Deciding on a carrier for your iPhone can be an overwhelming task. With so many rumors, opinions, truths, and lies floating around, it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. Each carrier has its own reputation. Some carriers are trying to break away from their reputations while others are trying desperately to hold on to them. There are tons of mixed messages coming from these carriers because at the end of the day, each one is frantically trying to earn your business. Thankfully, there are unbiased websites that can help you make an educated decision on which carrier is best for your needs.
One example of an unbiased website is OpenSignal.com. OpenSignal compiles coverage data from the big four carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.) You can select one of the four carriers to see their signal strength in a particular area of your choice. You can also select multiple carriers and OpenSignal will tell you which carrier provides the best coverage in your chosen area.
For testing purposes I selected beautiful San Diego, California on OpenSignal.com. You can easily see that in San Diego, Verizon offers the best overall coverage between 2G, 3G, and 4G speeds. If you look up some of San Diego’s beach towns, you’ll see other carriers, like T-Mobile, provide better coverage in these more specific pockets.
To further OpenSignal’s test, let’s check out my hometown in rural Ohio. Unsurprisingly, Verizon reigns supreme due to their heavy concentration of cellular towers in small towns.
While you can find out for yourself which carrier provides the best coverage in your area, I have produced a general overview of carrier coverage and some of their added benefits below.
Verizon has been an extremely popular carrier for years now, often leading the pack for most subscribers and with the largest coverage map. Verizon is also known for being one of the most expensive carriers. Verizon is aware of their relatively high price point, and currently even includes a “testimonial” on their website from a user in Arizona stating that “you get what you pay for.”
Verizon offers the most extensive coverage of the United States and is typically the carrier of choice for people who live outside of major metropolitan areas.
Verizon offers VoLTE on iPhone 6 which stands for voice over LTE. This means you can make HD phone calls and video calls, over the 4G LTE network, to other Verizon customers. All four carriers currently are using VoLTE, and some carriers have deployed VoLTE in more areas than others. Over time, we will see more VoLTE coverage and in the future it is likely that we will be able to make VoLTE calls to any other carrier.
Verizon might sound like the best of the bunch, but due to the amount of Verizon users, Verizon’s LTE speed is often slowed down. More data users will typically mean lower speeds. Also, Verizon does not offer an unlimited data option.
If you live far into the country Verizon will almost undoubtedly be your best bet. If you live in or near a city, there are other options that might save you some money.
AT&T has many similar qualities to Verizon. A continuous battle with Verizon for highest number of subscribers shows that AT&T is a true competitor in the wireless industry. AT&T’s coverage sprawls the United States in rural and metropolitan areas. AT&T also offers VoLTE on the iPhone 6. Be aware that AT&T’s 4G LTE coverage is slightly smaller than Verizon’s. This could be downfall for potential subscribers; however, with less customers using AT&T’s data network than Verizon’s, you could actually achieve higher 4G LTE speeds.
Sprint is not known for its coverage or for its LTE speeds. In fact, an article published by CNN Money, stated that “its speeds are improving, but Sprint still has by far the slowest 4G network of its rivals. It was rated the worst cell phone service in the nation by Consumer Reports last year. And it continues to hemorrhage money and lose customers.”
While Sprint might not be the biggest or the best, they are recognized for getting everyone in the family on a cell phone plan for as little money as possible. However, if saving money is the most important factor in choosing a carrier, there are superior alternatives to consider such as T-Mobile.
T-Mobile has undergone a huge reinvention of its former self offering new streamlined plans, low price points, and fast LTE speeds. T-Mobile has dense coverage in large cities and offers blazing fast LTE download speeds in these areas. T-Mobile also offers totally unlimited 4G LTE data for an extra monthly fee. If you decline unlimited data and use more data than your allotted monthly allowance, T-Mobile will simply slow down your data speed. This ultimately means no more overage charges.
T-Mobile’s major weakness is its coverage map, which neglects people in rural areas in favor of major metropolitan areas. T-Mobile attempts to make up for this drawback with Wi-Fi calling. On your iPhone 6, you can enable Wi-Fi calling which will allow you to make unlimited calls, over any Wi-Fi network, for no extra charge.
While people in rural areas might feel weary signing up for T-Mobile, those of us who live in bigger cities will be delighted by solid coverage, fast LTE speeds, and never worrying about overage charges again.
Now you have an idea of which carrier provides the best coverage for your needs. Part 2 will compare plan costs over the course of two years.