Apple fans love the iPhone, but they're not particularly thrilled with AT&T, which at press time was the exclusive iPhone carrier in the United States. Readers rate AT&T last in voice call quality and data speed, while Verizon Wireless is the overall favorite.
John Moncure, an iPhone 3G owner in South Carolina, says AT&T's 3G service is unreliable where he lives. "Sometimes walking from one side of the house to the other--and I live right downtown in the county seat--I lose connectivity," says Moncure, headmaster of a Montessori school in Camden, a small town of 7000 people.
"I like the iPhone, it's a good machine. If it were available with all the providers, I would pick the provider that gave me the best service--and I don't think that's AT&T, not out here," he adds.
Research In Motion (RIM) should take note that BlackBerry users aren't a happy lot either. RIM's widely used smartphone received below-average grades in nearly every reliability and usability category, although BlackBerrys arrive with few out-of-the-box problems. Nearly 1 in 3 BlackBerry users report at least one significant problem with their phone, compared with roughly 1 in 5 Motorola handset users.
RIM has another serious issue to contend with: Younger consumers in their twenties tend to favor phones from Apple, HTC, and vendors that use Google's Android mobile operating system, according to a recent Yankee Group study. RIM's demographic skews a little higher--in the 30-plus range--mostly because a BlackBerry "tends to be used a lot in work environments," says Yankee Group mobile analyst Carl Howe.
T-Mobile deserves kudos for its customer support. While the fourth-place wireless carrier's overall service rating is very close to its competitors' scores, the company excels in phone support, readers report. T-Mobile's average hold time is 4.6 minutes--significantly lower than the others, which have times ranging from 5.2 minutes (AT&T) to 6.1 minutes (Verizon).
And 84 percent of T-Mobile customers report that they're satisfied with the voice call reliability of the carrier's network, second only to Verizon's 86.7 percent. (AT&T was a distant fourth with 72.8 percent, no doubt an indication of the dropped-call problems many iPhone users have reported.)
We should also note that Motorola takes the honors in phone reliability.
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The four charts below summarize our survey's findings on smartphone reliability by brand, wireless carriers' customer service, smartphone ease of use by brand, and satisfaction with wireless network service. For more on the measures used in the charts and the survey methodology, see "The Tech Brands You Can Trust ."