Consumer Reports: Best cell phone companies

December 7, 2010 6:42:12 AM PST
If you've been shocked by a cell-phone bill, you're not alone. One in five people got an unexpectedly high bill in the past year, according to Consumer Reports' just-released cell-phone survey. Almost 60,000 subscribers weighed in to help determine the best services and the money-savers.

For years, Sprint has been one of lower-rated cell-phone companies in Consumer Reports' annual survey. But this year there has been a dramatic improvement. Sprint and Verizon tied as some of the top carriers for cell phones with a contract. And most Sprint customers said the carrier offers good value.

Even better in Consumer Reports' survey is U.S. Cellular, which rated highest for customer satisfaction. It is available in 26 states.

But AT&T is solidly in last place again for almost everything?including customer support, problems making calls, and value for the money.

If you're looking for a cell-phone service with no contract, a small company called Consumer Cellular came out on top. People found it offers great value. But it has a limited choice of phones.

If you prefer a greater selection of phones, Consumer Reports suggests considering T-Mobile, which now offers most of its phones, even smart phones, with a no-contract option.

If you do decide to buy a phone without a contract, Consumer Reports says the phone will probably cost more. However, your monthly fees will probably be less. No-contract plans are best suited for people who only make occasional calls, and text?but don't surf the Web or use their phone for e-mail. They're also good if you want a simple first phone for a tween or teenager.

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