Sound Advice For Cell Phone Shoppers
Washington Consumer's Checkbook -- the semi-annual, ad-free magazine put out by the Center for the Study of Services, a K Street nonprofit -- takes a look at cellphone services in its just-released spring/summer issue.
I'll summarize the piece, but I can't point you directly to it: Checkbook's Web site requires a subscription, and individual copies cost $10. Your library should carry the magazine also; just look for its astoundingly dorky cover photo. (The new issue also rates Washington-area medical services, air conditioning and heating contractors, optometrists, and computer shops -- the Apple Store ranked very high, but so did a handful of local shops, and for computer repair, a few locals outranked the name-brand options.)
Checkbook's guide to wireless calling begins by surveying the state of the market and offering basic advice on how to shop: "try out the phone in every room of your house, at work, during your commute, and in other areas where you often travel."
For this 15-page piece, as with its other stories, Checkbook surveyed its own subscribers to see who they liked. Verizon did best in terms of coverage, with 94 percent of subscribers judging its network "adequate" or "superior" around the Washington area; Sprint ranked second, at 82 percent, followed by T-Mobile (76 percent), AT&T/Cingular (75 percent) and Nextel (57 percent). In "Overall quality," Checkbookers liked Verizon best (93 percent), followed by T-Mobile (88 percent), Sprint (86 percent), AT&T (78 percent) and Nextel (a woeful 63 percent). Note, however, that only 35 readers voted on Nextel, a much smaller sample than for the other carriers.
The story also estimates the yearly costs for a dozen different calling patterns -- from 10 to 8,000 minutes a month -- among the five big nationwide carriers as well as 21 resellers and prepaid options. The chart reveals that at 500 minutes a month, the big five all cost the same, $480 a year. But if you only yap on your phone for 250 minutes a month, you can save $120 a year with Sprint, Nextel or T-Mobile.
Checkbook's opus, however, glosses over text messaging and the higher fees charged for picture messages or Web use on smartphones. It offers little advice on how the big carriers' selection of phones varies and none about their competing wireless technologies -- the story doesn't explain that GSM phones work in most overseas countries and, with some tinkering, can be moved among different GSM carriers. It was also odd to see no mention of cellphone access in Metro (only Verizon has service underground, but Sprint phones can also roam on that signal for free).
I don't mean to sound too critical; the Checkbook staff put a ton of work into this, and the product is not only helpful, it reminds me that I am badly overdue to chime in on this subject myself. That column should come around later this spring; when it does, what would you like to see in it?
Posted by: Downloader | April 6, 2007 2:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Patrick McClure | April 7, 2007 2:58 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | April 7, 2007 2:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bill from Dallas | April 8, 2007 10:27 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: 23112 | April 9, 2007 11:38 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Jeff | April 9, 2007 1:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MikeD | April 9, 2007 6:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DavidB | April 10, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: J | April 10, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: R | April 10, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Edgemoor | April 11, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: cb | April 11, 2007 9:55 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.