Consumer Reports Says Verizon Top National Carrier, AT&T Worst

I wish I could start this post off by saying “what a difference a year makes.” Unfortunately, a new Consumer Reports survey places T-Mobile behind Sprint and Verizon, right in line with how they performed 12 months ago. The survey, which determines scores based on voice and data service quality, staff knowledge, and issue resolution show that Verizon continues to hold down the top spot, followed by Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T in last place.

Unfortunately, none of the other 3 national carriers scored particularly well where Verizon performed admirably but it was  regional carrier US Cellular that decimated all major players. AT&T ended up with the worst value and data service scores however, their LTE network was ranked the best and the least problematic. According to the Consumer Reports press release: “Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T each received mostly middling to low marks, particularly for voice and text service quality.” 

Another interesting and totally unsurprising survey note is that respondents typically saved around $20 per month by switching to a prepaid plan. Which goes to the point about why T-Mobile places such emphasis on Monthly4G.

The report found that no-contract plans can be major cost-savers. Two-thirds of Consumer Reports survey respondents who switched to so-called “prepaid plans,” which typically lack a contract commitment and bill each month in advance, saved more than $20 a month by switching to prepaid. Those savings can allow wireless customers to quickly recoup the cost of the phone itself, which can be higher if they don’t make a contractual commitment.

All in all, the report doesn’t show much improvement for anyone over the last 12 months, things are really very similar to the same report one year ago. We’re hopeful that in the next 12 months, T-Mobile will at the very least pass sprint and grab that number 5 spot on this list. In order, the top ranked carriers are Consumer Cellular, U.S. Cellular, Credo Mobile, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile and AT&T. Come on Magenta, we can at least beat Sprint, right?

Consumer Reports

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  • T-Mobile should be at the top of the ‘prepaid’ section, lol. For real..they have GREAT plans!! Oh well..

    • Aaron Peromsik

      Some of their prepaid plans are good values, but they are inflexible about data on pay-as-you-go, and their per-minute rates are not competitive with PagePlus and some others.

      I am currently a T-Mobile prepaid customer but I have my eyes on some of the up-and-coming MVNOs.

  • AndroidJunkie

    By the time this is due next yr sprint will have almost 75% of there lte up in cities i doubt tmobile will beat sprint but hey atleast there not in last place. how the hell us us cellular number 1

    • bleeew

      But what about LTE Addvanced.


      Sprint’s LTE will be as slow and unreliable as Clearwire is now. They are running a 5X5 MHZ release 8 LTE. Compared to T-Mobile @ 20X20 MHZ LTEAdvanced network that they will launch. sprint will still be playing catch up.

      • AndroidJunkie

        Sprint lte network is not even deployed by clearwire..

        So, Sprint’s will be 10×10 next year too, as that’s when the nationwide PCS H block is supposed to be auctioned off.

        AFAIK, Sprint’s equipment is LTE-A compatible as well, and Sprint also can also do 50 and 100 MHz overlays of TD-LTE Adv. with Clear’s spectrum.

        Also, don’t forget that Sprint has SMR spectrum for better in-building coverage too.

        • Whitney

          also 20 billion from softbank

  • niftydl

    So Credo is a virtual operator, and it manages to get higher rating than Sprint – the same network it rents. Amazing. Seems like the smaller carriers are much more customer service focused.

    • 21stNow

      Credo’s mission is so drastically different from other companies, that I would think that anyone who went with their service would say that they were satisfied with it. Even though this survey focused more on network reliability than customer service, I think that a good feeling about the company colors customers’ perceptions of any network issues that they may have.

  • BallaOnnaBudget

    Soooo as much as T-mobile touts value, they are no better than the other carriers according to consumer reports.

  • hogasswild

    Well, actually whomever scored the carriers really didn’t look at the numbers. T-Mobile scored as high as Sprint, except got dinged for not having 4g. However, independent tests show that T-Mobile provides faster data than Sprint despite having a bona-fide 4g network. I notice that my downloads are just as fast in Raleigh on the T-Mobile HSPA+ network than they were with Verizon on LTE. Now uploads are a different story. I don’t care what the network is called. It could be called 99G, but if it’s slower than crap, it doesn’t mean it automatically scores higher. I would say T-Mobile actually edges Sprint out and would have scored them at 68 over Sprint’s 66, making them #2.

    • Paul

      That’s right! The upload is freaking slow.
      Also, I get coverage where some of my Sprint friends don’t.

    • xBIGREDDx

      It’s just a customer survey. People actually rated their satisfaction with Sprint’s 4G worse than those with T-Mobile’s 4G, and their satisfaction with everything else was equal. But overall satisfaction was a bit lower for T-Mobile.

    • OnlineRefugee

      Not sure what you mean by “whomever scored the carriers…” Consumer Reports sends an annual survey to its hundreds of thousands of members (typically subscribers to Consumer Reports magazine.)

      So these survey results are simply raw numbers from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

    • M42

      I believe it was PC Magazine’s tests that showed T-Mobile’s 4G was very competitive with Verizon’s LTE on download speed. Plus T-Mobile didn’t suffer from Verizon’s dropped calls or battery drain problems. The fly in the ointment with T-Mobile’s network is that there is limited 4G coverage and too much Edge in their network. Plus, they need to upgrade their customer service.

  • Anon

    People still listen to Consumer Reports?!

    • CJ

      Agreed – I had a online subscription a couple of years ago and I found everything I liked was terrible in there opinion so I canned them and it was the best thing ever

  • trjcasper

    Consumer reports is crap and meaningless.

    They tell people what to buy and then survey their subscribers about how they like what they bought. So of course the Lexus they told you to buy is perfect. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy.

    • CJ

      HAHA Nice – Sometimes I think The top product supported CR the best ;)

  • 21stNow

    I guess that my experience is not typical. Leaving out Sprint (because I don’t use them), I would have reversed the order of the national postpaid carriers. But I did notice that AT&T gets the highest marks for 4G, and I totally agree with that one.

    • Spanky

      So far, my experience with AT&T’s service has been significantly better than what I’ve had with T-Mobile over a 7 year tenure. However, I definitely can’t say anything positive about AT&T’s firmware update process.

  • Where do they get theses ratings from. I can’t see how much better Verizon can be from T-Mobile when you compare cost. To get close to what I get on T-Mobile I would have to spend an additional $130.00 a month. Unless they are going to give me 4 high end phones for free every year I might consider it. Please tell I’m wrong

    • OnlineRefugee

      I see you are not familiar with Consumer Report Annual Surveys or various other Surveys it runs, such as this annual Wireless Services Survey. These results are from 63,000 CR subscribers who responded to the survey.

      CR Surveys are the most valuable of anything out there. They are from the customers, aka the carriers’ customers. And I assure you, carriers look at these CR Surveys closely. Matter of fact, there’s many an executive who will not be getting a bonus this year.

  • Trotter

    No real surprise here. I just left T-mo (CSR in Chattanooga) and could have easily predicted this. While T-mo’s slogan may be “winning back our customers’ trust” they are still pushing sales, sales, sales on the pod floor. That, coupled with the fact that quite a large percentage of T-mo’s customers have learned that they can call and #!*$& and get whatever they want and have a hissy if they don’t get it, pretty much assured that the score would not go up.

    • True. I work for them in a retail store right now and have witnessed many customers complain about issues (even when there wasn’t one, or it was their own fault) just because they know they can get free stuff or huge discounts by whining enough.

    • steffanut

      I am still working in one of the centers, I can assure you the focus has changed. Customer satisfaction is the push right now, and balancing the needs of the business with the customer experience. Do we have to upsell? Sure,but we also have to do right by the customer. Our new COO, he has the right idea. Let’s not hate on the company now.

  • Wilma Flintstone

    Start Taking care of your Upgrade Customers as well Tmobile and maybe this would increase.

    • Whitney

      Thank you

    • CJ

      Agreed – I wanted more text minutes added to my family plan and they will not do that unless I switch to an unlimited plan which is more expensive than ATT :) And they have an IPhone. I may just lower my text rate lol

      • GwapoAko

        Can you use google voice or justing viber app for texting? We do not have texting on our phone hehehe.

        • CJ

          We use facebook chat sometimes but text is a lot quicker if you need something right away but it is a good point

  • RickF

    AT&T’s data rating ought to be a solid black.. My old iPhone 3gs on their network using the speedtest app reliably gets WELL under 1Mbps download — mostly a few hundred kbps about 90% of the time.. Occasionally I find it will indicate 1.5Mbps or at most 2.5Mbps — mostly its much closer to zero.. Doh! Good thing my contract is up next month!

    • 21stNow

      I can’t say that I share your experience. My LTE devices regularly get around 25 Mbps down.

      • Spanky

        Likewise. 25 Mbps is my average speed on AT&T LTE, and well over 7 Mbps on HSPA+.

  • M42

    Anybody who has dealt with T-Mobile’s customer service will disagree with this survey and understand they deserve to be smack on the bottom. Their network is crummy too. No LTE anywhere, a little HSPA+ and everywhere Edge.

  • Daniel

    How the heck do AT&T-based MVNOs like Consumer Cellular, TracFone, and Straight Talk score better than AT&T for voice and data?!?

    • 21stNow

      All Straight Talk phones don’t use AT&T’s towers; some use T-Mobile’s towers. I think that the same thing applies to TracFone in that all TracFone devices don’t use AT&T’s towers.

      It’s also perception. I doubt that the same person answered about both services. I would imagine that prepaid customers are easier to impress and complain less about their service than postpaid customers do. When customers answer surveys, they are not always objective.

    • OnlineRefugee

      21st Now hit the nail on the head, it is perception. Straight Talk prepaid subscribers 1) love getting a bargain, so they are going to give Straight Talk high marks because of that; 2) are pleasantly surprised when Straight Talk performs as well as it does (they don’t know what an MVNO is, nor that they are using AT&T or T-Mobile towers). They enter into prepaid thinking things are going to suck; and 3) unlimited 4G data, unlimited talk and text, for $45 monthly, that’s almost a placebo effect in that people are just giddy and in a good mood, so when it comes time to rate Straight Talk they are not going to remember the downside or negative experience, and will give Straight Talk high marks.

      In contrast, as I said during the pending acquisition debacle, AT&T is hated. No doubt when these surveys present themselves AT&T customers are in a foul mood, especially after suffering months of bill shock (data overage charges, talk overage charges, late fees, etc.) And it does not help that AT&T execs come across as guys with depraved souls and obsidian hearts.

      They really need to add a question on these surveys, the hatred factor (not a happiness scale,” not “satisfaction,” but actual HATRED):

      “On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, rate the level of hatred you have for your carrier.”

      And a Bonus Question:

      “If Washington could get away with nationalizing American businesses, would you like it to start with AT&T?” (I kid, I kid… not really).

  • Richard Yarrell

    I left Verizon for Tmobile so trust me tmobile is doing far better than people think. Plus tmobile customers already know how good this hspa 42mbs network really is. Trust me the great Galaxy S3 as well as Lg Nexus 4 and Galaxy Note 2 sales show how wonderful tmobile has become. Next year tmobile will be heard of.

    • squiddy20

      “I left Verizon for Tmobile so trust me tmobile is doing far better than people think.” Translation: “I know what’s best for everyone because everyone should think and act like I do, and what I say goes, even when it’s not even remotely true.” Just because you left Verizon for T-Mobile does not mean the latter is doing better you self centered moron.

      “how good this hspa 42mbs network really is.” Considering you’ve never once cited the actual speeds you get (which, on average, is roughly about 1/4 of 42 mbps- the theoretical maximum), I seriously doubt it’s nearly as good as you’re trying to make people believe.

      • Richard Yarrell

        Least i have real world knowledge not some kind of trolling here on tmonews. Why don’t you tell us about your crappy Sprint experience??? ? why your here cause sprint offers nothing. Plus they probably threw you out of their forums like all the other Web sites do to you. Your a pretty sad pathetic person and pretty comical to. Each month that goes by I love the fact that you troll from that crappy laptop you got. Guess what my Galaxy Note 2 on tmobile shits on your crappy laptop. Since your Galaxy Nexus on Sprint can’t get a signal for you to use. Loser…

        • squiddy20

          1. You have “real world knowledge” of a few networks in a very small area of NYC only. It still doesn’t take away from the fact that you think whatever network you’re on is “the best” simply because you’re on it. And that’s quite hilariously wrong. When you were with Sprint a little over a year ago, you were saying how “pimp slapping” and “boss” Sprint was while talking about “the devil” that was Verizon. But then you switched to Verizon last November for the Galaxy Nexus. Bandwagon jumping hypocrite much?
          2. I rarely have a reason to visit the “Sprint forums”, so I can’t really be “thrown out” of a forum I don’t go to. As usual, all you’ve got is crazy speculation that is often quite horribly wrong. I’d love to see you try to prove any of your ridiculous claims.
          3. Unlike yourself, I’ve never been “thrown out” of any forum. I still have the same user names on Disqus, Android Central, SDX, and XDA that I had 2 years ago. You on the other hand, were kicked off of Phandroid 4 separate times (after which you’ve never posted there again), Android Central once a little over 2 years ago, and Android Police once before they migrated to Disqus. Why do you continually insult me about things which you yourself are guilty of doing?
          4. “Guess what my Galaxy Note 2 on tmobile shits on your crappy laptop.” Hahaha how stupid are you!? You just stated that a 5 inch “phablet” is better than a 13″ laptop? Man, you have no sense of what’s “better”. It’s sad that you’re so delusional as to even attempt comparing a laptop with laptop internals (which are inherently more powerful than smartphone internals) to a smartphone. Let’s run down a list: 2.26 GHz quad core processor (which is standard) vs Note 2’s 1.6 GHz quad core processor, my 8 GB of RAM vs your 2 GB, expandable storage up to 1 TB vs your supposed “145 GB” (despite a maximum of 124 GB – 64 GB internal and 64 GB sd card), full sized keyboard (which is easier for typing) vs your tiny software keyboard which takes up at least half the screen. Yep, your Note 2 is soooooo much better than my laptop. Idiot.
          5. “Since your Galaxy Nexus on Sprint can’t get a signal for you to use” And you know this… how? You haven’t been with Sprint in over a year. You don’t know where I live and therefore don’t know if I have access to LTE. Even if I didn’t have LTE, you don’t know what my 3G network speeds are like. You’re such a bitchy little baby coming up with these “useless” and completely unfounded “insults”. Good lord you are a joke.

  • Not sure how they are ranked below Sprint. That network is pretty terrible. Extremely slow Edge-like 3G speeds and their 4G is actually slower than T-Mobiles HSPA+ in most places. Their coverage is similar to T-Mobile so I’m not sure exactly what, if anything about their network is better than T-Mobile’s.

  • OnlineRefugee

    What T-Mobile should be proudest of is its placing in the prepaid category (it placed second under prepaid since Straight Talk is owned and operated by TracFone).

    Since I believe prepaid is the way of the future and post-paid will vanish, T-Mobile should continue to establish itself as the preeminent prepaid carrier.

    – High end phones, and financing the purchase over six to twelve months. (A payment plan will act as an incentive for a customer to stay with the prepaid carrier, because a subscriber will most likely stay loyal to whom he has a credit arrangement on a handset purchase and knows he can get a superphone without a big cash outlay up-front.)

    – Provide excellent customer service.

    – Provide an extensive and reliable network.

    – Provide the best value, without smoke and mirrors such as activation fees and other nonsense. One thing people like about prepaid is that the advertised price is what you pay. There’s no adding $8 to $10 to the bill every month.

    The masses don’t really care about 4G vs 3G, the stuff geeks and bloggers talk about. (After all, few people time page loadings on their cell phone, with stopwatch in hand.)

    Post-paid is going the way if the dinosaur. IMO the current post-paid business model will vanish from both ends. On the carrier side bricks-and-mortar stores and the employees to staff them will be deemed an unnecessary cost, especially as more and more people shop on plan and pricing, not by touching a handset and being talked into expensive 24 month contracts.

    From the user side, consumers are now calculating just how expensive it is to get a discounted phone that someone else says is cool or a must-have. Word is out that getting a $300 discount on a phone will cost you on average $900 more annually in plan cost, as compared to paying $500 for the phone up-front and paying Straight Talk $45 monthly for the same service and coverage as the AT&T customer paying monthly $120+.

    Now people want a phone that works and does not cost an arm and a leg in monthly fees, penalties, fees, and overage charges (e.g., AT&T now has automatically imposed data overage charges when you exceed your data plan, the artificially low $20 250MB data plan that all but assures overage charges, unless one gets a smartphone to not use any of the features AT&T uses as a come-on to get the phone.)

    As I have been saying for two years, it is the economy that is driving all this. People don’t have the money to pay $3000 for a cool phone and two years of service.

    To save $2000 over two years by going prepaid people are getting quite used to automated and online “chat” customer service, and a live “furriner” when necessary.

    So what’s left that post-paid can offer? A $300 to $400 “phone loan” (subsidized handset) on which the customer will pay $2,000 “interest.” And to get that “loan” one has to prove himself through a credit check.

    Isn’t that a laugh. Let’s see if I have that right: “I will sell you this phone at a $300 discount, but you must go through a credit check before I then allow you to pay $90 more monthly to me, that is, compared to what a prepaid MVNO carrier will charge you for using my towers.” Such a deal, a stupid one anyway.

    Sidenote: People wonder why the nation hates AT&T. They make money the banks’ way, with penalties, fines, overage charges, fees, and in-house charges.

  • Bill Smith

    I’ve had 4 major carriers in the past since I moved a lot. It usually depends where your at for the best service. Right now I’m in Las Vegas and T-Mobile covers more then anyone. Worst customer service I ever had was Sprint, they couldn’t understand English.

  • dcdttu

    Soooooooo T-Mobile’s Contract option has bad voice, whereas their monthly service has good voice? I don’t get it – it’s the SAME network. This review is very questionable at best.