Which Phone Carrier is Right for You?

Dan Rice
Dan Rice

If you’re a college student right now, there’s a strong chance that you have a smartphone.

These supercomputers in our pockets offer tons of great features to simplify our lives, but they come at a price: a confusing, pricey, monthly phone bill. Understanding which carrier is best for you in regards to coverage, customer service, price, features and flexibility is important, so you don’t end up losing coverage, arguing with employees and paying charges you weren’t expecting.

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As an employee at Simply Mac, an Apple retailer in Fort Collins, I’ve heard all about every carrier from coworkers and customers, and therefore have a unique perspective on the subject. Therefore, I’d like to share with you the lessons I’ve learned about all four major carriers—T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint—so you can find the carrier that’s right for you.

1. T-Mobile has great features at the best price. As college students, the first (and maybe only) thing we’re likely to consider in choosing a phone carrier is how much we’ll be paying them. If that’s the case, then you want to be on T-Mobile. They’ve made waves lately by paying off early termination fees from other carriers if you switch to them by breaking contract, allowing you to roll over data and allowing customers to call and text over Wi-Fi. I pay $56 a month for my bill, and will pay $25 a month once my phone’s financing plan is paid off—and I know for a fact no other carrier can beat that.

2. Verizon’s coverage is best—and they’re proud of it. According to Rootmetrics, Verizon’s network is the overall best in the country. The catch? For most plans, Verizon charges more than any other carrier for their service. Still, if having coverage everywhere is the most important factor in your decision, look no further than Verizon.

3. Traveling out of the country? Get AT&T or T-Mobile. Verizon and Sprint use CDMA networks to provide your phone service, whereas AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM networks. Neither you nor I needs to understand what that means, except for one important fact: every country other than the U.S. relies on GSM. If you get an unlocked phone on AT&T or T-Mobile, you can simply travel out of the country, pop a new SIM card into your phone from a local carrier, and you’re off.

4. Skip Sprint. I hear nothing but bad things about the Sprint store across from Simply Mac. One of my coworkers was told they were required to get phone insurance to buy a phone (a lie), and then, when they needed to give T-Mobile a code regarding their account in order to switch over, Sprint told them the wrong code. Twice. I’ve never heard a good thing about their network, their customer service or their pricing structure, which claims to cut your phone bill in half, but only if you activate a new phone—bringing the price right back up. Your phone bill will thank you if you switch to T-Mobile, and your coverage will thank you if you switch to the largest networks, Verizon and AT&T.

5. A few facts. Coverage quality, from best to worst nationwide, are Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, then Sprint. Pricing, from best to worst, are T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, then Verizon. There’s a good chance that that’s all you need to know.

Phone plans are a nightmare to keep track of, so hopefully these personal stories will help you stay ahead of them and find the right coverage and price for you. Good luck.

Collegian Columnist Dan Rice can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @danriceman.