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More surprising: regional and prepaid carriers topped Consumer Reports' customer satisfaction survey

For the second year in a row, AT&T has taken the last spot in Consumer Reports' annual wireless customer satisfaction survey.

While the repeat of last year's showing for America's second-largest wireless provider might not fall under the category of "surprising," the top billings for smaller carriers Consumer Cellular, U.S. Cellular, and Credo came a bit out of left field. Prepaid brands such as TracFone and Straight Talk also received higher scores than any of the Big Four.

"Our survey indicates that subscribers to prepaid and smaller standard-service providers are happiest overall with their cell-phone service," said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports. "However, these carriers aren’t for everyone. Some are only regional, and prepaid carriers tend to offer few or no smart phones."

Out of the four major carriers, Verizon topped the list yet again, with Sprint closely following. "T-Mobile was below Verizon and Sprint but continued to rate significantly better than the higher-priced AT&T," according to Consumer Reports.

More than 66,000 Consumer Reports online subscribers weighed in for this year's survey. 

And while AT&T's proposed takeover of T-Mobile is quickly sinking, an AT&T representative touted it as a potential improvement for customers. "As customer demand continues to skyrocket, our proposed T-Mobile merger will enable AT&T to improve our customers’ experience even more," the representative told Venture Beat.

In an informal study of Facebook "hate" pages, Venture Beat found AT&T to be the most-hated mobile carrier among Facebook users, as well. "The page for the group I Hate AT&T has 5,382 likes, while I Hate Verizon has only 404 likes. So while AT&T is America’s second largest mobile phone carrier with 100.7 million subscribers, it is 13 times more unpopular than Verizon, which has 107.7 million subscribers," Venture Beat writes. 

Sources: Consumer Reports, Venture Beat

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By Pirks on 12/7/2011 4:57:32 PM , Rating: 1
AT&T has the best prepaid plans in the US, even slightly better that TMobile. Nothing can beat AT&T's 10 cents a minute plan with $25 per 90 day payments, so I dunno about their customer service but after carefully checking out all major cell providers in the area I had to go with AT&T since their prepaid beat everyone else, so... whatever.

Like I always say - don't trust reviews, quite often reviewers and feedback posters are brain dead. Go see/try stuff for YOURSELF, ALWAYS!

RE: Still...
By woody1 on 12/7/2011 6:16:44 PM , Rating: 2
I disagree. T-Mobile has a 10 cent/minute rate and their minutes don't expire for 1 year.

I also have an AT&T post-paid account and I've seen the way they gouge customers, especially iphone customers.

RE: Still...
By Pirks on 12/7/2011 6:57:21 PM , Rating: 1
I don't care about postpaid stuff, I don't talk this much every month so postpaid is a waste of money for me.

Anyway, AT&T prepaid is still better than T-Mobile's, why? Because T-Mobile has only $100/365 days deal, and AT&T has BOTH $25/90 days and $100/365 days deals. Which is one is more flexible? AT&T. Which one allows you to pay $100 up front or $25 installments four times a year? AT&T. Hence AT&T is better.

RE: Still...
By sprockkets on 12/7/2011 6:30:44 PM , Rating: 2
1. Who had the deal first, as in, did Att meet T-Mobile due to competition? I bet Tmob did.

2. $30 for 1500 texts or minutes anytime + 30MB of data sure is better than the $40 + $8 in BS taxes for a measly 400 min anytime, no texts, and no data I paid Att (oh, I had 1000 N&W min, whoopy, useless).

Hell, unlimited data was $15 until this BS phone from apple debuted on their network and the price went to $30.

RE: Still...
By Pirks on 12/7/2011 7:23:13 PM , Rating: 2
I have no idea who "had the deal", what matters for me is that AT&T's prepaid is flexible (onle $100 lump sum for a year or four $25 installments during a year) and T-Mobile's is not, hence AT&T wins.

I don't care about your problems with postpaid 'cause I don't talk enough per month to justify it, hence my wireless plans are always prepaid.

RE: Still...
By sprockkets on 12/7/2011 8:05:17 PM , Rating: 2
That $30 plan is prepaid, and loads cheaper than by the minute, but that depends on you needs obviously. Not sure by what you mean they aren't flexible since you can refill whenever and whatever amount.

RE: Still...
By Pirks on 12/7/2011 8:29:03 PM , Rating: 2
T-Mobile's plan page at shows no such plan as your magical 1500 minutes for $30, in fact this page shows only 160 minutes for $30 with insane price of 19 cents a minute which is a daylight robbery compared to AT&T's 10 cents a minute. You must have got special one time promotion from them or something, your plan does not exist now.

RE: Still...
By fearrun on 12/7/2011 6:46:35 PM , Rating: 2
Well for the infrequent talker that does not need data, I have found it hard to compete with Virgin Mobile.

I still have my number active with them for years now at 18 cents a minute. I only have to top-up every 90 days for $15 and that is balance for minute usage.

Even at the current base price of 20 cents a minute ($20 every 90 days), I still have not seen a more convenient and less expensive option than them in this scenario.

RE: Still...
By Pirks on 12/7/2011 7:52:10 PM , Rating: 2
18 cents a minute
Hahaha, try AT&T's 10 cents a minute, you may like it! :P Your Virgin is a freaking robber, jeez!

RE: Still...
By jpeyton on 12/8/2011 4:12:34 PM , Rating: 2
Page Plus Wireless offers 4 cents/minute and doesn't expire for 1 year. PPW uses Verizon's national network, which by almost every account (except maybe yours) is better than AT&T in coverage and call-quality.

Why are you paying over double the cost per minute to AT&T?

RE: Still...
By Pirks on 12/8/2011 6:31:16 PM , Rating: 2
Page Plus Wireless offers 4 cents/minute and doesn't expire for 1 year
Lies lies lies. It's 5 cents a minute and only for 120 days (see where your lies are debunked), definitely way above what I need for my talking time on cell. I'll waste extra 5-10 bucks a month if I don't use up all 250 minutes a month which I won't. Also their website is unmaintained junk since coverage map doesn't work at all. Why would anyone deal with these crooks? They look pretty fishy to me. No thanks. This is the proverbial "free cheese", hehehe :)

RE: Still...
By jpeyton on 12/9/2011 12:17:51 PM , Rating: 2
Lies lies lies. It's 4 cents/minute with an $80 PIN that doesn't expire for 1 year.

Pirk's method = $25 for 250 minutes (10 cents/minute) that expires in 30 days, on AT&T's network

Jpeyton's method = $80 for 2000 minutes (4 cents/minute) that expires in 365 days, on Verizon's network

RE: Still...
By jpeyton on 12/9/2011 12:19:26 PM , Rating: 2
BTW, for anyone looking into Page Plus, I HIGHLY recommend Kitty Wireless. They are simply the best Page Plus dealer out there, with fantastic customer service:

RE: Still...
By jpeyton on 12/8/2011 4:05:13 PM , Rating: 2
AT&T has mediocre prepaid plans at best. All the major US carriers (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint) offer poorer prepaid options than their MVNOs, because they don't want their postpaid cash-cow customers to see they're getting shafted.

Go to HowardForums if you really want to see the best prepaid options. Many of them use the same exact national network that AT&T and Verizon postpaid customers use, so the coverage is identical.

Consumer report
By supermitsuba on 12/7/2011 3:45:36 PM , Rating: 3
repost from last year :-P

RE: Consumer report
By retrospooty on 12/7/2011 4:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
also a premonition for next year =)

RE: Consumer report
By Samus on 12/7/2011 5:15:22 PM , Rating: 2
No joke. US Cellular had the best service quality I've ever had, and every time a call drops, I regret switching from them to T-mobile. The only reason I switched is because US Cell was a little slow (as in years) to the Android bandwagon. That's irrelevant now, as they practically get every phone Verizon has within a year of Verizon releasing it (with the exception of Droid's.)

Roaming on US Cellular is also excellent, since they roam through Verizon.

The call quality and consistency with US Cellular is just incredibly good. They use very high tech equipment, have strategic contracts (especially here in Chicago to cover the subway and certain dead spots downtown) and the data is VERY fast when not roaming (roaming is Edge-only)

Great job!
By brshoemak on 12/7/2011 4:23:45 PM , Rating: 2
To be fair, being the worst two years in a row definitely means that they are the best at something - the best at being the worst. Someone should get a plaque and some Denny's coupons for that.

RE: Great job!
By ProZach on 12/7/2011 4:44:47 PM , Rating: 2
I propose a trophy of a bronzed diaper for "The Bi-Annual Award for Smelliest Carrier."

And, of course, throw in a $5 gift certificate to Denny's or Hot Topic.

RE: Great job!
By kleinma on 12/7/2011 4:45:34 PM , Rating: 1
You have it all wrong, they are not the best at being the worst, it is quite the opposite. They are the worst at being the best... Get your facts straight!

maybe i'm just lucky....
By wushuktl on 12/8/2011 7:27:05 AM , Rating: 2
But I never have problems with reception or dropped calls. I wonder if the results of these surveys is more of just people hating big corporations and letting that alter their perceptions.

RE: maybe i'm just lucky....
By protosv on 12/8/2011 10:14:05 AM , Rating: 2
Depends heavily on where you live. Come spend a week here in New York City, and you'll see exactly what consumer reports is talking about. And trying to even place a call from San Francisco? Fuhgedaboudit.

Not surprised..
By Kookla9 on 12/8/2011 1:10:04 PM , Rating: 3
I have been with Verizon for 10 years, and have never thought of changing. I am absolutely satisfied. Whenever issues arise, I am able to talk to a live person, who normally resolves it right then.

Why the surprise
By Callemjohn on 12/16/2011 4:47:55 AM , Rating: 2
Given our current economic environment, I can't really comprehend why anyone would show surprise at these reports. So prepaid is making more people happy? For sure! No surprises, no miscellaneous charges, no ball and chain. Yet, tracfone has been around for more than a decade and a half, selling prepaid wireless nationwide, at cheaper rates than the carriers they by their space from...and people are still surprised today when they perform better amidst consumers.

Why surprising
By Qtenner on 12/29/2011 8:08:12 AM , Rating: 2
Can't imagine who'd still be surprised that the prepaid, smaller localized wireless providers are taking honors with the consumer's satisfaction. Crickey! Tracfone introduced the concept about 15 years ago, and it's taken a recession to wake people to the concept of properly managing their cellphone bills. Why do things always have to fall to pieces before the right decisions are made?

"I modded down, down, down, and the flames went higher." -- Sven Olsen
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