The annual review of U.S. mobile carriers from Consumer Reports [subscription required to view full report] finds that Verizon is the best national choice for most customers looking for a full-featured smartphone plan. AT&T, Verizon’s top rival nationally, scored lowest among the carriers evaluated in the report, with Sprint and T-Mobile falling in between.
With its superior scores and wide array of marquee phones, Verizon is your best bet overall among national carriers. AT&T, though it rates lower than Verizon in most respects, is also worth considering for want-it-all types because of its top 4G network rating and lower pricing for people who have lighter data, voice, and messaging needs.
A bright spot for AT&T, the nation’s second-largest carrier by subscribers, is the measured performance of its 4G network. Despite Verizon's large head start in rolling out 4G coverage, AT&T scored highest in this category, with Verizon tied for second place.
Beyond the purely technical performance of their networks, only Verizon scored better than average on customer support criteria. Other national carriers scored at or below average, with AT&T’s phone support receiving a “worst” mark.
While Verizon scored best overall, it and other national carriers were rated lower than some regional carriers and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) -- including Consumer Cellular, U.S. Cellular, and Credo Mobile -- depending on the needs of each customer. For example, those without the need for full-featured smartphone plans or those who need to buy a mix of smartphones and feature phones would be best suited with a plan from U.S. Cellular.
Apple’s iPhone is currently available in the U.S. on Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, along with a number of regional carriers throughout the country. For current and prospective iPhone owners, rankings from Consumer Reports help establish basic performance levels, but each carrier is only as good as its quality in a customer’s intended service area.
As a result, Verizon’s top ranking this year is a good sign for the company, but should not deter customers from sticking with other national or regional carriers if service in each customer’s area is adequate.
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