Our Top 5 list of Best Cell Phone Service Providers come from user feedback spreading multiple forums and websites and from personal experience. Nick has been a customer of 4 of the 5 major cell phone service providers (exception being US Cellular) pre- and post-merger of these companies (exception being the Verizon/Alltel merger). Nick is currently a satisfied customer with AT&T Wireless. Why so many? No, it wasn’t to eventually create a review, but various reasons came into play – moving to college and service had no reception in that area, service reception just sucked, bad customer service, among many other reasons. Nick has used all 4 of the companies as both his cell and home phone. The areas that Nick has tried these cell phone companies are: California (mainly around San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties), Oregon, Illinois (including Chicago and suburbs), Indiana (in and around Indianapolis, West Lafayette, Bloomington, and South Bend), Minnesota, Georgia (only around Atlanta), and Rhode Island. Nick certainly understands the common complaints and praises. These are our Top 5 – Best Cell Phone Service Companies. Ridicule us, praise us, hate us, love us for our list.

Please note that there will always be exceptions to individual experiences.

We understand the needs of any one individual or family will differ. This is a quick summary of the costs of the 5 cell phone providers. In terms of the price of individual plans, the individual plan prices at all levels are exactly the same between Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and US Cellular (nationwide plan) with the exception being T-Mobile. US Cellular is by far the cheapest if choosing their “widearea” plan, which only caters to the 25-26 states that they cover. In terms of the price of basic family plans, the basic family plan prices at all levels are exactly the same between Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and US Cellular (again nationwide plan only) with the exception being T-Mobile. T-Mobile sells their family minute plans on different “minute” levels than the other 4, but on a per-minute cost, T-Mobile is the cheapest of all nationwide individual and family plans. All other companies are exactly the same in regards to the basic plan, not the plans with added features. The reason why some cell phone service providers are more “expensive” is because of the cost of adding these additional options/features.

5 (4b). Sprint Nextel


* Night and weekends start at 7:00 PM, which is 2 hours earlier than the other cell phone service companies

* Free minutes on incoming calls

* 1-year contract as opposed to the standard 2-year contract (you decide if requiring any contract is a pro)

* Strong business-friendly features – 1st mover in walkie-talkie technology – a surprisingly useful function

* Fast internet


* No international plans

* Coverage is not as expansive as Verizon Wireless or AT&T, which inevitably means weaker signals, more dropped calls, echoing, etc.

* Limited/outdated phone selection

* Since merger in 2005, plans are not as good a deal as pre-merger

* Post merger, customer service has dropped off as they try to be helpful – the end result should be good news for the customer, not a moot point for customer service

Personal experience: Sprint has always had a limited selection of phones, which to me, really didn’t matter. However, as I started relying on my cell phone more and more, I started to care about the looks of my phone (the needs for certain functions remained the same). The phone selection is limited and in many cases seem outdated. From my experience with customer service, Sprint (Nextel) was actually #1 on my list pre-merger in 2005, but it has dropped since then. The customer service pre-merger was excellent – consistent bills from month to month, credits on bogus charges I disputed, and free “loyalty program offers” such as free internet for 6 months. Since the merger in 2005, the customer service still tries to be very helpful, but it gets to the point where you want to start yelling through your phone because of the frustration. Sprint’s coverage will be hit or miss if you travel, however, if you’re just going to the city for work and going back home to the suburbs, the service will stay consistent for the most part. There is nothing about the cost or the types of plans of Sprint Nextel that really stands out with the exception being international plans. Besides that, the plans offer the usual variety and benefits to meet your need.

4 (4a). US Cellular


* Good customer service

* Excellent coverage in the midwest as they should since they are a regional carrier

* Free incoming calls/text messages

* No activation fees on many plans


* Poor coverage outside of the 25-26 states that US Cellular covers

* Very limited phone selection; durability of phones offered a concern

* Beware of hidden costs

* Add-ons such as unlimited texting, downloading, etc can add up quickly

* Limited/outdated phone selection

* If downgrading plan, be absolutely sure of your minute usage; they are not helpful in providing advice, but quick to provide recommendations

* If you go over your minutes, get ready to pay big time

The majority of US Cellular’s customer base is satisfied by its customer service. The biggest complaint is in the limited selection and durability of the phones. The individual and family nationwide service plans are exactly the same as the others with the exception being T-Mobile. If you live outside of the 25-26 states that US Cellular covers or travel frequently, then choose another cell phone service provider. However, if you live within those states that are covered, US Cellular should be considered as long as you don’t mind the phones and/or seemingly unknown brand (outside of the midwest and sports world – White Sox).

3. T-Mobile


* Cheapest basic individual and basic family plans out of the 5 cell phone service providers

* myFaves add-on is popular and useful

* 1-year contract as opposed to the standard 2-year contract (you decide if requiring any contract is a pro)

* Lots of different plans and options – most flexible of the 5 cell phone providers and 2nd best offering of plans and options (Verizon is #1 in our opinion)

* Excellent reception in certain populated cities

* Ease of upgrading/downgrading plans – a breeze with great advice and recommendations from customer service, but…


* Poor customer service (especially disputes) – worst of the 5 cell phone service providers

* Limited phone selection, tends to sell outdated and even worse, phones that are no longer in production/discontinued

* Inconsistent signal reception/spotty coverage

* Poor insurance policy

* Slow internet

* Pesky about “too much roaming”

Personal experience: I’ve had a unique love-hate relationship with T-Mobile. The love comes in with the “contract” and the hate comes in with the customer service. I have to start with the “hate” before I go into the “love”. After a year and a few months into the service with T-Mobile, like all cell phone providers, I eventually had to call customer service to dispute charges. To put it simply, a complete nightmare. I won’t go into the specifics of the dispute, but the way T-Mobile handled the situation from several customer service reps to a couple supervisors was the worst 5-hour nightmare. Yes, I was on the phone for 5 hours getting bounced from department to department, having to explain the dispute over and over again, and had to to take a 1/2 day from work. I started the call at 7:30AM, you do the math. Conclusion of the 5 hour nightmare? I ended up paying the full amount with no leeway given. Even with the energy drinks, steroid shots, power bars, and the like, I couldn’t hold up any longer and they would not budge or give anything back that was rightfully owed to me. T-Mobile is great at handling simple customer service requests like upgrading/downgrading a plan or asking simple questions like, do you think I should add the fave-5 plan? They’ll actually go through your bills and review your usage and give you great advice and recommendations, but other than that, they have the worst overall customer service of the 5 cell phone service companies when it comes to disputes or anything to do with questioning T-Mobile and their bills. In another instance of “hate”, I was experiencing several dropped calls per day and spotty coverage throughout Illinois (specifically Northern suburbs and Chicago). It was extremely frustrating and it got to the point where I called customer service and canceled without hesitation. But Nick, you say, what about the cancellation fee? That’s where the “love” comes in, apparently when I signed up for the family plan, we were never obligated to a contract. So all this time, I thought I was under contract and I could’ve switched at anytime. The reason why T-Mobile barely outranks Sprint Nextel and US Cellular is because of their flexibility and options in their plans, cheapest plan options, better phone selection, although still limited, and more consistent coverage than the last two companies with very good signals in populated areas compared to the two.

2. AT&T


* Consistent coverage and reception – closing the gap with Verizon Wireless

* Wide selection of phones – arguably the best selection thanks to the Apple iPhone

* Overall good customer service that helps you and/or resolves issues

* Internet is fast and reliable

* Out of all the phone company mergers, AT&T/Cingular was the biggest improvement

* Rollover minutes is an extremely useful feature/benefit that no other company offers – this is standard on all plans


* Dropped calls is hit or miss

* Customer service is absolutely a joy when you are a customer or activating lines/transferring numbers, etc, etc, however, once you become a customer, they are helpful, but they get impatient

* Ever since the merger, extra services/add-ons have increased (compared to just Cingular), which leads to costs piling up quickly

Personal experience: As a current customer of AT&T Wireless, I am satisfied. AT&T Wireless has had the biggest improvements of all the mergers. Their customer service is still lacking compared to Verizon especially once you become a customer, but I have noticed improvements since the merger. Their phone selection is arguably the best. The coverage and reception has been consistent in all the areas I’ve been to. Although I rarely experience dropped calls, this seems to be a hit or miss issue with others. The one thing that really stands out from the rest of the companies is the rollover minutes. This has saved me lots of money in the long run because a plan I used to have with the other carriers allows me to downgrade due to the extra minutes thus saving me money.

1. Verizon Wireless


* Widest variety of plans and options available than any other cell phone company

* Consistent coverage and reception – considered the best, but AT&T is closing the gap

* Wide selection of phones

* Customer service is the most consistent of all the cell phone companies although there are inevitable hit or miss days


* Need to keep an eye on your monthly bills – mysterious charges showing up on bills

* Customer service is hit or miss, some days you get great, no, extremely great service, other days you want to reach into your phone and do bad things

* Add-ons can pile up quickly especially the data plans for smartphones

* Most expensive of the 5 cell phone companies (factoring in phones, plans, add-ons, deposit, etc)

* Blocks certain features on your phone, ex: transferring photos to/from your phone requires purchase of software and certain bluetooth features

* If upgrading/downgrading plan, they will extend contract for another 2 years

Personal experience: I have not experienced the “new Verzion” with Alltel, but as much as I hate to admit (being a current and satisfied AT&T customer), Verizon Wireless is the most consistent from customer service to coverage and reception and down to phone selection. One shining customer service moment was when I accidentally dropped my phone in a puddle of water completely ruining my phone. I did not have insurance, as a matter of fact, I never purchase insurance on phones, but after an hour or two of sweet talking, they not only replaced the phone, but rushed the order to me free of charge with next day delivery. An example of a bad customer service is refusing to budge on mysterious charges (over $80.00) worth that they said would be removed, but never did. I ended up changing services because of this dispute. It took over one year until a collection agency contacted me out-of-the-blue saying I still owed $80.00 and as one can imagine, my credit score dropped like a ton of bricks.

There you have it, our list of the Top 5 Best Cell Phone Service Companies. We would love to hear your thoughts so feel free to comment on this list. Ridicule us, praise us, hate us, love us for our list. Got topics/categories you’d like topped? Give us a shout through the comments or contact us.