Best Cell Phone Companies: Is Bigger Better?

Smaller providers such as Consumer Cellular and Ting take on the industry giants in Consumer Reports' new survey

Person using cell phone Photo: Getty Images

Bigger is better. Right?

Not necessarily when it comes to cell phone providers.

The country’s three major carriers all ended up in the bottom third of Consumer Reports’ latest wireless service ratings, based on the results of our annual survey to evaluate the value, customer support, and overall satisfaction they provide.

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That’s a dip for T-Mobile, which had for years placed considerably higher than AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon for overall satisfaction.

After officially merging with Sprint in 2020, the carrier dropped in almost every category, slipping from above average to just average for value, customer support, and data quality. Its rating for cell phone reception fell to below average.

Before the merger, consumer advocates had warned that taking a major player out of the industry would inevitably result in less competition, higher prices, and worse service for all wireless customers.

It’s still unclear whether that’s the conclusion cellular customers are likely to come to. We started fielding our survey in October 2020, only seven months after Sprint’s customers became T-Mobile customers under the terms of the merger agreement.

Sprint’s satisfaction ratings had lagged behind T-Mobile’s for years, and some former Sprint customers had reservations about T-Mobile.

“T-Mobile’s dip is almost entirely due to the assessments from former Sprint customers,” says Martin Lachter of CR’s survey department. “They were as harsh in their judgments of T-Mobile as they had been of Sprint in previous years.”

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