We love our mobile phones. It's hard to imagine life without them. But that doesn't mean we're happy with our wireless providers. Oh, no. We're not.
"No one is ever going to be completely satisfied with their phone service," said Eddie Hold, an industry analyst with the research firm NPD Group. "We expect it to be perfect all the time and that means we're going to be disappointed."
Of the four major nationwide wireless companies, Verizon and T-Mobile did the best job of making their customers happy, according to the annual ratings from Consumer Reports, but once again this year, smaller companies beat all the big guys.
The results, released Thursday, are based on survey data from more than 58,000 subscribers in 23 metro areas. Companies were rated on a variety of factors, including value, quality of voice, text and data, as well as customer service.
For the big guys, Verizon had the highest overall score, 71 out of 100 points. Consumer Reports calls the company "a standout" for data service and resolving customer support issues.
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"Once again this year, Verizon is at the top of the list, but there's not a meaningful difference in scores between Verizon and T-Mobile in about 17 of the 23 markets," noted Consumer Reports senior editor Jeff Blyskal. "T-Mobile is a great bargain because they're up there with Verizon in terms of satisfaction and quality, yet they're lower priced."
T-Mobile has tried to differentiate itself from the competition with its "Simple Choice" service plan rolled out this year. It uncoupled the cost of the phone from the cost of the service. Customers who choose this plan are not required to sign a contract. They can spread out the cost of their phone over a 24-month period and upgrade whenever they want.
AT&T had the most problem-free 4G service. Consumer Reports called AT&T the best choice for heavy smartphone users who need reliable high-speed data service.
Smaller may be better
Smaller companies continue to be the customer-service stars in this industry. Consumer Cellular topped the ratings at 88 out of 100 points. It received high marks for service, value and customer support. U.S. Cellular (75) and Credo Mobile (73) all scored higher than the majors.