We slice and dice the plans, phones and fine print at each major U.S. carrier to come up with 23 reasons you might choose one carrier over another.
Buying a mobile phone is not easy these days. There’s a confusing array of phones, plans and networks, and once you are locked in, you're locked in for two years without a reasonable means of escape.
So, we wanted to help reduce some of that indecision and confusion with a comprehensive evaluation of the big four mobile services, plus a few no-contract players, based on the criteria that people like you use when making a buying decision.
It's our intention for this list to be a source of reference and still valid even after it's long since left the front page of Tom’s Guide. We'll be updating it regularly as things change, and they will change. Some phones are rapidly falling out of favor while others rise. One player may disappear from this list and another has a doubtful future.
Obviously we could not field test all the phones and networks, so we did our best to base those types of evaluations on the numerous tests and reports out there. Much of this, though, is wading through tons of fine print and information scattered around Web sites of the major players, which can take hours. We hope our up-to-date research proves useful for you.
- Reading The Fine Print: As of June 2011
- T-Mobile Update
- Unique Carrier Features You May Not Know About
- Best data plan (individual user): AT&T
- Best rollover plan: AT&T
- Most comprehensive 4G availability (so far) - Intro
- Most comprehensive 4G availability - Verizon
- Most generous minute usage plan – T-Mobile
- Best individual plan (power user) – T-Mobile
- Best family plan (economical) – T-Mobile
- Best family plan (power users) - Sprint
- Best small business plan - Verizon
- Best Web-only offers - Verizon
- Best offerings for the disabled - Sprint
- Best international calling plan – Too close to call
- Best connectivity overseas - Sprint
- Best phone selection-overall – AT&T
- Best network reputation - Verizon
- Best non-phone selection - Verizon
- Best hardware selection under $100 – AT&T
- Best hardware selection over $100 - Verizon
- Most exclusive handsets – AT&T & Verizon
- If you must have… an iPhone – AT&T
- If you must have… an Android - Verizon
- If you must have… a BlackBerry – AT&T
- If you must have… a Windows Phone – T-Mobile
- If you must have… a 4G phone - Sprint
- Most generous trade-in program – T-Mobile
- Most change-friendly (Who makes it easy to switch phones) - Sprint
- Best plans, no-contract – Part 1
- Best plans, no-contract – part 2 – Net10
- Cheapest early termination fee - Sprint