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Verizon ranks high, AT&T low in this year's Consumer Reports survey

Who’s your cell phone provider? Are you satisfied with the service?

I know friends and family members who have AT&T for their iPhones. One has calls dropped so frequently she tells people to call her on the landline.

Cellphone LGI have Verizon because I’ve read past Consumer Reports ratings that it has the best coverage nationwide.

Top national provider

Again this year, Verizon Wireless was the highest-rated major carrier in Consumer Reports’ annual cell-phone service ratings, based on a survey of more than 63,000 subscribers.

Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone service providers, Verizon Wireless led the pack, receiving favorable scores for voice and data service quality, and also for support such as staff knowledge and resolution of issues.

Carriers with middle to low ratings

Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T each received mostly middle to low marks, especially for voice and text service quality.

AT&T was among the lower-scoring providers, but its 4G LTE network was rated the most favorably of any carrier. Its users reported the fewest problems with that higher-speed service, which most new smart phones now use.

Providers with monthly billing and no contract

Consumer Cellular, a national carrier that uses AT&T’s network, received high marks in Consumer Reports’ Ratings of standard or monthly bill carriers. The no-frills carrier serves users with the simplest wireless needs and offers monthly billing without a contract.

The report found that no-contract plans can save money. Two-thirds of those in the survey who switched to “prepaid plans,” which usually lack a contract commitment and bill each month in advance, saved more than $20 a month by switching. Those savings can allow wireless customers to recover the cost of the phone, which can be higher if they don’t sign a contract.

TracFone was among the top-Rated prepaid providers, receiving high marks for value, voice, and text. Like Consumer Cellular, it specializes in providing service to those who seek simple, low-cost phone service.

Even consumers whose phone needs are less than basic can save by going prepaid, according to Consumer Reports.

“Some smaller carriers that scored respectably in our ratings and offer low-priced plans, such as Straight Talk and Virgin Mobile, now offer fairly sophisticated smart phones,” Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “And, you can even save by switching a phone from a major carrier that’s coming off contract to a prepaid plan.”

Survey reports

A report summary can be found online at ConsumerReports.org. The full report is available online for subscribers and in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, which is on newsstands now. Many libraries also carry copies of the magazine.

The full report includes:

  • Detailed ratings of cell-phone service providers in 23 metropolitan markets.
  • Ratings of smart phones and cell-phone retailers.
  • Data-hogging phone habits to avoid
  • Advice on choosing the right phone and plan.
  • A comparison of the Google Android vs. Apple iOS vs. Windows Phone operating systems.
  •  Tips on how consumers save money on their cell-phone bills.
Copyright 2012, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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