[Editorial] What’s Your Main Priority When Choosing A Wireless Carrier?

Let’s face it. You’re never going to be completely happy with any wireless carrier that you choose. That aside from the fact, you’re most likely going to to want to choose the one that you like the most. And if you live in the United States like I do, then you know that there’s a whole lot of options with four major carriers. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile.

To kick this article off, I just want to say that one of the best analogies that I’ve ever heard for choosing a wireless carrier is that choosing a wireless carrier is like choosing in politics, you always choose the lesser of two evils. That highlights exactly what the situation is of how you’ll never be perfectly happy with any carrier. Let’s just make that completely clear before we go any further.

When trying to find a wireless carrier, you’re going to be searching for what best fits your needs. If you’re looking for the option that will save you the most money over time then you might want to check out some of the prepaid carriers and their steals for plans. If you’re in a lot of rural areas then you may want to look at Verizon for their extensive coverage. Sprint’s got a great value proposition, AT&T has a superb device selection. Every carrier will have some main selling point but you have to look beyond just that main selling point and see how everything else works for you.

To help you out, I’ll just give you a quick outline of some of the pro’s and cons of each carrier. No, this isn’t foolproof and you may not care about all of the things but maybe my intentions will work and at least something will help you.

I’ll start with the biggest carrier, Verizon. Some of the pro’s include unprecedented coverage in voice, 3G, and especially 4G LTE, renowned customer service (though like this list, they’re not fool proof), and a reliable network. If your main concern are any one of those things that I just listed then I encourage you to take a serious look at Verizon. But here comes the not so good. They have a lackluster device selection, they get pricey and try to force customers into Share Everything plans, they’re a CDMA network so software updates are exceptionally slow, and even though they have stellar coverage in all sorts of areas including very rural, their 3G crawls along a lot of the time. Not as harsh as Sprint’s 3G network but still bad.

Now onto AT&T who has things such as pretty good coverage, an incredible device lineup, decent pricing, both HSPA+ and LTE networks, and all of the other perks of a GSM carrier going for them. If you’re looking for a GSM carrier for a large line-up of devices then AT&T should be a clear winner as they have high-end phones from all of the mobile platforms. But there are a few drawbacks here and there. AT&T’s coverage is decent in cities, mid-sized towns and areas that people generally travel but their rural coverage can leave a lot to be desired. Not to say that they have bad coverage but if you frequent to and from rural areas often then AT&T may not be the best choice. Another thing to consider is that although their plans aren’t as overpriced as Verizon’s, they still consist of tiered and shared data plans now and prices for those can be a bit on the expensive side much of the time. Now they aren’t forcing new customers to shared data plans so you can still choose a tiered data plan if you’re a new customer and unlimited plans are still grandfathered in for those lucky enough to have them.

Moving on, we’ve got Sprint who offers a great value of unlimited data, unlimited messaging, and 450 minutes for a mere $79.99/month. Combine that with a great phone lineup and it sounds like an amazing deal, right? Well, yes and no. It’s a good deal but you pay the price with Sprint’s fairly poor coverage, especially in the 4G department, and their shoddy 3G network speeds that are mediocre at the best of times. If you’re looking for a post-paid carrier with nationwide coverage and a decent phone line-up that’s a great price then Sprint could fit the bill for you. You may want to consider their lackluster network before you switch though.

Wrapping up the four major post-paid carriers in the US is T-Mobile. The good part about T-Mobile is that they have some great plans that offer exceptional value such as unlimited data for low prices and they often run sales that could save you lots of money. Unfortunately, they fall short in the coverage and device line-up areas. T-Mobile’s coverage is pretty confined to large cities and such and one example is my own town which has two major corporations headquartered in it and has 50,000+ people yet T-Mobile still has nothing but EDGE coverage all around. The second area that they’re really lacking in is the device selection because they don’t get all of the hottest Android or Windows Phone handsets (though that may be changing soon) and, as much as you may hate it, the iPhone. Their lack of the iPhone is a huge downside because most mainstream consumers will instantly know what the iPhone is and missing out on that opportunity can be harsh for the carrier.

The prepaid carriers are next in the roster and they usually offer nationwide coverage based on bigger carrier’s networks and incredible bang for your buck over time. While you do have to pay a higher price for a phone upfront, their plans can save you a lot of money if you stay with them. Take Virgin Mobile as an example. They offer unlimited 3G and 4G data (with a capable device), unlimited messaging, and 300 minutes for a mere $35/month, a ridiculously good price. But one of the things that comes with prepaid carriers is that almost all feature data throttling if you go over a certain limit each month. Another caveat is that most have a rather plain device selection that’s full of older phones. This isn’t always true as some of them such as Ting work hard to offer very high end devices on their network. Either way, prepaid carriers are a good way to save a fair amount of money each month.

The final one that I’ll highlight are regional carriers. These are carriers that cover only a region of the nation, even if it is large such as US Cellular, and usually have very strong coverage in those areas. Obviously the appeal in  this is that it’s good for people who don’t travel out of a certain region often. That way they can get very strong coverage in the areas that they’re usually in. Most of these carriers feature a decent selection of devices that often doesn’t compete with what postpaid carriers get but are still good. Plans are usually priced similarly to the postpaid carriers and many regional carriers have LTE networks that they’ve begun to roll out in the areas that they cover. If a certain regional carrier has very strong coverage in your area then it could be worth comparing to your other options.

That about sums it up for what I’m going to talk about but I do want to reiterate that this list isn’t infallible and they are my own views and perspective on things so if you have a different opinion, that’s just fine but don’t be a complete jerk about telling others about it. Yes, that does mean that I don’t like trolls. No, that doesn’t mean that I hate people who express their own opinions. Just do it in a manner that’s not so aggressive.

But now I want to get your thoughts and opinions on the matter. What do you think of the carriers? Do you agree? Disagree? I’d love to know. Feel free to express your opinions in a peaceful manner in the comments and let others know your views.

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