Cellphone companies have expanded their functionality to such a point that phones can browse the Internet from just about anywhere and run any number of handy applications. It is difficult to rate cellphone companies since their service and coverage varies from region to region. Companies often require a two-year service contract with expensive cancellation fees, so balancing your options is paramount before you sign up.
Cellphone coverage describes the availability of a signal in a particular region. AT&T boasts the most widespread coverage in America, while Verizon claims it has the most 3G coverage. Of course, these numbers don't mean anything if the service doesn't reach your house or worksite. Each provider offers coverage maps, and CNET has an interactive map showing Internet and voice service coverage for the major providers. In New York City, for example, the strongest signal comes from Verizon, followed by T-mobile, then Sprint and AT&T.
A smartphone is used to browse the Internet and download applications such as games and productivity tools, in addition to making calls and sending and receiving text and email messages. Internet is accessed over a 3G or 4G network, which costs extra each month. The speed and reliability of the network are important factors to consider, as well as coverage in the areas you frequent. Many smartphones can also use Wi-Fi, so when you are home you can get Internet from your wireless network and not eat up your data plan. Many businesses and other public places also offer free Wi-Fi access.
Plans and Price
Cellphone plans are available with a contract, which is usually one to two years. For unlimited voice minutes, most companies charge between $40 and $120. Some companies, such as Verizon, offer an unlimited data plan, for about $30 a month, as of the time of publication. Others, like AT&T, only offer limited data plans. It's largest is 4GB, which costs $45 extra per month. Alternatively, some cellphone providers offer prepaid voice minutes, meaning you pay a certain amount right away and your phone deducts from this dollar amount as minutes are used.
Different companies are also given exclusive contracts with certain phone models. The iPhone, for example, is only available from Verizon and AT&T, as of the time of publication. The iPhone is one of the most popular models on the market because of its friendly user interface and extensive app store. The HTC Evo and Samsung Restore smartphones run only on the Sprint network. Both of these run Google's Android operating system, which also features an app market.
Customer service is another important consideration. Based on customer satisfaction surveys taken by "Consumer Reports" magazine in 2010, Verizon and Sprint essentially tie for the highest customer satisfaction, at 74 percent and 73 percent, respectively. T-mobile has a customer satisfaction rate of 69 percent and AT&T has a rate of 60 percent. Don't overlook smaller companies. "Consumer Reports" also praised regional carrier US Cellular, which had a customer satisfaction rating of 82 percent.
- Consumer Search: Cell Phone Plans Reviews
- Top Ten Reviews: Cell Phone Providers Review 2011
- "PC Mag"; AT&T Is Worst Cell Phone Service Provider, Consumer Reports Says; Chloe Albanesius; December 2010
- T-Mobile Blog; HTC Sensation 4G: T-Mobile Unveils Its Most Powerful Handset; April 2011
- CNET; Quick Guide to Top Cell Phone Carriers; Kent German, et al.: November 2010
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