Verizon Wireless was the highest-rated major carrier in Consumer Reports’ annual cell-phone service ratings, based on a survey of 63,253 subscribers by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
The full report can be found online at ConsumerReports.org and in the January 2013 issue of Consumer Reports, which is on newsstands now.
Of the four major U.S. national cell-phone standard service providers, Verizon Wireless led the pack, receiving favorable scores for voice and data service quality, and also for support attributes like staff knowledge and resolution of issues. Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T each received mostly middling to low marks, particularly 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.
Consumer Cellular, a national carrier that uses AT&T’s network, received high marks across the board in Consumer Reports’ ratings of standard (monthly bill) carriers. The no-frills carrier caters to users with the simplest wireless needs and offers the simplicity of monthly billing without a contractual commitment.
The report found that no-contract plans can be major cost-savers. Two-thirds of Consumer Reports survey respondents who switched to so-called “prepaid plans,” which typically lack a contract commitment and bill each month in advance, saved more than $20 a month by switching to prepaid. Those savings can allow wireless customers to quickly recoup the cost of the phone itself, which can be higher if they don’t make a contractual commitment.
TracFone was among the top-rated prepaid providers, receiving high marks for value, voice and text. Like Consumer Cellular, it specializes in those who seek simple, low-cost phone service.
Even those whose phone needs are less than basic can save by going prepaid. “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,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. “And you can even save by switching a phone from a major carrier that’s coming off contract to a prepaid plan.”