Carrier strength drives smartphone selections

Carrier strength drives smartphone selections

Summary: Jason Hiner earlier posted on his buying decision between the iPhone 3G S and Palm Pre and as this blockbuster smartphone Summer kicks off I imagine that many prospective buyers will be looking at the available choices. Fellow MoTR podcast co-host James Kendrick actually owns the flagship device from each of the four major US wireless carriers and posted his thoughts on which phone/carrier combo would he choose that I think you should also check out as you look for a new smartphone. I'll offer my opinion as well since I have tried these devices and carriers as well. As you will see the choice for each personal is highly dependent on their carrier signal strength and performance in the location where they live and work.

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Jason Hiner earlier posted on his buying decision between the iPhone 3G S and Palm Pre and as this blockbuster smartphone Summer kicks off I imagine that many prospective buyers will be looking at the available choices. Fellow MoTR podcast co-host James Kendrick actually owns the flagship device from each of the four major US wireless carriers and posted his thoughts on which phone/carrier combo would he choose that I think you should also check out as you look for a new smartphone. I'll offer my opinion as well since I have tried these devices and carriers as well. As you will see the choice for each personal is highly dependent on their carrier signal strength and performance in the location where they live and work.

James has the iPhone 3G on AT&T, Palm Pre on Sprint, BlackBerry Storm on Verizon, and T-Mobile G1 on T-Mobile. He posted his personal rankings on the devices alone, the carriers, and then the phone/carrier combo ranking. James ranks the Palm Pre/Sprint combo above all else with the iPhone 3G/AT&T combo ranking fourth, while Jason chose the iPhone 3G S over the Palm Pre, even though he sees a substandard AT&T voice service. Like myself, Jason is much more of a data user than a voice user with his smartphones so data was his major need.

I have tried the Palm Pre on Sprint, BlackBerry Storm on Verizon, T-Mobile G1 on T-Mobile and iPhone 3G S on AT&T, much like James, but I never did buy the Storm on Verizon. As readers know, preferences are highly dependent on carrier service for your particular area and if I was to take James' article to layout my own rankings here is what I would choose in terms of devices:

  1. iPhone 3G S
  2. T-Mobile G1
  3. Palm Pre
  4. BlackBerry Storm

The iPhone 3G S has the best selection for applications and with the new iPhone 3.0 OS, I am getting just about everything I need with Exchange support. The only thing I miss is the ability to multitask with the device. I know people hammer the T-Mobile G1 as a clunky device, but I personally find the keyboard to be excellent and the OS to be quite a pleasure to use with a good solid offering of mobile applications. While there are very few applications for the Palm Pre I thought the OS was much like the iPhone, but with true multitasking. If it was available on AT&T or T-Mobile I would jump on the device and be a Pre owner. The Storm is a very nice device, especially with the latest firmware, but I am not sold on the display technology and find it a bit awkward to use at times.

In terms of carrier quality and signal strength, here is what works best for me:

  1. AT&T
  2. T-Mobile
  3. Verizon Wireless
  4. Sprint

I know that people are always slamming AT&T, but honestly I have only had a couple of dropped calls in the last 2+ years and just about always see a full 3.5G data signal where I work, live, and play. I also see an outstanding T-Mobile signal in these same areas, but their 3G data network is still very limited. Verizon Wireless works in most areas, except it is still a bit weak at my house. With the Palm Pre, I never saw a very strong Sprint signal where I commute or live and could not get over the weak signal strength enough to stick with the carrier.

Looking at my two phone and carrier rankings, here is my carrier/phone combo rankings that you can use to compare to James. Keep in mind that I live in the Puget Sound, Washington area and James lives in the Houston, Texas area.

  1. AT&T/iPhone 3G S
  2. T-Mobile/T-Mobile G1
  3. Verizon Wireless/BlackBerry Storm
  4. Sprint/Palm Pre

Feel free to chime in with your carrier/phone combo rankings. As you can tell, the smartphones are all quite good and I think it really comes down to the strength of the carrier in your selected location that drives which device works best for you.

Topics: AT&T, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones, Telcos

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10 comments
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  • I'd swap 2 and 3, but otherwise agree with the order

    The only dropped calls I've had since switching to Cingular(later bought by AT&T) later turned out to NOT be their signal. There was one spot on a highway near the local airport where I would lose my connection while talking on built-in hands-free in my vehicle. One day, I pulled over at that spot and tried calling without the hands-free and it worked perfectly with 5 bars signal strength. It turned out it was the Bluetooth signal dropping out from (radar?) interference, not the carrier signal.

    AT&T is great here in Vegas. It works inside the casinos. It works in a lot of elevators. It even gives me full signal inside my house, which only Verizon is able to match. There is one area of town where I hear the signal is not as good, but I'm never in that area.

    If it wasn't for the "iPhone 3GS MMS and tethering fiasco," I'd be completely happy with AT&T.
    BillDem
  • I agree...

    I think you're right. Carrier strength is hugely important.

    I'm personally a Sprint customer as it's the only major provider that works well at my house. But most other people I know really like Verizon.

    I just am not a fan of Apple and their marketing/sales tactics. For that reason I won't get an iPhone, although I do think its the best smartphone on the market today. It's just not so much better that I'm willing to support them as a company.
    DevStar
  • I had to turn down the G1 due to carrier strength

    The G1 was my first choice but only worked in 30% of the places I was in. I'll wait for the HTC Lancaster from AT&T for Android. Verizon and AT&T are the networks of choice in the North East due to the concentration Verizon and old Cingular towers.

    Next, normally what Sprint has for a CDMA phone (non iDEN), Verizon will pick it up after a hardware and software cosmetic change.

    AT&T, well they pick up any GSM phone and have an inhouse survey on whether they want to integrate the phone into their network. The result ends up being a 1yr shelf life or less depending on the popularity of the phone like the iPhone.

    Next is data access, AT&T takes the cake here with their multi-tasking 3g network. other wise, Verizon will win on 3G by being on ALL their towers. AT&T still needs to catch up.

    the Signal Strength. In reality, do not use the phone to test that. CDMA reaches almost 1.5times the distance than GSM under the same frequency. Sprint uses 1900MHZ which is horrible, but Verizon focuses on 850Mhz.

    That's my 2cents
    Maarek
    • Actualy

      1900mhz is not a gsm frequency its UMTS which is a different system.
      Its also more efficent than GSM so I dont think your conclusion is valid on that.
      The best way to test the signal strength would be to have a handset of the same type on each network, however in this case its not realy possible.
      jdbukis@...
  • Its all about where you spend your time

    I've been with AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon. Each has thier
    strengths and weaknesses and a lot of it depends on where
    you spend your time.

    At any given time I'll see one friend hate Verizon and
    Switch to Sprint and another hate Sprint and switch to
    Verizon and each be happy with the switch.

    I like GSM technology but I don't like AT&T in the areas I
    travel and work in. Too many dropped calls, missed calls,
    and poor data performance. But I like the iPhone. Will
    switch carriers immediately when any other carrier opens
    up with the iPhone, but thats just my particular case.


    jimboutilier
  • You're correct about carrier strength

    ...and so no conclusion can be drawn without a very broad
    geographical survey. Where I live and work, AT&T is
    hardly a viable choice, whereas Verizon rules. So, I
    would turn your choices upside down, based on my
    geography (mostly).

    Kelly Carter
    http://newBBie.com
    kellycarter
  • RE: Carrier strength drives smartphone selections

    Definitely true! Verizon is great in the Phoenix area, but the pricing for some services isn't matching my needs. I don't know if they'll be able to match AT&T if I tell them I'm switching. I like AT&T's pricing for unlimited messages and mobile web. However, I know nothing about the quality of the service in the Phoenix area.

    For work, I use Sprint, and Sprint is not great here - especially at home. Be on a morning conference call, tilt my head, dropped call. Leaving the phone in one place on speakerphone doesn't always fix the problem. Verizon works great at home - not perfect but calls aren't dropped as easily.

    I don't know anyone on AT&T in Phoenix to ask.
    slade37
  • ATT - dislike GUI of iPhone - so, stuck using G1 with edge on ATT

    Prefer the G1 OS so much more than the iphone I unlocked it and am willing to give up 3G to use it on my ATT account. Personally, I can't stand the GUI on the iPhone - but, am a loyal ATT customer.
    shaneaus
  • Should Read - Me and what works for ME!!!

    I travel in middle America - and to be honest its Sprint and Blackberry! but thats middle America.. yes small vendors are good for local areas but from Seattle to Texas and Oklahoma to California.. Sprint works best on the Blackberry...but thats just MEEEEEEEE - MY OPINION
    rhlloyd@...
  • Verizon good signal poor restrictions

    We are using Verizon, because of the good signal quality, especially at schools and campsites in Eastern Pennsylvania and New England. But, I don't like the restrictions on our ability to transfer data without paying for Verizon services, and don't like the high prices, and don't like vendor lock-in in respect to phones, no swappable SIM chips and no international standards. So, you're right - signal quality rules.
    sorgfelt