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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

December 2, 2009 at 10:41 AM

Best wireless carriers & phones, according to Consumer Reports

A big batch of information about mobile phones and carriers is appearing in the January issue of Consumer Reports, including results of a survey ranking the top carriers in 26 U.S. cities.

Verizon is tops — nailing customer support, voice and data service — “but it tends to be costly,” with one in five saying high cost is their top complaint, the mag’s release said.

T-Mobile USA was the next highest rated provider “in overall satisfaction, and worth considering as a good value for some. However, the carrier received lower marks in voice, messaging, Web and e-mail services.”

Sprint and AT&T were ranked lowest, taking hits for customer service. “While AT&T’s main weak spot is voice connectivity, they also scored below average in every attribute except Web access and texting,” the release said.

“America is in love with the cellphone, but they are lukewarm about cellphone service,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor at Consumer Reports. “They’re especially concerned about its cost in these tight economic times.”

Yet the magazine and its survey respondents are still huge fans of the AT&T exclusive iPhone. Here’s a summary of its phone picks, by carrier.

On Verizon: The $100 LG enV Touch is “an impressive phone and multimedia device enhanced with touch-screen navigation and a Qwerty keyboard for easier e-mailing and texting.” The $40 LG VX8360 “is a very good, straightforward cellphone at a bargain price.”

Verizon’s $147 Samsung Jitterbug has “large buttons, free directory assistance and a comfortable earpiece. Negatives include pricey service and a thick phone that lacks common features.”

Among Verizon’s smartphones, the mag likes the $200 HTC Touch Pro2 and $50 BlackBerry Storm 9530.

On T-Mobile: Consumer Reports especially likes the $200 Samsung Memoir with its 8 megapixel camera and the $130 Samsung Comeback “with a keypad that facilitates phoning and a 2.6-inch screen and keyboard to satisfy texters.”

Among Tmo’s smartphones, it called out the $150 myTouch 3G as “the best choice for multimedia use with intuitive navigation, easy access to main functions and direct downloading of music, games, applications and services.”

(I’m partial to the T-Mobile BlackBerry Bold 2 9700 I began using a few weeks ago, and found out yesterday that its power cable — which I’d misplaced — uses the same connector as Amazon’s Kindle.)

On Sprint: Consumer Reports calls out the $80 Samsung Exclaim as “a good bargain” with a “dual-slider design that slides up to reveal a keypad for phone calls and slides right to reveal a keyboard for e-mail and text messaging.” Sprint’s $150 Palm Pre “is a good bet for multitaskers with the ability to link contacts, calendars and messaging.”

On AT&T: The magazine recommends the $150 LG Xenon, $125 Samsung Impression and $100 Samsung Solstice, which all have “large touch-screen displays and are compatible with AT&T’s Video Share, which streams live, one-way video to a compatible phone.”

The magazine said the $200, 16 gigabyte iPhone 3G S and $100 iPhone 3G from AT&T “ranked highly for multimedia use, with the best MP3 player Consumer Reports has seen in a phone to date.” Its survey found a “staggering 98 percent of iPhone users were satisfied enough that they would buy the phone again, despite below-par ratings for AT&T.”

Only 54 percent of readers it surveyed were completely or very satisfied with their mobile phone service, and 38 percent had switched carriers in the past two year to get a specific phone.

Comments | Topics: Apple, Gadgets & products, iPhone

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