Consumer Reports Readers Rate AT&T Worst Network

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Consumer Reports magazine issues its annual survey on wireless carriers and their cellular networks Tuesday, December 7th, and to hype the issue, the company announced today that Apple’s U.S. iPhone partner, AT&T, was rated as the worst network by its readers. Some 58,000 subscribers took part in the survey, which found Ma Bell to be the only carrier that saw a “significant” drop in overall satisfaction.

The magazine said that more than half of the respondents who took place in the survey who used AT&T had iPhones, spanning the product line from iPhone to iPhone 4.

In the announcement, which focused heavily on the iPhone and AT&T (a surefire attention grabber), Consumer Reports said that iPhone owners “much less satisfied with their carrier and rated data service (Web and e-mail) than owners of smart phones on other carriers that, like the iPhone, have a host of apps to encourage heavy data use.”

To that end, Paul Reynolds, Electronics Editor for Consumer Reports, commented on the long-running rumor that Apple would be bringing the iPhone to Verizon, the largest carrier in the U.S., saying, “Our survey suggests that an iPhone from Verizon Wireless, which is rumored, could indeed be good news for iPhone fans,”

Speaking of Verizon, the same survey found that a regional carrier in the Midwest, U.S. Cellular, beat out Verizon this year as the top-rated carrier. Sprint has also pulled up close to Big Red, and the magazine noted that Verizon has usually been “the clear top provider” in most surveys since 2003.

In other words, Verizon is being surpassed in customer satisfaction even before the iPhone comes to eat up all that bandwidth.

Consumer Reports has been very critical of iPhone 4 due to the antennae issues that made headlines shortly after the device was released. The magazine said that a bumper case solved the problems it found during testing, and criticized Apple for ending a free bumper program that was put in place initially to satisfy customers who were upset about the issue.


Dean Lewis

I honestly don’t see much difference between Verizon or AT&T as providers, and I have AT&T and am pretty satisfied by the service. (I hear enough complaints about both.) If people really want a choice (whatever that really means in this day and age), I’d much rather see T-Mobile or Sprint or even U.S. Cellular get the iPhone next.


Just a quick note of clarification, U.S. Cellular isn’t a “regional carrier in the Midwest.” They’ve been the carrier for our family out here in California for over 10 years. And yes, they beat the socks off of Verizon (our previous carrier, shudder. Great signal, sole sucking, atrocious business practices). Can’t say much about AT&T’s GSM service as there is no signal where I live and work in Northern California (the real “Northern” California. People should look at a map sometime. San Francisco is on California’s central coast, NOT in the north!). U.S. Cellular is crystal clear, five bars where ever I go; even in congested urban areas.

Personally, I would pay a little more for an iPhone if I could just use it on my regular phone account (CDMA please!), NOT subscribe to a data plan, and use WiFi for internet access. I really don’t need (nor can I afford) 24/7 internet access everywhere I go.


Another meaningless opinion of a cell phone carrier. It completely depends on WHERE you use your cell phone as to the type of reception you will get so an overall rating is pretty much meaningless. I have been using AT&T (Cingular for a while) for at least 12 years and have never had any problems to speak of because they happen to have excellent coverage where I use my phone. YMMV.

And this antenna issue is absurd. I have easily reproduced it on both earlier model iPhones as well as other brands. It doesn’t matter what brand or model of cell phone it is, cover the antenna area with your hand and your reception will drop.


I just spent six months in the US, traveling (by car, mostly) through 25 states. I hit some big cities while there, including NY, Boston, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Clevelend, Orlando (et al). For that entire time, almost my sole internet access was through my iPhone on ATT. I even used it to download software updates for programs on my Mac (yeah, I got desperate). I typically hit 5 gig or more each month I was there. I cannot remember any larger town that seemed to be significantly worse than others. Yes, there were times of day that were worse (mornings being the best, and evenings being worse), but overall, I was satisfied with my data speeds, as well as phone connections. And yes, I did get dropped calls, but no more than others, who were using Sprint and Verizon. Also, I got my family a Mifi, and it was frequently slower than my ATT 3G, as well as frequently faster.

I suspect that this “study” is skewed, based simply on expectations. If someone is using ATT, then by very virtue of the fact they are using ATT, they cannot be using Verizon or one of the other carriers at the exact same moment at the exact same location. Even a few feet, I discovered (with our Mifi), can make a huge difference in download speeds. So, all this “study” can do is measure _expectations_ that people have. I would suggest that anyone using an iPhone has _higher_ expectations than people using lesser phones. wink (can you say ANDROID?) But again, my experiences are only my own, and I would never pretend they were scientific. And how does one measure expectations scientifically? I don’t care how large a sample you take, expectations are subjective, and heavily influenced by factors that cannot be taken into account (such as media coverage, and how that colors expectations, friends’ experience, past experience with other carriers, etc.) So, flame away.


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