With the extensive myriad of cell phone providers in the United States, it is not easy to navigate through the different services, options, phones, and rates that are available. Depending upon your communication needs and average usage, the cost-benefit analysis is different for each provider. By comparing the different features, benefits, and drawbacks of each major carrier, you will be able to find the best cell phone service provider for your communication needs. In this comparison review, we analyze AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint/NEXTEL, and Cricket.

Reception: Overall, Verizon has the best comprehensive reception, even in remote, less populated areas. However, Verizon may experience decreases in call quality in highly dense urban areas. In a close second is Sprint/NEXTEL, as they have a large network from the merge of the two companies. AT&T and T-Mobile are closely matched for third place, with Cricket substantially lagging behind for last place.

National coverage: Verizon again takes first place in having the most extensive national coverage, ranging from the urban cities to the more remote, rural areas. Sprint/NEXTEL, AT&T, and T-Mobile are all evenly matched for overall national coverage. Cricket does not offer national coverage, and plans with Cricket are specifically designed to be utilized within one contained geographic.

Beneficial plan options: T-Mobile is considered to provide the most flexible plan choices, ranging from free nights and weekends to the “Fave Five” program. AT&T comes in at a close second with its unique “rollover” plan, as well as free nights and weekend minutes. Cricket offers free text messaging and unlimited minutes, which are great perks. Verizon and Sprint/NEXTEL have the least amount of innovative plan options, as they both offer traditional plans.

Call quality: T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Spring/NEXTEL all offer excellent call quality in areas where there is reception coverage. Cricket has a less than stellar reputation in delivering good call quality.

Customer service: Although the reputation is not perfect, Verizon does offer the best customer service in comparison to all the other fixed-rate carriers. AT&T and T-Mobile do not possess high rankings in customer service, but Sprint/NEXTEL has the worst reputation in the industry for customer service.

Variety of phones available: AT&T has the largest and newest selection of cell phones, and they are often the exclusive carrier for new cell phones, such as the iPhone. Sprint/NEXTEL also has an extensive portfolio of cell phones, and they carry phones with new technology in VOIP and GPS segments. T-Mobile has a decent selection of phones, and Cricket has the smallest selection of available phone products.

Monthly plan rates: CricKet’s plans offer the most bang for the dollar, with its unlimited minutes. T-Mobile, through its “Fav Five” and free nights and weekends is tied equally with AT&T’s “rollover” and free nights and weekend minutes. Verizon and Sprint/NEXTEL are generally the most expensive providers.

High speed internet: Verizon has an excellent high speed internet network, and it is tied equally to the power of Sprint/NEXTEL’s new 4G network. AT&T also provides high speed internet, but they are still on a 3G network. T-Mobile and Cricket are not necessarily recommended for their ability to provide high speed internet on your cell phone.

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