plan [t-mobile.com] from T-Mobile, and say goodbye to monthly fees forever.

Re:T-Mobile, UMA, and $0.10 per minute (3, Insightful)

jeffstar (134407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801306)

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.

Re:T-Mobile, UMA, and $0.10 per minute (1)

mosel-saar-ruwer (732341) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801384)

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

When you live out in the boonies and you have spotty cell tower coverage but excellent broadband coverage.

When you are travelling on the interstate, and there are no cell towers for miles, but the Rest Stop has WiFi.

When you are visiting a state park/national forest/national park with no cell tower coverage, but which has a WiFi hotspot in the Visitor's Center or the Ranger's Station.

When you are deep in the bowels of a large building and have zero cell tower penetration but WiFi hotspots around every corner.

Etc etc etc.

Again: Once you've experienced UMA with prepaid $0.10 plans, you will NEVER go back to $100/month [$1200/year] rip-offs.

Re:T-Mobile, UMA, and $0.10 per minute (1)

jeffstar (134407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801404)

'when you are out of GSM coverage' would have done it

A strange game... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801034)

The only winning move is not to play.

Seriously, all of the carriers suck.

Your only real choice is to choose things that are important to you and find the carrier that sucks the least in those things.

Of course, you have to put up with the extreme suckage in the other areas...

Wrong payment type (5, Funny)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801056)

... before I give my first born up when I sign a service contract?

You are not ready for the US American cell phone companies. Packets are transported by the souls of the damned who sign service contracts. Your firstborn is not payment enough; you must provide the souls of all your friends and family.

Consumer Reports report regularly on performance (1)

kevmeister (979231) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801066)

Surveys regularly report that Verizon has best coverage in almost all major markets and has by far and away the largest 3G coverage. The bottom of the list is less uniform, but Sprint and AT&T are generally at the bottom. T-Mobile is usually in hte middle, but seems to be improving.AT&T has minimal 3G coverage, but it generally performs well. when available. SF and NYC are reportedly capacity limited.I can only speak for the SF area where it does get rather slow from time to time.

One issue with Sprint and Verizon is that they are CDMA and generally not compatible with systems in other countries. Sprint is advertising a phone that does both CDMA and GSM, though I have no experience with it.

I can't comment on plans as my employer deals with that end of things.

Re:Consumer Reports report regularly on performanc (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801104)

You also have to add in that Verizon enjoys screwing with their customers phone far more than AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint does. Their "dumb" phones are locked down to where you can do almost nothing more than call, text and take pictures with almost no customization and they replaced Blackberry user's search engine with Bing (see http://jkontherun.com/2009/12/17/verizon-bing-make-google-go-boom-on-blackberry/ [jkontherun.com] ).

Re:Consumer Reports report regularly on performanc (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801270)

Rather slow? Most of the bay has horrible quality of service.

It depends (2, Insightful)

MrOctogon (865301) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:It depends (3, Informative)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801402)

all of them have a 30 day escape clause in their contracts.

That clause didn't show up there by accident. In the US, it's the law.

AT&T (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801082)

The world's fastest [connectedp...online.com] 3G network

But see here [evdoinfo.com] for some caveats.

AT&T has fairly good 3G coverage in all major US cities. And the best performance by far, where you can find coverage.

If you're a traveller who frequents many areas (esp. small towns) or live in one of those small cities with spotty ATT coverage for 3G, then you will probably want Sprint or Verizon.

Although their networks are generally slower, and the experience is generally poorer (on average), they have a lot more area covered.

So again: ATT is clearly the superior choice if you live in a well-covered area and don't go too far from home.

Verizon is a superior choice for most other areas.

For a moderate number of areas, Sprint will give you a better service, and there are a small number of areas where T-Mobile will be the best service.

Now service/coverage might not be the only you are concerned about, you may be interested in price too... you might pick a T-Mobile service based on price, even though it's not the best service for your area.

You might pick ATT, because they don't lock down features on your blackberry or other smartphone like Verizon does.

Then again, you might not want ATT, because of them restricting tethering on certain phones, Verizon may be the best choice there, depending on your needs.

So without knowing, how particular you are about what phone and what features you really need. It's a toss-up.

However, with ATT and the iPhone it's hard to go wrong (except on price, and except if you frequent relatively unpopulated rural areas...).

Re:AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801178)

In the New York City area, I couldn't disagree more with AT&T being the best choice. The network is far overloaded, and dropped calls/dropped data (where you suddenly can't get data coverage at all) are extremely common, despite the complete 3G coverage. I left AT&T a few months ago and joined Sprint and would never go back. 3-5 dropped calls a day were common on AT I almost never have a dropped call on Sprint, and the data, while slower, is reliable which is much more important to me. I have heard that T-Mobile and Verizon are also both clearly superior to AT&T.

Re:AT&T (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801256)

> However, with ATT and the iPhone it's hard to go wrong (except on price, and except if you frequent relatively unpopulated rural areas...).

Like CHICAGO??

Re:AT&T (1)

socsoc (1116769) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801298)

Have you used AT&T in a major city? I'm busy wearing out the Mark the Spot app up and down the west coast.

I haven't tried this out yet, but it could work (1, Troll)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801088)

Get a cell phone without a plan that has VOIP capabilities. Someone said they run around 200$, some sort of Nokia. This will let you make home calls assuming you have broadband and a wireless internet.

Then buy trakphone minutes to use your phone when you're not home.

This will easily save you hundreds of dollars a year... Unless you make a large number of calls on the road.

Sprint - Meh (1)

rlp (11898) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801094)

I've been a Sprint customer for quite a few years. My family has three phones on a family plan w. "unlimited" texts and data. I'd rate Sprint as follows:

Pros

1) Price - best pricing for the family plan of the major wireless carriers.
2) Network coverage - good. Good coverage everywhere I need it (home, work, daughter at university). Gotten coverage in some surprising places - like camping and hiking many miles from a major highway.

Cons

1) Customer service - horrible, truly horrible. Any time I have a problem, I can expect to make multiple calls, to get incorrect information, to be lied to. ALMOST as bad as AT&T.
2) Phone selection - AT&T has the IPhone, Verizon seems to be getting more interesting smart phones (like the Droid) before Sprint.

None. (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801110)

There’s your answer. ^^

Sorry, but... (4, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

The other one... (1)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801126)

From listening to everyone complain, the grass is always greener elsewhere.

Simple truth is, all of them seem to do some things better and some things worse than others. It's more about figuring out which things you actually care about and which ones you don't. Then find the provider that does what you care about and fails at the things you don't care about anyway.

Re:The other one... (1)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801310)

This isn't really a case of "the grass is always greener..". That would be everyone assuming that other companies are better than theirs. This is a case of everyone realizing they all suck.

a complex question with no single correct answer (5, Informative)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801142)

"It's complicated."

Signal quality and coverage depend on multiple things - the carrier's infrastructure vs your (common) locations, and your phone. Verizon's coverage, say, in one city, can be completely different than in another city. There is also the difference between voice quality and data, and then there's data SPEEDS to consider. You also want to look at future upgrades. Verizon will be the first one going to LTE (the next big jump in data connection speeds), though Sprint has already rolled out WiMax in some cities (a competing 4th gen spec), noone is likely to be coming out with any WiMax smartphones until the second half of the year, by which time, Verizon will be on the verge of their LTE rollout. You can get WiMax cards for your laptop now, though, if you just can't wait.

There's also the issues of phone selection and plan pricing to consider, and whether you're going contract-free or not. We're in a period of transition this year on more than one front - the impending switch to LTE in the second half of the year, and the decimation of Windows Mobile-based phones by Android-based phones, oh, and the now 'superphone' type phones - ones with 1ghz-class processors and WVGA screens (like the Nexus one and HTC Bravo).

So, I guess I would start by thinking about finances. Can you afford to outright buy a phone? If you can, I'd suggest that so you can go contract-free and increase your choices for switching in a year if you need to based on how the industry shakes out this year. The beginning of 2011 is going to look VERY different from what it looks like now. Android will be matured, LTE will be available in most major cities by Verizon at the very least, Sprint's WiMax infrastructure will possibly be starting to switch over to LTE if it is, indeed, as simple as upgrading network tower software, and we'll see how mature Android is, how much Microsoft bribes the cellphone companies to put out WinMo 7-based phones, and whether the iPhone finally upgrades to 'superphone' status and becomes available on networks other than AT&T.

If you can't afford to outright buy your phone, then go with Verizon or Sprint for the 3G coverage (for now), assuming 3G is a big concern. Verizon vs Sprint is a matter of network quality/phone selection vs price. Verizon (currently) has the better phone selection and network quality over Sprint, but Sprint has those Simply Everything plans (I'm on the Simply Everything 450). Verizon is officially going to be carrying the Google Nexus One phone later this year. Sprint was completely silent during CES on what phones it's going to be carrying. If they get the HTC Bravo (the hardware that is essentially the Nexus One), I may stay with Sprint, especially if it has the Sense UI on it, which the Nexus One does not. Verizon seems to have made the biggest official commitment to the Android platform of any of the major US carriers. I just wish they'd match prices with Sprint. If I could get an HTC Bravo on Verizon at Sprint's prices, I wouldn't hesitate to sign a two-year contract.

I wouldn't consider AT&T or T-Mobile because of their 3G coverage and network reliability issues at this time, but those AREN'T issues for many people in many locations. You'll want to find out from people where you live what those networks are like there.

Variables (1)

madsenj37 (612413) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801144)

It depends on where you are based, how much you will travel, are you a business or personal user and whether you like sim cards or closed platorms.

Whose fart smells the best? (1)

OutSourcingIsTreason (734571) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801182)

They all stink.

coverage varies dude. (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801190)

It really depends on your city. I would tend to choose sprint for speed and coverage, but it really depends on your area. In many cities people will glare at me when I say sprint, but in others (like this one), everyone just nods.

Negociate the contract (1)

Reivec (607341) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801196)

If you are willing to put a bit of time into talking to their sales people, you can bargain your contract terms and prices a bit more than they would have you believe. I have personally done this a lot with sprint. For instance I have never signed a 2 year contract, and refuse to. I can usually talk down the price a bit and get a 1 year contract rather than 2. It just takes a little persistence. (not the annoying bitch at them til you get your way kind either). People are more willing to work with you when you are friendly.

Sprint SERO, hands down (1)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801216)

Can't address your data card question as I have no experience, but I can address your phone.

Go online, and buy a Sprint SERO plan transferred from one of the fools selling theirs online. Nothing beats it.

Use your old HTC phone, or get a new HTC WinMo phone (unfortunately Palms and Android phones are blocked from SERO since it's too good a deal).

Enjoy your unlimited data, texts, nights and weekends from 7, and 500 voice minutes for 30 a month. All on what is widely perceived to be the fastest 3G network, all while roaming freely onto Verizon's network, which is widely perceived to be the best voice network.

Location and resource dependent. (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801242)

Really. I am not joking. It really depends on where you live, work and play and what your budget and credit is like.

Sprint service is non-existent where my family lives, but several other providers have good service there. I use T-mobile because I don't have a contract, so any phone I buy I can get unlocked and I am not paying extra money for not having a contract. And, they have decent service where my family is.

If people don't mind... (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801268)

I'd like to take this opportunity to steer the conversation towards discussing some phones in general, regardless of the provider (So some of us non-us folk can have a bit of a discussion).
Mainly because it's somewhat related and because I, personally, lost interest in the mobile device market some years ago (Around 2003 or 2004) and am quite out of touch. There's been many big changes, devices like the iPhone have changed the game and now Google has Android I feel I'm even more misinformed.

I was thinking of getting an Android phone, but all I've heard lately are teething problems (mostly with the Nexus one). What do you /.ers think of the current smartphone market? Are there genuinely any great phones out there worth investing in? Anything on the horizon worth holding off for? Just your thoughts and opinions on the best phones to check out now and in the future.

Re:If people don't mind... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Depends on where you are going to be... (2, Insightful)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

If you have a Mac, get an iPhone... (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801354)

...if you can put up with the crappy AT&T network. If you're in a major metropolitan area and won't travel much you'll be fine. The sync features of the iPhone, including the camera/photos, are really nicely implemented.

Sprint (1)

Psychotic_Wrath (693928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801356)

Sprint has excellent customer service. Much better than att and t mobile. If you know how to talk to people and be polite, Sprint is by far the best. They are very reliable. It really doesn't matter who has the best service, because they all offer free roaming now so it doesn't really matter. Sprint's customer service is by far the best. I have delt with all of them.

They all suck. (1)

DavidD_CA (750156) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801376)

They all suck.

major important thing I forgot to mention! (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#30801378)

Don't buy your phone or plan straight from the carrier unless you absolutely have to. I've had great luck saving as much as $150 off buying a new phone/plan combo from Amazon or Fry's. Try Fry's first if you have one in your area. If you can't save $100 from the carrier's price, you're not trying. Also, Sears Wireless seems to be the place to buy Verizon Droid and Droid Eris phones. Much less money, with no MIR needed. FYI.

Consumer Reports (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30801428)

Get the Consumer Reports on cell phones plans form your local library or buy it online.

Look for your metro area and compare each of them.

Heads up. they ALL suck. Your just going for the least sucky.

The Cell phone industry in the US is a bunch of crooked assholes who rip everyone off. But the really sickening thing is most Americans use them anyway....

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