December 21, 2014

Finding Your Dream Andy - Carriers

which_carrier

Finding the perfect phone is getting more complicated all the time.  There are a ton of choices out there and it can be difficult to know where to begin to determine which phone is just right for your lifestyle. This series will dissect each major component of phone selection to help you figure what it is you need to know to find the phone you need.  First up is selecting the right carrier.

Carriers

The most important component of phone selection has nothing to do with the actual piece of hardware you hold, it’s the carrier of the phone.  Let’s face it, if you have the best phone in world but can’t place a phone call reliably chances are you won’t be happy.  Likewise if you’re spending more than you can afford so you can access all of the features you need, you’re not going to be happy.  Yet another major item to consider is whether or not you have a need to access data and voice applications at the same time.  All of these factors come into play and you may be willing to sacrifice something in favor of another to get what’s best for you (and you probably will have to sacrifice something, so be prepared).

The four major carriers in the US are: Sprint, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile (sorry Canada and the rest of the world, I only know US carriers).  There are more minor carriers to choose from, but I don’t know much about them so I’ll stick to what I know.

Explanation of Criteria

All price ranges are indicative of individual smartphone plans from the most basic to completely unlimited as of today.  Network refers to each carrier’s coverage area and reliability of service where noted.  Network type refers to the infrastructure the carrier uses for their network.

The type of network then establishes whether or not voice and data can be used simultaneously with that carrier.  If data and voice do conflict with each other I have simply noted a ‘Yes’.  What this means is you will not be able to do things like run GPS navigation on your phone and talk to someone at the same time.

International coverage is also determined by network type.  GSM is the preferred infrastructure worldwide.

Sprint
Cost: $70 – $100
Network: Limited
Network Type: CDMA
Voice/Data Conflict: Yes
International Roaming Coverage: Limited

Verizon
Cost: $90 – $120
Network: Extensive and generally reliable
Network Type: CDMA
Voice/Data Conflict: Yes
International Roaming Coverage: Limited

AT&T
Cost:$90 – $120
Network: Extensive but somewhat unreliable (depending on location)
Network Type: GSM
Voice/Data Conflict: No
International Roaming Coverage: Extensive

T-Mobile
Cost: $80 – $100
Network: Limited
Network Type: GSM
Voice/Data Conflict: No
International Roaming Coverage: Extensive

4G Considerations

Sprint is starting to roll out their 4G WiMax network and the first 4g phone (HTC’s EVO) will be released June 4th.  The main thing to keep in mind is that the 4g network is still limited, most areas still only have 3G.  Verizon has also made some recent announcements about their 4G LTE network.  They are currently testing 4G in Boston and their first phones will be available in May of next year.  AT&T has also indicated they will have 4G LTE in 2011. As of right now, T-Mobile’s 4G plans are uncertain and they’ve given every indication that they are concentrating on continued enhancements to their 3G.

If you’re planning on sticking with a carrier long term and want to jump on the 4G bandwagon as soon as possible, then going with a carrier with a set outline may be up your alley.  However, it will be years yet before 4G is nationwide, so if you don’t feel the need for 4G I would recommend letting all of the other factors be the main guides for your decision.



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