When you’re looking to find the best company to stay connected, every communications-based carrier begins to sound alike. Most seem to put their own colored dots on coverage maps to prove they have the best service to offer. But before you jump at the first carrier company who touts full coverage across the map, explore the whole picture of what each company delivers.

Of course, coverage is first and foremost. How good is the connection signal in the areas you will be using your phone most? The best of phones will prove worthless when you find yourself in a pocket of the country or overseas without a signal.

What to Consider

Here are a few other terms to consider:

Data Speed 

When you want to do more than just talk on your phone, a good data plan with adequate speeds will keep you connected for streaming music and video, accessing the internet or sending e-mails. Most providers offer 3G or 4G Wireless speeds on most cell phones now. This article compares popular carrier’s wireless data speeds.

Phones and Plans 

Not every carrier supports every phone, so be sure the phone and plan you choose go hand-in-hand. The plan is a contract for service and lists requirements of how long you must stay with a specific carrier, and how many calling minutes and how much data you can use per month without being charged overage fees. Standard carriers bill monthly, while some companies offer pre-paid or no-contract plans.

Customer Support 

How does the company handle questions and technical issues should they arise? Of course, you won’t know for certain how each company operates until you sign up with them, so first ask around and do your online research.

Top Carriers

In the cell phone market, the major top four carriers are currently Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.


Verizon is the largest US carrier, known for 4G LTE network and a huge variety of phones. Plans include a “Share Everything” plan with unlimited voice and texting for several phones and devices. Verizon also offers pre-paid plans. Phone upgrades are allowed every six months. The new “Edge” program allows 24 months to spread out payments on a new phone.


AT&T offers individual and shared family plans as well as international coverage and pre-paid plans through the AT&T Go service or its new Aio prepaid service. Aio allows customers to pay installments on a new phone.


This carrier is changing to LTE coverage. Their plans include unlimited data and calling with a new Unlimited Guarantee that keeps your monthly service cost unchanged over the lifetime of the plan. Sprint also offers prepaid services through Virgin and Boost Mobile.


This carrier runs on an LTE network and is the smallest of the four major carriers in the U.S., but offers extensive international coverage. It offers plans with unlimited texting and calls with no contracts. The company also allows 24-month installments on the cost of a new phone. It’s new Jump program allows trade in phones for an upgrade after six months.

Which Companies are Best?

According to a full report in the January 2014 issue of Consumer Reports magazine, the most recent survey of more than 58,000 customers in 23 metro markets, lists complete ratings for seven standard carriers and eight companies that offer a pre-paid option. Consumer Reports tested for value, voice, text, data, 4G, phone support, staff knowledge support, and issue resolved support.

According to Consumer Reports… 

Out of the top-four carriers, Verizon offers the best in data service and overall customer satisfaction. T-Mobile follows fairly closely behind. Sprint is rated last with an overall score of 59 out of 100, marked down in areas of overall value, text, voice and 4G services. AT&T is listed as the most reliable 4G coverage.

According to TopTenREVIEWS…

While Consumer Reports magazine is a well-respected leader in product testing, they are not the only ones who have conducted cell phone carrier surveys. TopTenREVIEWS conducted a survey of its own. The highest major carriers are Verizon, followed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Users noted coverage and help and support as Verizon’s strong points, while AT&T users like the devices and features. T-Mobile was listed for its excellence in devices and features as well as its plans and pricing. Sprint’s noteworthy feature was excellence in devices and features.

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