Verizon is the best cell phone company out there, with T-Mobile a close second. Who says so? The majority of 51,700 readers surveyed in September by Consumer Reports, one of the most consistently consumer-centric organizations in the nation.
In a new report, available in the January 2009 issue, cell phone companies are no longer considered unreliable as 60 percent of readers said they were “completely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their cellular service — a category that had previously been among the worst rated by consumers. About 42 percent said they had no major complaints with their cell-phone company, which is up from 29 percent in CR’s previous survey.
However, in Orange County (Los Angeles area), the ratings for all the companies aren’t that great overall:
Locally, Verizon still ranks at the top among readers and connectivity. And while T-Mobile is the worst for connectivity, readers ranked it the second highest. In reader ratings, all scored above 60, which CR defines as “fairly well satisfied.”
Overall, the industry scored such high praise thanks to some big changes, such as improving call quality and having less onerous contract terms. Pretty much all offer pro-rated contracts now.
But still, the big complaint was cost.
The free phone, or deeply discounted one, also may not be such a big bargain. Companies manage to make quite a bit of money back on the monthly fees. For example, about $4.50 of a Sprint subscriber’s monthly bill in 2007 was devoted to repaying Sprint back for the phone — a detail CR unearthed in Sprint’s U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission filings. Over two years, that’s $108.
Worse, even after the phone is paid off, the monthly bill doesn’t decrease. Hence, “consumers continue paying for the phone as long as they hold onto it,” says CR.
(Other CR findings: $2.55 of Alltel’s monthly bill was for equipment while T-Mobile charged $3.29. AT&T and Verizon bury their figures, but both companies told CR their fee was similar to the $5/month reduction of their early termination fees.)
As for the best quality service? Verizon hands down. It not only won the hearts of its subscribers but it also won a case against AT&T for better service. CR says AT&T no longer runs two of its “More bars in more places” ads depicting better service indoors, after Verizon cried foul.
It’s a good report (the online version ranks phones, the print version includes service) that comes one week before I publish my own series of cell-phone stories. I’m researching the costs of family plans, pre-paid plans and who has the cheapest cell phone service period. Stay tuned for all that next week. In the meantime, feel free to e-mail me or comment below with any questions or concerns about cell phone services and prices.
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