I need help choosing a phone carrier

  • scaia

    Posts: 10

    Oct 29, 2011 7:29 PM GMT
    So, my contract is up with T-mobile and I'm thinking about switching carriers. Normally, I'd just stay with them, but there's the whole issue of them merging with AT&T and possibly rendering my new phone incompatible with AT&T's network. It's a mess that I think is probably best to just avoid by switching carriers.

    I've had my eye on the Samsung Galaxy SII, but I also might opt for the new iphone (though I have this sort of stigma against Apple and their almost religious congregation of fans). This phone would also be my first smartphone, so I kind of need an idea of what's common as far as data usage and and how fast the network is for Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. I'm sure it varies depending on where you are, but a general idea of what the network speed is like would be nice.

    I'm leaning towards Sprint, which seems to have the cheapest and wide ranging plan for unlimited data, but considering the price, it's probably painfully slow. So input from current sprint holders is much appreciated.
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    Oct 29, 2011 7:57 PM GMT
    How important is a reliable network to you?


    Verizon isn't the cheapest because they don't have to be. Their goal is to grow their subscriber base profitably by giving us a network we can depend on. The more reliable the network in terms of coverage, the greater the investment a carrier has made. Billions of dollars in equipment, towers, and radio spectrum licenses.

    Sprint and TMobile lag Verizon/AT&T in network investment and license bands as their spectrum licenses are limited to 1.9GHz PCS, which requires more tower sites to ensure there are no dead zones. They attract customers who can deal with this by continuing to offer unlimited data plans. Sprint diverts network investments to their other money pits: maintaining the Nextel/Iden network until that gets unplugged and replaced by IS95/CDMAOne in 2013 and the doomed WiMax CLEAR network.

    CLEAR was supposed to be revolutionary and is still promoted heavily around the Seattle area. However, the 4G/WiMax network only covers data headed towards you. Data you send back, like browser URL's, goes through Sprint's CDMAOne network at 14.4 kilobits per second if there's a strong signal.

    TMobile has to set their price structure accordingly to their perceived network capacity. They don't see a network capacity upgrade investment turning into higher monthly billing, so they don't do it. TMobile USA is connected to the postal department of the German government. They would be delighted to sell their unprofitable network to AT&T and leave the US market. I suspect their motivation to enter the US market in the first place was to ensure the FCC spectrum auctions would preserve a chunk of the US market for German/European cellphone manufacturers to market equipment to.

    AT&T and Verizon are forced to ensure all customers enjoy their advertised 4G speed by making it expensive for people who abuse their network by either streaming Blu-Rays from Netflix or by Torrent.

    Finally, the only reason I would choose AT&T over Verizon is their 3G handsets are able to maintain a voice call on GSM while using the WCDMA network for simultaneous web surfing. Or, however that works.

    For Verizon and Sprint, voice and data networks are shared for everything but 4G/LTE. For AT&T, GSM data rates are embarassing and take away from their voice capacity, so they have a separate WCDMA network they had to invest in for their expanding user base.

    Verizon is a combination of legacy 800Mhz spectrum licenses with excellent coverage for a single cell tower (useful for voice) and they've merged with companies that own considerable 1.9Ghz/PCS spectrum, useful for more voice capacity and data.

    Their network investment enhances their coverage universally across voice and data. But, the IS95 standard does not support simultaneous HDR and voice.
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    Oct 29, 2011 8:03 PM GMT
    The data situation is somewhat complicated, but I will try and make it simple. First, AT&T has a calculator you can use to estimate your monthly data usage so you get an idea of which data plans and their costs you should consider regardless of what carrier you go to:
    http://www.att.com/standalone/data-calculator/index.html

    As far as network speed, the situation for the iPhone4S is different than other phones.

    1) Relevant to smartphones, not including the iPhone4S

    Verizon - In the midst of a large build out of their 4G, called LTE. LTE is the fastest 4G out there. (In tests I have seen, it beat out the others.) The fastest smartphones are the ones that run on Verizon LTE.

    Sprint - Has a large build of their 4G, called WiMax. From what I have read, not as fast as Verizon's 4G LTE. Sprint is going to start building an LTE network next year and will eventually abandon WiMax. Probably will have WiMax going for the lifetime of phones bought today, but may be a consideration.

    AT&T - Their fastest 4G, also LTE, is just starting to be built. It is only in a few markets now. What they are marketing as 4G in most markets today can be called 4G-Lite (just my term). It is HSPA+, technically runs 4G speeds, but not as fast as the other systems. The phones AT&T sells today are not as fast as the 4G LTE phones from Verizon or the 4G WiMax phones from Sprint.

    2) All about the iPhone4S.

    The fastest data speed on the iPhone4S is HSPA+, or AT&Ts 4G-Lite. iPhone4S also supports a 3G data standard, EVDO Rev. A which runs on both Verizon and Sprint. So the iPhone4S runs fastest on AT&T's network.

    Next year, probably in the fall, an anticipated iPhone5 will contain a new LTE chipset, and then the iPhone5 speeds will be comparable on all three networks. The question then will be coverage comparison.

    For all cases, check the network coverage for the carrier and technology (3G or 4G) that you are considering. Also, as mentioned above, AT&T's system allows simultaneous voice and data, whereas Verizon and Sprint do not. I heard there were some retrofits being made to allow Verizon and Sprint's customers an ability to do both at the same time, but I am not familiar with that status.
  • scaia

    Posts: 10

    Oct 29, 2011 10:45 PM GMT
    Thanks for the input guys. I guess the main reason I'm on the fence is the give and take between fast data and the amount you can actually download. Like how you might get fast data speeds on AT&T and Verizon, but what's the point if all it takes is a few videos before you cap out your 2GB (I'm on a budget). Whereas if you get unlimited on sprint for cheap, it would be lower speeds.

    Decisions decisions....icon_confused.gif
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    Oct 29, 2011 11:22 PM GMT
    A former co-worker of mine swears that T-Mobile's 3G is much faster than ATT. But it's hard to say really. He was using a Samsung Vibrant (Galaxy S) on T-Mo, and iphone on ATT. It might have been more conclusive if both phones were the same.

    If you don't mind spending $600+ for an unlocked/unbranded Galaxy SII, you can go with ATT's prepaid plan.. $50 for UNLIMITED talk + text + data. If you buy one of ATT's smartphones, then you'll have to pay extra for data.. and it's not unlimited. Booo.
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    Oct 29, 2011 11:35 PM GMT
    Well here in little old England, O2 wouldn't offer me any sort of a decent upgrade eal, even though my contract expires next month!

    So fuck em! I'll show them what badly trained sales people on the "Platinum Account Holder" hotline do for customer loyalty/sustainability.

    Can't wait. Twats.
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    Oct 30, 2011 12:04 AM GMT
    Cell phone carriers don't care about loyalty. I've been with ATT for over 10 years, through previous acquisitions and mergers of local carriers. Back when my contract ended, they gave me an "exclusive" offer.. Some smartphone for $300 plus an "upgrade fee" of $15. And at the same time, they were advertising the same phone for $100 for NEW customers. And Amazon was selling the same phone for free, upgrade or new. icon_lol.gif
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    Oct 30, 2011 12:10 AM GMT
    xrichx saidCell phone carriers don't care about loyalty. I've been with ATT for over 10 years, through previous acquisitions and mergers of local carriers. Back when my contract ended, they gave me an "exclusive" offer.. Some smartphone for $300 plus an "upgrade fee" of $15. And at the same time, they were advertising the same phone for $100 for NEW customers. And Amazon was selling the same phone for free, upgrade or new. icon_lol.gif


    Not sure how it works with "cell" phone "carriers" but here, once you're signed up, deals are completely random and depend upon who you speak to, when, and how well you play your cards.

    When the 3GS first came out, my sister got a deal that was ten quid a month less than mine. That's a lotta lolly in these here parts!!
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    Oct 30, 2011 12:44 AM GMT
    xrichx saidA former co-worker of mine swears that T-Mobile's 3G is much faster than ATT...


    surprised to see that Tmobile's download speeds are faster on average than AT&T's. no surprise is that Verizon4G is the fastest.

    http://www.pcmag.com/Fastest-Mobile-Networks-2011#fbid=D2OG-qDgGma?Awards
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    Oct 30, 2011 2:30 AM GMT
    I didn't read all of the lengthy replies in this topic. I'm sure you were given some good advice.

    For me, it boils down to coverage area, and Verizon is the only reliable network in the places that I need it. Look at the coverage area maps for each provider. Also, ask your friends, family, and acquaintances who are around the same places as you what they have and what they like.

    I just recently bought an iPhone, and I love it. I'm not a Apple drone either. I use most my WiFi at home. I signed up for the cheapest data plan, and I haven't even made a dent in my monthly usage.
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    Oct 30, 2011 2:35 AM GMT
    I travel extensively in the rural west and I stand by Verizon for their coverage areas. If I don't get a signal, no one can.
  • scaia

    Posts: 10

    Oct 30, 2011 2:41 AM GMT
    rightasrain said
    xrichx saidA former co-worker of mine swears that T-Mobile's 3G is much faster than ATT...


    surprised to see that Tmobile's download speeds are faster on average than AT&T's. no surprise is that Verizon4G is the fastest.

    http://www.pcmag.com/Fastest-Mobile-Networks-2011#fbid=D2OG-qDgGma?Awards


    I'd stay with T-mobile for sure, if it weren't for AT&T buying it. I'm almost tempted to bank on the DoJ halting the acquisition, but it's a bit of a risk. I have a feeling that AT&T is going to screw over the incoming T-mobile contract holders. Plus I've read somewhere about how T-mobile phones would be inoperable, at least for internet i think.
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    Oct 30, 2011 4:10 AM GMT
    I have to say that Verizon is the best. I've been with just about all the carriers and when I tried Verizon, I knew that was it for me. The best coverage and the most reliable network. My customer service experience has been pretty solid as well. This is only from my experience icon_biggrin.gif.
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    Oct 30, 2011 4:16 AM GMT
    Go for the Galaxy S2. My dad got that phone today and it's ridiculous. It's probably the best phone I've ever seen.
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    Oct 30, 2011 4:30 AM GMT
    joe122 saidGo for the Galaxy S2. My dad got that phone today and it's ridiculous. It's probably the best phone I've ever seen.


    Which carrier? I'm just curious as the insides are different between the AT&T and Verizon/Sprint versions.

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    Oct 30, 2011 4:48 AM GMT
    RobertF64 said
    joe122 saidGo for the Galaxy S2. My dad got that phone today and it's ridiculous. It's probably the best phone I've ever seen.


    Which carrier? I'm just curious as the insides are different between the AT&T and Verizon/Sprint versions.


    We have T-Mobile.
    http://www.t-mobile.com/shop/Phones/cell-phone-detail.aspx?cell-phone=T-Mobile-Galaxy-S-II
    I personally think T-Mobile's plans are great compared to ATT's. We're paying like 109 a month for 3 phones with unlimited internet and texting. I think that's about the price people pay for 1 iphone. I'm using an unlocked blackberry torch with tmobile right now and I like it, but I think the Galaxy S2 is a better phone.
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    Oct 30, 2011 4:55 AM GMT
    Cool. With the S2, the GSM version and CDMA (Sprint Verizon) versions don't use chips from the same company. I was curious which network you had.

    Do you get dropped calls a lot in the NYC area with TMobile?

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    Oct 30, 2011 5:04 AM GMT
    RobertF64 saidCool. With the S2, the GSM version and CDMA (Sprint Verizon) versions don't use chips from the same company. I was curious which network you had.

    Do you get dropped calls a lot in the NYC area with TMobile?


    I can't even remember the last time I got a dropped call. I think dropped calls have more to do with the phone than it does with the service though. My dad used to have a first gen iphone and he used to get dropped calls every day. I haven't had a dropped call yet with my blackberry.
  • MikemikeMike

    Posts: 6932

    Oct 30, 2011 5:04 AM GMT
    RobertF64 saidCool. With the S2, the GSM version and CDMA (Sprint Verizon) versions don't use chips from the same company. I was curious which network you had.

    Do you get dropped calls a lot in the NYC area with TMobile?



    NYC tri state area- I'd go with Verizon. I never get dropped calls unless in a elevator in some buildings?