Friday, May 10, 2013

Update on My Comparison of the Various Big Cell Phone Providers Because Why Not

Well, T-Mobile herp-derped their way out of us being their customers by deciding today that we'd have to pay hundreds of dollars in security deposits (which we didn't have to pay for yesterday) for anything that we did.  So, that's out now too.  I guess we stick with Verizon.  Blech.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Comparison of the Various Big Cell Phone Providers Because Why Not

Just in case anyone else is about to go through the hassle of comparing the various big cell providers in the US anytime soon, I figured I'd toss my observations up about doing just that, since I just did it, and maybe others can get some use out of what I learned.

The Setup

We currently have Verizon Wireless, four phones, none smartphones.  I don't work so I'm almost always near my PC, the wife wants a smartphone but isn't sure what she'd do with it, and the other two don't care one way or the other.  The plan into which we're grandfathered on Verizon has fit us just fine up until now, when the step-daughter's phone disintegrated in her hands and is now held together by tape.  So, we figured we'd either switch, or renew our two year contract with Verizon to get yet another dumbphone.  The latter option was an option, but I wanted to see if we could maybe get better phones by going elsewhere.  We had been with Verizon for around 7 years, and the only major problem we had was where they charged us for things we didn't order over the interwebs, like Joke-A-Day type stuff, but those problems were corrected after much angry yelling at supervisors on my part.  

However, before signing another two year contract just to get one functional phone, I wanted to see what was out there.  

I did all of my pricing online only.  What I priced was 4 smartphones with the lowest amount of data possible (since we'll be using WI-FI most of the time anyway), and this is how it worked out.

By the way, I have little faith in any of these quotes being able to be duplicated exactly, and with "taxes, service fees, and other charges", as the carriers like to say, nothing is set in stone until you get a bill in the mail, anyway.  So take the actual quotes with a grain of salt, and use them for comparison within this post only.  Your results will almost certainly vary.  


These people are on drugs, I think, and not the good, soothing kinds.  I just wanted to get them out of the way first, because, to make a long story short, their prices are insane and their coverage is terrible.  They even charge an additional $10 per line, on top of their already noncompetitive prices, just to have a smartphone, even though they're the only ones of this group that barely even has a 4G LTE network.  I'm not talking about the price of the data plan itself, either.  That's a separate charge.  Of course, on their "dare to compare" chart where they compare to other carriers, they don't mention that additional fee.  Derp.  Their website also sucks, and is more convoluted than anyone else, save ATT.  I have no idea why anyone would use Sprint.  Even their phone selection is subpar. 

Quote - around $260/month (I think, was honestly hard to tell for sure, but they wanted ALL the information to do a credit check and give me an actual monthly total, so I stopped there because they were already hideously expensive compared to everyone else.)


Of course I compared to what would happen if we were to just switch internally.  The prices were high, but not as high as Sprint.  Their $40 per line and then add a data plan to share is nice and simple, so their site is probably the best to deal with.  They were not the cheapest, but they do have a better network than everyone else.  The only one that comes close is ATT, but I hear far more complaints about ATT's service than Verizon.  Verizon's new $30 "upgrade fee" is a bit irritating, considering starting new accounts with everyone but Sprint saw the activation fees waived.  So I have to pay for the upgrade, and pay for upgrading, even when I'm signing a new contract?  Not a smooth move, Verizon.  Sort of like an effective "fuck you for being a customer," which I thought was ATT's specialty.  Back in my day, Verizon gave us free upgrades every two years without charging us a penny.  Then again, we had to walk uphill in the snow both ways to get the phones out of the mailbox, probably.  


All of that said, I probably would stick with Verizon if not for the fact that we hardly ever leave Austin anymore, and their nice, works pretty much everywhere network, just isn't worth paying extra, especially considering the cost of upgrading to phones that are any better than what we already have.  

Quote - around $220/month


ATT seemed to fall right between Verizon and Sprint in price.  However, I'm not terribly sure, because I couldn't get their site to actually work correctly.  I had to use the IM a customer service rep tool, which worked great, and she was actually very good at explaining the silliness of the site.  In short, the site is as dumb as it seems to be, and every time it forces you to choose a more expensive option, that's because you actually do have to pick that option, and the other one is not available on purpose, despite the fact that it's already selected, you just can't "add to cart".  Will that last sentence make sense to anyone that hasn't tried to use the site?  Probably not.  Sorry.

What really got me was that when you select the 1GB family share data plan for the first line, the additional lines also had to have a $40+ data plan each.  Huh?  How is that a family share data plan, then?  What are we sharing, exactly?  

Their talk and text comes up as "free", though, so the end result isn't as astronomically expensive as you might would think.  However, I still see no reason to go through ATT instead of Verizon since, by most accounts, Verizon has a better network and slightly lower prices, and their plans are certainly easier to understand.  Verizon, unlike ATT, also doesn't have that pesky reputation of being evil incarnate when it comes to how they deal with their customers.  

Quote - around $230/month


Future chaos notwithstanding, T-Mobile is who we are going to go with.  Their prices are lower than all the others, their site was the second easiest to actually get a quote from (behind Verizon), and their network appears to be pretty decent, though I have heard that the reality isn't quite so sunny.  Since we hardly ever leave the city anymore, though, and it should work well enough on major highways, I figure the network issues won't really affect us much.  They did do something pretty weird, and that was flat out deny the fourth line unless we put down a $250 deposit in addition to paying $150 per phone up front.  The $150 per phone is because our credit isn't great, I get that.  But that additional $250 deposit on a so called non-contract when we're already paying $150 up front per phone seemed really weird.  We never did get a really good explanation for it, except that, apparently, unless you have a 850+ credit score (really?) you'll always have to pay the $250 deposit for the fourth line.  Three lines is cool.   Four lines is big deposit time.  Two supervisors and three customer service reps couldn't give any better explanation.

Now, because they were by far the cheapest, T-Mobile is also the only one that we did a credit check with. With Verizon, we already have good standing through them, so I'm sure there wouldn't be anything crazy about upgrading all four phones at once.  With Sprint and ATT, I didn't even get to the point of checking credit.  Maybe they would also require a huge down payment on the phones, or some sort of deposit, or maybe arbitrarily deny the fourth line unless you paid a deposit on it specifically.  I have no idea.   

So, what we're going to do is just go with three lines, and the other person that we were letting do an addon phone will have to look elsewhere.  Reason being, even comparing apples to apples, 4 lines to 4 lines, T-Mobile is almost exactly the same for four smartphones than what we're paying to Verizon for four regular phones.  And T-Mobile is waving the activation fees while Verizon is charging an upgrade fee.  So, really, the decision for us is pretty clear.  

I'm putting two quotes for T-Mobile since, instead of getting a contract, you pay for your phones in installments.  We have to pay $150 down on each phone because crap credit, but if you didn't, you'd just be paying more per month.  The end cost comes out the same.  

Quote - around $180 to $205/month (for four phones, which you probably can't get, but still, there you go)


Cricket wouldn't work for us because we can't afford to buy all the smartphones outright.  Virgin USA has have crap for coverage in Texas, so I didn't look any further than their coverage map.  Net-10 requires you have your own smartphones, which we do not.

I think that's it.

If you have anything to add, feel free to say something in the comments.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you got some useful info out of the time I spent fighting various websites!