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Release Date: 11/21/2013

Sprint Sinks To the Bottom of Latest Consumer Reports Cell-Phone Service Ratings

Smaller Providers of No-contract and Prepaid Service Continue to Rate High; Seven Ways to cut Phone Costs

January 2014 CoverYONKERS, NY Sprint is now the lowest-Rated carrier in Consumer Reports’ latest annual cell-phone service Ratings, based on a survey of 58,399 subscribers by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. While it trailed only Verizon in overall customer satisfaction among the major carriers in last year’s ratings, Sprint received dismal marks this year for value, voice, text and 4G reliability.

Verizon Wireless was once again the top major carrier, receiving high marks for data service and some aspects of customer support. AT&T and T-Mobile got mostly ho-hum marks, though AT&T was the lone carrier to receive the top rating for the reliability of its 4G service.

Tiny Consumer Cellular was the overall leader in the Consumer Reports cell service satisfaction survey, with stellar scores across the board – even though it uses the same network of lower-ranked AT&T. As in previous CR surveys, no-contract and prepaid service from smaller companies such as Consumer Cellular and TracFone rated better than the major standard providers in customer satisfaction. Those carriers offer high-quality phones, relatively reliable service, and simpler, more consumer-friendly plans.

“Our latest cell service satisfaction survey revealed a somewhat precipitous decline by Sprint that shuffled the rankings of the major standard service providers,” said Glenn Derene, Electronics Content Development Team Leader for Consumer Reports. “And smaller, no-frills, no-contract and prepaid service providers continue to do a better job of satisfying customers, and provide an increasingly viable alternative to some of the expensive, long-term contracts that many consumers find themselves locked into.”

The new Consumer Reports cell service Ratings can be found online at ConsumerReports.org and in the January 2014 issue of Consumer Reports, which hits newsstands next week.

The Consumer Reports survey also revealed that among the respondents who had data plans that set limits on usage, 38 percent used only half, or less, of their monthly allotment. As a result, many customers may well have overpaid for their wireless service. CR recommends seven ways consumers can cut their phone costs and save hundreds of dollars in the process. Among them:

  • Wait to buy that hot phone. Resist buying the latest must-have phone until a newer model comes out and you may be able to get it at a much lower price.  For example, if you bought the Samsung Galaxy S III from Sprint when it first came out, it would have set you back more than $200 up front. When the S 4 arrived, the S III price dropped to $100, and now it’s $0 with most service contracts.

  • Consider a prepaid service.  Pay-as-you-go plans used to come with limited service and bare-bones phones. Not anymore. Prepaid providers now have more smart phones, and some offer fast 4G connections. If you’re not a marathon talker, texter, or Web surfer, you’ll usually come out ahead by paying only for what you use.

  • Think twice about add-ons. Like other service providers, cellular carriers try to lard on extras, including navigation, insurance and GPS tracking of your children. Assess those offers carefully. You might be better off paying $1 per day for maps and directions only when you need them, rather than paying a $5 navigation fee every month.

Additional advice on cutting cell-phone costs can be found at ConsumerReports.org.

Inside Consumer Reports January 2014 Issue

The full Consumer Reports Complete Smart Phone Shopping Guide includes detailed Ratings of cell-phone service providers in 23 metropolitan markets; Ratings of smart phones and a smart phone features guide; the real costs of phones and plans; advice on how much data and voice to buy; and seven ways to cut phone costs. 

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications.  Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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