Need a new phone

I’ve been avoiding the world of smart phones, or as my friend Soulman calls them, “phones,” for a while now.  I’m still rocking a slider with a full size QWERTY keyboard.  It’s great for texting and has been a decent phone until the past six months or so.  This week my phone epically failed me twice.  Occasionally my phone will lock up if I haven’t turned it off/on in a while and just blocks all incoming calls/texts.  The worst part is it acts as though nothing is wrong.  Then another day I went to bed with my phone having plenty of battery power and woke up late for work because it died in the night and did not perform its function as my alarm clock.

My first cell phone contract was with Cingular who was bought out by AT&T.  I’ve been with them ever since, but am now looking to get the best deal possible.  Out of the big three, this is what I’ve discovered this week.

T-Mobile is really shaking up the concept of a cell phone contract.  In fact, they threw it out the window.  You only pay month-to-month with no lock in, the only catch is you buy your phone un-subsidized.  While this may seem like a raw deal, you’ll realize how much money you save over time if you just do the math.  I would love to switch to T-Mobile, but unfortunately they still have the same problem they’ve had for years – cell tower coverage.  If you live in a heavily populated area or are traveling on a main road/interstate highway, you’re good, but if you branch out from those areas there’s a good chance your phone won’t work too well if at all.

Verizon boasts they have the best cell tower coverage in the country and it’s true.  They still offer 2-year contracts and have many options for unlimited talk and texting with tiers of shared data.  They’re also recognized for having some of the best customer service and customer experiences.  If you happen to have Verizon FIOS, you can get further deals by bundling your mobile, tv and home phone.

AT&T used to be the big dogs because it was the only place you could get service for your iPhone.  In the past few years that has changed and you can pretty much get any phone with any carrier.  Some of the features or settings may be different, but you can get the same hardware almost anywhere.  For single line plans AT&T tends to be the most expensive and I’m really not sure what you’re getting extra out of it.  Some bundle services similarly to Verizon, but I can’t really handle the lame DSL speeds in my area.  AT&T also offers 2-year contracts and their prices are similar to Verizon.

So which carrier is best for me?

Phones and phone accessories pretty much cost the same everywhere so that’s not a factor any more.  T-Mobile isn’t an option for me due to coverage and reception so that basically leaves it up to AT&T and Verizon. A family plan for our two phones with 4GB of shared data is basically the same price with either but Verizon does offer more options to lower our bill if 4GB is more than we need.  I currently receive a discount with my previous employer with AT&T and my current employer offers a similar discount.  My employer’s HR website says we can get a discount with Verizon as well, but Verizon’s site says it doesn’t exist.  Discounts aside, the only other factor is activation/upgrade fees.  AT&T charges $36 per line to upgrade a phone on an existing account and Verizon doesn’t charge anything extra to open a new line and purchase a phone.  So basically this comes down to if I can get a discount through my employer at Verizon.