The Top Mobile Phones and Carriers in the USA

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Driving into Portland the other day I noticed an abundance of billboards and wall advertisements, attempting to convince me to choose this carrier or try this phone. As the world becomes more instantaneous with communication it could make one feel out of place and behind for having inferior technology. I say this with a slight jest, but I also marvel at how advanced our technology is becoming, especially in regards to communication and cell-phones. This article will take a look at the companies behind the phone, as well as seeing what phones are worth getting for each carrier.

Using a top ten review of carriers we will look at a four star rating scale (4 being the best) based on the following:

  • Plans
  • Phones and features
  • Additional benefits
  • Fees
  • Help and support

I present to you the top cell-phone providers in the United States, and the top five rated phones for each carrier based on CNET's review.

Best rated Verizon phones

  1. Motorola Droid Razr Maxx
  2. Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  3. Apple iPhone 4S
  4. Motorola Droid 4
  5. BlackBerry Bold 9930

(This list is from CNET reviews of best Verizon phones)

An Overview of Verizon

Let's kick it off with the company that "never stops working for you" and claims to "rule the air", Verizon Wireless.

Verizon scored high in all of categories, succumbing only to AT&T in the 'Phones and Features' category, and tying AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile for the 'Fees' category, as well as tying AT&T for the 'Plans' category and 'Additional Benefits'. Verizon is such a standout company that according to J.D. Power and Associates 2011 Wireless Call Quality Performance Study, Verizon was voted as the best carrier by wireless users in five regions, which covers 44 of the 50 states.

Why? If you own a cell-phone you know how pathetic some carriers are at help and support. Verizon wailed the competition by providing a 4/4 star rating in 'Help and Support', with the next two being Cricket and T-Mobile at 3.5 out of 4. I would venture to guess that this is what sealed the deal to set it apart from AT&T, which only received a 3/4 in this category.

Verizon Data Plans

 
2GB
5GB
10GB
75MB
Smartphones
$30
$50
$80
-
Mobile Broadband Devices (Tablets, Netbooks)
$30
$50
$80
-
Basic Phones
$80
$50
$80
$10
Overage fees
$10 per 1GB
$10 per 1GB
$10 per 1GB
$10 per 75MB

Verizon Awards and Accolades

(These are just a few of the many awards, chosen to illustrate the allure of Verizon)

2012

  • Unbeatable 4G LTE at CES (Consumer Electronics Association) on Slashgear.com
  • Best product of CES according to Cult of Mac.com
  • Best in Employee Training, awarded by Training Magazine

2011

  • Fastest network yet, awarded by Popular Science
  • RootMetrics data performance, best in 36 markets
  • #1 Product (the 4G LTE network), awarded by PC World
  • Top company for diversity, awarded by Black Enterprise and Hispanic Business magazine

Verizon User Satisfaction Poll

As a Verizon customer, how would you rate your overall experience with Verizon?

See results without voting

Best rated AT&T phones

  1. Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket
  2. LG Nitro HD
  3. Samsung Focus S
  4. Apple iPhone 4S
  5. Pantech burst

(This list is from CNET reviews of best AT&T phones)

An Overview of AT&T

AT&T, where the phones and features are awesome and the customer service leaves much to be desired.

Like Verizon, AT&T scores high in all categories. Yet it still misses the mark on 'Help and Support'. The word on the street is the company has been working on improving this, but it looks like slow going.

However, AT&T rivals Verizon in area coverage, even though Verizon was still voted best 5 out of 6 regions.

What really gives AT&T a slight edge is in the 'Phones and Features' category. Think back to when AT&T landed the iPhone exclusively. Perhaps because of AT&T's long history in the phone business, it has the ability to land better contracts for providing phones. It took other carriers some time to get their hands on the same phone, all the while AT&T is looking to access the next best thing.

AT&T Data Plans

 
250MB
300MB
3GB
5GB
Unlimited
Smartphones
-
$20/mo
$30/mo
$50/mo
-
Tablets
$14.99/mo
-
Starts at $30/mo
$50/mo
-
Internet Devices
-
-
-
Starts at $50/mo
-
Standard Phones
-
-
-
-
Starts at $10/mo
Overage Fees
$14.99 per 250MB
$20 per 300MB
$10 per 1GB
$10 per 1GB
-

AT&T Awards and Accolades

(These are just a few of the many awards, chosen to illustrate AT&T's draw)

2012

  • Presence on top 100 list for Connected World

2011

  • Placed 1st for connected devices, awarded by Connected World
  • North American Mobile Network Strategy Award, awarded by Frost and Sullivan
  • Placed 3rd for innovation of communication
  • Best mobile phone coverage in the world, awarded by Business Traveler magazine

AT&T User Satisfaction Poll

As an AT&T customer, how would you rate your overall experience with AT&T?

See results without voting

Best rated Sprint phones

  1. Apple iPhone 4S
  2. Samsung Epic 4G Touch
  3. LG Marquee
  4. HTC Evo Design 4G
  5. Motorola Brute i686

(This list is from CNET reviews of best Sprint phones)

An Overview of Sprint

Sprint offers a wide variety of data plans that really are tailored to your needs. Not only do they offer some good data packages, but Sprint has also been recognized as being a great competitor in the category of 'Phones and Features'.

Their low point? Customer service. Much like AT&T, Sprint has made gains in this category, albeit small ones.

Sprint really shines when it comes to 'Additional Benefits', with such things as the Spring Family Locator that allows you to track family members using their phones GPS system. A bit big brother-ish, but helpful for those who need peace of mind and assurance of loved ones safety. Sprint's media selection and ability to watch TV are also great additional benefits.

Sprint Data Plans

 
Unlimited Features
Cost
Data Pack (included in Everything plans)
Email, music, Sprint TV, web surfing
$15/mo per line
Pro Pack (not available for Everything plans)
Email, music, pictures, Sprint TV, texting, video, web surfing
$30/mo per line
No data pack
 
$.03 per KB....which adds up FAST!
 
1GB
3GB
5GB (3G mobile broadband)
6GB
12GB
Mobile Broadband
-
$34.99/mo
$59.99/mo
$49.99/mo
$79.99/mo
Laptop, tablets and more
$19.99
$34.99/mo
-
$49.99/mo
$79.99
Overage charges on network
$.25 per additional MB
$.05 per additional MB
$.05 per additional MB
$.05 per additional MB
$.05 per additional MB
Overage charges off network
$.25 per additional MB
$.25 per additional MB
$.25 per additional MB
$.25 per additional MB
$.25 per additional MB

Sprint Awards and Accolades

2011

  • Customer Service Champion, awarded by J.D. Power
  • Recognized for innovation and evolution of smartphones with the HTC EVO 3D at the CTIA Wireless event.

2010

  • Most improved in customer satisfaction across all industries, two years in a row, according to the 2010 American Customer Satisfaction Index.
  • Highest value and technology, and 2nd in customer service, awarded in the 2010 Pilothouse awards.
  • Mobile Technologies: 4G Service Creation and Development winner, awarded by Mobile Merit Awards

Sprint User Satisfaction Poll

As a Sprint customer, how would you rate your overall experience with Sprint?

See results without voting

Best rated T-Mobile phones

  1. HTC Amaze 4G
  2. Samsung Galaxy s II
  3. T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide
  4. Samsung Exhibit 4G
  5. BlackBerry Curve 9360

(This list is from CNET reviews of best T-Mobile phones)

An Overview of T-Mobile

T-Mobile holds its own against Verizon, AT&T and Sprint in 'Plans', 'Fees', and 'Help and Support'.

What really gives T-Mobile an edge is the companies simplicity of plans, as well as the overall cost. T-Mobile is considered more even in their pricing and really adapting and tailoring to the needs of everyone. This is a tough thing to do, but T-Mobile is noted as one of the best.

T-Mobile Data Plans

 
200MB
2GB
5GB
10GB
No Data
Classic Unlimited Bundle
$69.99
$79.99
$89.99
$119.99
-
Classic 500 Minute Bundle
$59.99
$69.99
$79.99
$109.99
-
Classic 500 Minute (Talk & Text)
-
-
-
-
$49.99
Classic 500 Minute (Talk)
-
-
-
-
$39.99
Classic Unlimited (Talk & Text)
-
-
-
 
$59.99
Mobile Broadband
 
$39.99
$49.99
$79.99
 

T-Mobile Awards and Accolades

(These are just a few of the many awards, chosen to illustrate how cool T-Mobile is)

2012

  • Supplier of the Year in both Wireless and Entertainment, awarded by Walmart

2011

  • One of the World's Most Ethical Companies, awarded by Ethisphere Institute
  • Top 100 Military-Friendly Employers, awarded by G.I. Jobs magazine

T-Mobile User Satisfaction Poll

As a T-Mobile customer, how would you rate your overall experience with T-Mobile?

See results without voting

Best rated Virgin Mobile phones

  1. BlackBerry Curve 8530
  2. LG Optimus V
  3. LG Optimus Slider
  4. Motorola Triumph
  5. LG Rumor Touch

(This list was based on user reviews from the Virgin Mobile website)

An Overview of Virgin Mobile

Considered the carrier of the younger generations, Virgin Mobile, owned by Sprint, throws down 3/4 stars in all categories except one: 'Phones and Features', which received a 2.5 out of 4 rating.

The draw for the young ones? A simple straightforward and relatively cheap alternative to get unlimited text and browse the web, go on Facebook, email friends, and stay connected without frills. It is also a pay as you go, allowing you to top up when you want and need to. The lack of contract gives first time phone users the ability to try out cell-phones before locking down a plan elsewhere. It is also a draw for those who need a simple carrier without having to commit to a contract.

The big drawback? A very limited coverage area, omitting entire states and very sparse in others, especially on the west coast.

Virgin Mobile Data Plans

 
2.5GB
300 Minutes
$35
1200 minutes
$45
Unlimited minutes
$55

Virgin Mobile Awards and Accolades

(These are just a few of the many awards, chosen to show off Virgin Mobile)

2012

  • Overall Customer Satisfaction Performance in 2012 Wireless Customer Care Non-contract, awarded by J.D. Power & Associates.

2011

  • Best cell-phone plans
  • Best of Everything (payLo $30 talk and text), awarded by Kiplingers Personal Finance

Virgin Mobile Customer Satisfaction Poll

As a Virgin Mobile customer, how would you rate your overall experience with Virgin Mobile?

See results without voting

Best rated Boost Mobile phones

  1. Motorola i412
  2. Motorola THEORY
  3. Samsung Galaxy Prevail
  4. Motorola i296
  5. Sanyo Innuendo

(This list is based on reviews found on phonerated.com)

Boost Mobile

Another Sprint owned company, but if you are looking for a pre-paid service that gives you a little more than basic phone services, like Virgin Mobile, then Boost Mobile is worth a look.

Take Virgin Mobile then add 411 directory assistance, the ability to tap into a phones walkie-talkie ability, and a feature called shrinkage, which rewards those who pay on time for 6 months with a lower cost (which could dwindle down to just $35 a month!). These added frills to the plan are what has caused Boost Mobile to be highly competitive with contracted phone services like Verizon and AT&T, swaying those who once swore to never enter pre-paid services to jump on the train.

However, you won't get too much in regards to choices of phones.

Boost Mobile Data Plans

 
Unlimited
Lowest Shrinkage Cost
Monthly Unlimited Plan
Starts at $50 (decreases w/ shrinkage)
$35
Android Plan
Starts at $55 (decreases w/ shrinkage)
$40
BlackBerry Plan
Starts at $60 (decreases w/ shrinkage)
$45

Boost Mobile Awards and Accolades

(These are a just a few of the awards the spotlight Boost Mobile)

2012

  • Highest Satisfaction with the Purchase Experience among Non-Contract Wireless Providers, awarded by J.D. Power & Associates (two years in a row)

2011

  • Highest Satisfaction with the Purchase Experience among Non-Contract Wireless Providers, awarded by J.D. Power & Associates
  • Highest in Customer Service Performance among Non-Contract Wireless Providers, awarded by J.D. Power & Associates

Boost Mobile Customer Satisfaction Poll

As a Boost Mobile customer, how would you rate your overall experience with Boost Mobile?

See results without voting

Research Phone Plans

The best practice for any purchasing decision is to research before buying. This holds true for cell-phones as you can see that each carrier caters to consumers differently. Good luck finding the phone and carrier that fits your needs and your budget!

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