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Provider Wars: Part 2

Posted on August 18, 2010 by under Reviews.    

As promised, I am back to discuss the rate plans that are being provided by the big 4. That would be T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

I did extensive research and compared the family plans from all carriers, using my current plan as the base for comparison. To give you a little back ground. I have been with T-Mobile for over 10 years. I started out on just a simple single person rate plan and then about 6 years ago upgraded to the Family Plan and brought my wife’s phone into the mix. The plan we have right now is a 500 min (shared) family plan for $49.99, they don’t offer this any more and we have been very careful to not loose it. We don’t use that many minutes as everyone we know is on T-Mobile and we use Mobile-to-Mobile minutes more than anything. We added a Family Unlimited Text plan a few months after that for $9.99, this is also no longer available and we have been careful to keep this feature. If they were to ever discontinue this feature and force us to change, we would have to pay $9.99 per line instead of the current overall coverage for text messaging. The plan works for us and we have never gone over our minutes. We had data on our lines but only for 30 days as neither of our phones were really data friendly.

Since I had been having trouble getting what I wanted out of T-Mobile I decided to look elsewhere, in case I needed to change providers. I really didn’t want to change providers, like I said; everyone we know is on T-Mobile service. The Mobile-to-Mobile is a real benefit to us.

I started with Verizon. I get a 12% discount through my company on any Verizon account, so this was a perk. The family plan that I looked at was $99.99 for 700 Talk and (unlimited) Text minutes. I would then have to add unlimited data to the account for an additional $30.00 per line. In total with my discount my plan would have been around $150.00 before taxes. This was the lowest plan that they offered in the Family category. I was disappointed that they did not offer a Talk, Text and Data plan in the Family Plans. But looking at all the others this was shaping up to be the best.

Verizon also has the best coverage out of all of the carriers. Their data service is ranked highest amongst JD Power and Associates and due to the purchase of Alltel; they edged out AT&T for the top seat in the customer service category.

With the popularity of the Android market rising almost daily, Verizon offered a very large selection of these phones. The most popular being the HTC Incredible and the Motorola Droid X. Both were not available for purchase when we visited the store and we were told that it would be 24 to 48 hours before any would be in. However, we still felt that if we had to change providers this would be the smart option. As my wife told my friends “I will be a shame if we have to change providers because it means we will have to find new friends on the Verizon network so we can use the Mobile-to-Mobile again”.

The next carrier is AT&T. I am not fond of them ans the only thing they really have going for them is the iPhone. Without that, they would not be in the ranks at all. They were rated third in customer service by JD Power and they slipped in the ranks of customers thanks to Verizon’s acquisition of Alltel. Their coverage is only good in major cities and along major highways. Their data coverage is worse than their cell coverage and with the amount of people that use iPhones in any given city, the network is prone to frequent outages. The kicker though, the thing that I think will come back and bight AT&T in the ass is that they did away with their unlimited data plans. They now only offer 2Gig plans for customers that use data. This is not wise for smart phones that are perpetually connected to the internet like the iPhone. someone like my wife would go thorugh 2Gigs in a little over 2 weeks. You would not be able to stream things like Pandora or Slacker all the time because you would burn through your data too quickly. It’s no wonder that it was recently reported that the sales of the iPhone had recently dropped. Their 700 min Talk only plan was 69.99, I would have to add Unlimited Text for an additional $15.00 per line and then the 2Gig data plan for an additional $30.00 per line. In total it would be $150.00 for the service as well. But the coverage and the lack of anything other than an iPhone was very discouraging.

(Update: AT&T just released the Galaxy S to their line up. This adds another non iPhone option that is in my opinion much better. But with a lack of Unlimited Data, I don’t see this being a popular choice).

Last we have Sprint. Sprint’s appeal is their Unlimited Everything plan. This is unlimited calling to any phone, anywhere in the United States. Also unlimited Text and picture messaging and Unlimited Data. The family plan was $129.99 before taxes. This was very appealing. We would not have to worry about going over our min, we would still be able to keep our friends even though they were on a different carrier and we would not have to worry about data limitations. All in all this was looking to be the economical pick. However, we had the Sprint coverage issues and the fact that they have been in last place among the big 4 in customer service ratings for the last 5 years running. I have a few friends that are on Sprint and they have no problems, as long as they stay in Wichita. They leave the major city and it’s outsville for the coverage. Looking over the review on the web this seems to be the running story.

So looking over everything, I decided that Verizon would be the best choice. They had the best coverage, the best data, the best customer service. Simply the best all around. And with the discount it made it quite enticing.

Update: Since I started this post T-Mobile has finally offered me what I wanted. So we are staying with them for at least another 2 years. By then the iPhone will have been outof exclusivity, all the carries will have a version and with luck everyone will still have the unlimited data plans. If not then I will stay with T-Mo until the end of the world.

Which according to the Mayans, should happen about the time my contract ends.
(no really, that’s what the tablets say…”Flip’s contract ends and the world ends”)

Go figure.

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  • Email to SMS on February 8, 2011
  • The War of the Providers! on August 17, 2010
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