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This Report Names the Worst Phone Carrier in the US

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A new Tom's Guide analysis has just revealed that the title for the worst phone carrier in the United States does not actually belong to Sprint (big surprise). Despite the bad press Sprint has been getting, there is one other name that deserves the spot based on the findings on Tom's Guide; and that title goes to Straight Talk, a wireless Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO).

Tom's Guide recently put nine wireless providers head to head with each other to determine this year's best and worst wireless carriers. Among the different factors they assessed include the LTE network speed, monthly data plans, and even customer-service evaluations. Both T-Mobile and Verizon scuffled against each other for the top spot of the carrier rankings. But as for the worst carrier spot, it was already clear from the start who the bottom spot would belong to.

On paper, Straight Talk really sounded good. The MVNO combined coverage across the big four networks so it was expected they would get the best nationwide coverage to their customers. But based on the test performed by Tom's Guide, Straight Talk's average download speed was only 5.1Mbps. The next carrier to have the slowest download speed was Cricket, who had a 6.0Mbps average. But considering its parent carrier, AT&T, caps its speed at 8Mbps, it still outperforms Straight Talk.

Apart from its network speed, Straight Talk did not offer any real competitive edge over the other smartphone plans offered by other carriers. They also did not have a broader range of phone selections and special features to offer. In common sense, there wasn't a gap too big to compete with other carriers.

Lastly, the MVNO did poorly with its customer service. During anonymous testing of Straight Talk's support, the reviewers noted that they "consistently ran into a messy automated phone system and unsatisfying answers from Straight Talk's phone reps, who were difficult to understand." The reviewers also pointed out that relying on social media support only led to frustration as the MVNO never responded to a question posted on their Twitter support account. Not to mention, its supposedly "helpful" online chat feature did not live up to its expectations.

Its frustrating to find that Straight Talk did not live up to par with its claims on its TV ads. With this recognition as the worst carrier in the US, it should learn from its mistakes and improve on its own offerings; especially since their budget-minded wireless customers deserve more for what they are currently getting.


Source: BGR

47 comments:

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  1. This does not surprise me as they are rude and the people at Wal-Mart seem to be in the dark concerning there product. Plus they offer no add on data except to have to pay for a new month.

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  2. I wonder if this is entirely invalid like their coverage "study" which picked just 6 data points to make certain carriers look good and generalized for the entire nation.

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  3. I would throw in Consumer Cellular. They promised one free month service then say it's only if you stay, then say if you used up 300 mins or 300mb data (hidden on their website) that no refund will be given.

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    1. Still crying, I see. It was right there in plain sight, not hidden. You should just admit it was tl;dr and move on.

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  4. This is very useful information! And as an avid follower of the prepaid scene, I'm not at all surprised that Straight Talk came last. Considering it's Walmart, I knew the ToS must be mired with limitations such as soft data caps, arbitrary data limitations on "unlimited" plans, disallowing streaming, unusable speed after soft data cap, permanent locking of their phones to Straight Talk (even the GSM ones), etc. Poor customer service is just icing on the cake. Right from the get-go when Walmart first introduced the Straight Talk brand, I knew it was too good to be true. They depend on the stupid and the gullible (which we have a lot in today's America) to be enticed by their flashy signage and alluring words.

    On the other end of the spectrum, I'm glad to see that T-Mobile is high up on the list. I switched from Virgin Mobile back in 2014 because I wanted to switch to a higher end handset, but they refused to continue grandfathering me in the $25/mo 300-minute, free-text, unlimited 3G data plan citing that because new phones are all LTE capable... even though I don't even care for (at the time) or get Sprint 4G LTE where I live. Now even though I'm paying $5 more a month, I'm glad I jumped ship to T-Mobile. Their $30 secret plan is the BEST VALUE for my mobile communication needs - 5GB of LTE data (with at least 100MB/mo allotted for tethering) + unlimited text + 100 minutes (with overage at a reasonable 10¢). Plus I can use whatever GSM phone I want!

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    1. LOL..BEST VALUE "secret plan"? 100 minutes of talk is laughable. While T-Mo has expanded their coverage over the years, they are really not much better than Sprint. And on top of T-Mo's way overpriced phones, Straight Talk takes the win with their Att or Verizon network and fast data. Sadly, here in California, T-Mo's network is non existent.

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  5. Many chirpies are in denial about their brand. A picture is worth a thousand words in showing just how badly they measure up to the other major choices. And why MetroPCS is still ahead by 2:1 after 3.5 years.

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    1. It's only denial if this is a statistically valid comparison. Cricket is on a network 30% better than what MetroPCS runs.

      I'd only get MetroPCS if I could save money by accepting my phone being dead much of the time.

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    2. MetroPCS beat Cricket in every category except customer service.
      People buy plans that have coverage where they expect they will need it. With rare exceptions, Cricket offers no advantage over Cricket for voice and SMS service. And where MetroPCS meets their *mobile data* coverage needs, people can expect with confidence that Metro will offer much better data performance than Cricket.

      I agree that people who are really clueless and don't even have the attention span to read coverage maps or think about their needs would have broader *mobile data* coverage with Cricket, whether they need it or not. And certainly there are others who know they need to use mobile data on their phone in rural areas, but can't estimate where that will be. They will prefer Cricket.

      'Statistically valid' data coverage studies would be worthless, so NO companies waste their time and money doing them. Virtually no cellular customer needs to travel EVERYWHERE in the 3.4M+ square miles of the US without being able to predict likely locations. For the extremely rare customers who might, there's SATCOM service to back up any cellphone plan.

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  6. Sprint just announced 2 alternatives to Unlimited plans:
    $40, 2GB plan with AutoPay; and
    $40, 4GB Affordable Choice plan at national retail
    These would have improved their score in the Tom's Guide comparison

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    1. Wow... Compared to the unlimited plans, those are way overpriced. Another boneheaded move.

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    2. SanctimoniousApeMay 9, 2017 at 9:22 PM

      Seriously! I think you must have some info wrong in your post, 'cause who pays $40/mo (presumably plus taxes & fees) for just 2GB anymore? I'm paying $15.41/mo all in for the same on a TMo MVNO (that happens to advertise on this site) and I'm sure most companies are somewhere in the middle of these extremes. If that's truly their new plan, then they are apparently no less clueless than they've ever been.

      The only justification I could see for that is that they plan to launch a new campaign with some "incredible savings" over their now "normal" price. In-credible indeed.

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    3. Because everyone uses unlimited data right?

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    4. "Because everyone uses unlimited data right?"

      The Sprint plans look like a joke for giving hardly any data for near the price of unlimited plans that other companies have.

      Now, if they offered 2GB plans for $20, it would not look as bad.

      But even them, it would still be on the Sprint network, and still be a joke.

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    5. The Sprint $40 plans, 2 or 4 GB are postpaid plans, and include voice and data roaming on Verizon and regional carriers. Sprint offers them because they lost customers when they copied T-Mobile One with unlimited-only plans. These plans and Sprint Prepaid compete with T-Mobile Prepaid, not sub-brands or MVNOs. For that they use Boost, Virgin Mobile and their own MVNOs.

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  7. Not crying just warning on Consumer Cellular. . I got a refund after blasting them on twitter

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  8. There is a reason there are so many Carlos Slime / America Movil / Tracfone hate posts/stories posted here and all over the interwebs.

    You were warned.

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    1. 1.3 million customers fled Slime last quarter alone. Maybe a new record, usually Slime brands lose 300,000 - 500,000 customers a quarter.

      The fact that they are still profitable shows PT Barnum was right.

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  9. I'm no fanboy of America Movil companies but I am a fan of keeping $ in my wallet. Tell me where else I can put 5 iPhones on a Tracfone monthly family value plan for $35 all taxes & fees included? Not everyone needs unlimited everything and I'll happily accept a lower level of customer service for what easily would cost me $100 or more per month on another MVNO.

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    1. What is the useage scenario?

      What network?

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    2. Used to be 50 minutes for phone 1 ($10), then 40 minutes for additional phones ($6 ea.). Depending on the tracfone used, minutes could be doubled or tripled.
      Tracfone and the PPFN review don't mention sms or mobile data for this plan, and the BYOP triple-triple setup for 5 iPhones would cost more than $35/month.

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    3. It's Verizon network and it's $10 for first line which gets 150/150/150 min/text/data plus $6 for all other lines which get 120/120/120. All unused balances rollover including any extra text (1000 for $5) or data ($10 per 1 GB) PAYG packages you add. Total cost is around $35 all in for 5 lines. Rollover balances are one of the best features of TF. You're never faced with use it or lose it.

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    4. So Tracfone Family Value MORE than $35/month for 5 lines if you want ANY texts or mobile data; that costs extra. And it does not work with BYOP iPhones. What Tracfone iPhones offers triple minutes for life?

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    5. No it's not more than $35 a month unless I want to top up a line with more texts or data. Any my phones are all BYOP iPhones. All BYOP smartphones on TF triple automatically for life and that's not just minutes. Every standard refill is triple min/text/data. You need to do some research on TF because it is clearly spelled out that smartphones on TF are separate from the old dumb phones TF was known for and still offer.

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    6. Anonymous 4:00 PM. You don't understand how TracFone plans work. All TracFones smartphones and all BYOP devices on TracFone, including iPhones, use "triple-triple" billing. The Value plan's 50 "minutes" becomes 150 minutes plus 150 texts plus 150 MB.

      If you want to understand TracFone pricing please read my post Prepaid Operator Profile: TracFone

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    7. Additional data on TracFone is $10/GB and $5/1000 texts.

      Since I'm usually around WiFi and use Google Voice, TracFone is perfect for keeping money in my wallet to spend elsewhere :) .

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  10. if Straight Talk uses verizon, how come the red bar does not match verizons?

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    1. Verizon throttles the LTE data speed of all their MVNOs, and also doesn't usually include the extended coverage (roaming) areas.

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    2. Who's network would Verizon roam on? While they have a good network, their data speeds (post paid or prepaid) are S L O W. If one needs Verizon coverage, use their MVNO Total Wireless for better value. I left their post paid service two years ago and won't go back due to phantom charges that would appear every month.

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    3. VZW has roaming agreements with a lot of small (mostly rural) regional systems, US Cellular is a big one. I have even seen roaming on to a Sprint id'ed tower.

      Total is not "their" MVNO. It is just one of many Carlos Slime owned America Movil / tracfone brands. Doing business with them usually winds up in a ripped off, dissatisfied customer. Most quarters they loose 300,000 - 500,000 customers, last quarter it was 1.3 million.

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  11. I'm surprised... Activating one line with TMo was the most infuriating customer disservice experience I've ever had... First the hours long wait in the branch store, then clueless reps who told me the plan I want doesn't exist, bouncing around from one to another because nobody knew jack. Then they finally sent me home with a SIM card that wasn't actually activated, but without the card that had the info needed to activate, and also a phone they didn't put the APN settings into.
    Phone support was WORSE yet. They're on some low quality, high latency VoIP link, and the reps had heavy accents to make maters worse. It takes a ton of time to get out of their automated system and reach a human, and always to the wrong department... The rep asks for your whole story before telling you she doesn't do activations, then transferring you to another (still wrong) department... And each time is a hassle of "Can you hear me? Let me adjust something... Please YELL into the phone if you want help."
    They're too dumb to do anything but follow a script. Just after telling them you don't have any of the activation paperwork/info, they ask for exactly that. Right after telling them you don't have a TMo phone # yet, they ask for your phone number. Several reps were so dense they asked for "your phone number" several times. I couldn't get a couple neurons to light up, so finally I gave them my contact number, only to have them says its not a TMo number and they can't help, then yelling at them not to hang up on me, and explaining everything I'd already told them about my predicament, yet again, which only helped to get me transferred to somebody else.

    I swear I spent 3 hours on the phone, after 2 hours in the store, to activate ONE damn phone line. I wish I hadn't. TMo coverage maps say how great the signal is here, but it's really only 1-2 bars outdoors, and no signal inside without hugging a window on the right side of the house (and yes, I've got a phone with ALL the bands). TMo coverage isn't even slightly better than Sprint. AT&T (and its MVNOs) isn't hardly any more expensive than TMo (Red Pocket is the same price for any if the big four carriers), yet they've got great coverage indoors and out.

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    1. "TMo coverage isn't even slightly better than Sprint. AT&T (and its MVNOs) isn't hardly any more expensive than TMo (Red Pocket is the same price for any if the big four carriers), yet they've got great coverage indoors and out."

      T-Mobile coverage without Band 12 covers half of the country. Sprint only covers about one-sixth. And with Band 12, T-Mobile covers at least 4 times as much land as Sprint. There's a huge difference.

      While T-Mobile's native coverage still isn't close to AT&T or Verizon, in my own anecdotal experience the customer service is stop notch. The opposite of what you have found. From talking/visiting people at a storefront, to phone calls, to the online text, they are well spoken. knowledgable*, and willing to go the extra mile. Always

      * Their knowledge of getting AT&T phones to work on TMO was somewhat limited, but that is not surprising. But they were willing to try many different things to help me.

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    2. I'd say TMo is just more aggressive about lying in their coverage maps than Sprint. Sprint may have less LTE coverage, but far more 3G.

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  12. Tmobile may be the darling of polls and such, but the coverage still lags behind att and even cricket. I switched from att gophone to cricket after they screwed up the $60 month plan. Saved $10,same coverage and the capped speeds didn't impact anything. Right now as I post this, a fellow employee on tmobile unlimited doesn't have a signal. Trying to make a phone call... Failing!

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    1. That's the catch with Tmo..good in big cities but if you drive 40min away all bets are off..

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    2. Another post by Rip Van Winkle. Hasn't seen a T-Mobile coverage map in years.

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    3. Rip Van Winkel is mostly right.... I'm using T-Mobile now after using Cricket for years. It's quite a contrast: T-Mobile is usually slower than Cricket's 10mbps. Often it is almost nothing in speed (like 0.10 mbps),,, and this is about a third of the territory I go through. Territory that was all great Cricket coverage.

      Sometimes TMO tops the speed of Cricket, but not often.

      And the T-Mobile towers: sometimes the same tower will give 8mbps and a few hours later have no signal at all. Makes me wonder if they are rotating or something, like pulsar's.

      As for not seeing a coverage map in years, it has gotten better. But go back a year ago, early 2016, and the coverage map was terrible. And the "good" new coverage maps require Band 12 phones (only a few models). Without these, it is pretty much the same bad coverage map covering half the places.

      From all indications, if Rip Van Winkel goes back to sleep now and wakes up in 3 years, he will find great nationwide T-Mobile coverage due to the spectrum they just bought. But that coverage isn't there NOW: it's still quite rough.

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    4. RVW: Tmo coverage map shows a great coverage most places, which is waayyy different than reality

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  13. Sure straight talk's customer service is pretty bad but if you are half way intelligent you won't have to call them very often if ever. You can save quite a bit of money if you do the research yourself and don't bother with the customer support or stores as their employees often don't know as much as they lead on. That goes for all carriers.

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    1. "Sure straight talk's customer service is pretty bad but if you are half way intelligent you won't have to call them very often if ever."

      Yeah, but if they bungle a port or mess up a bill, all the "Pre Paid Phone News" / "Howard Forum" phone-tech-head knowledge and "research" won't keep you from having to deal with Straight Talk (or any carrier's) customer service.

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    2. Yep, their CS sucks, what do you do when they steal your data? You have to deal with a CS circus designed to give 0 and make you go away.

      It's kind of like picking an insurance company. Probably / hope you never need them, take a chance on the bottom feeder company and you will get screwed over at every chance, don't and you MAY find actual help and be made whole.

      I manage a lot of mobile accounts, not one with Slime and no need to pay more, definitely less aggravation.

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  14. There's so much wrong with this review.

    First off, they included other prepaid subsidiaries but not GoPhone, which would've definitely scored near the top.

    Second, Straight Talk is a reseller, not a carrier, and their spot should've gone to an actual carrier like US Cellular.

    Third, Sprint's prepaid brands and Cricket should've suffered from enough coverage, signal and speed problems during real world use (i.e. on the road for 10+ minute drives, and being out and about for hours at a time) that their performance scores should've taken a much more serious hit.

    It seems like someone just sat in the center of a well covered urban area and tested these networks out for 5 minutes at most, without doing any of the actual legwork that would've separated the wheat from the chaff.

    The real top scorers should be Verizon, AT&T, T-mobile, Gophone, Metro and Mintsim.

    I'd put a lot more stock in a review that compared those 6, with an additional category for "value after taxes" that'd give the prepaid brands a leg up on their costlier, more heavily taxed competitors.

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    1. "Third, Sprint's prepaid brands and Cricket should've suffered from enough coverage, signal and speed problems during real world use (i.e. on the road for 10+ minute drives, and being out and about for hours at a time) that their performance scores should've taken a much more serious hit."

      Can't see how you can say that. I've done direct comparison, and have only gotten occasional islands of Sprint coverage, and almost always very slow, like 3G. And Cricket is the opposite: 8 to 10 mbps everywhere, with only some islands of "no coverage".

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  15. The tags got swapped with the Comcast article.

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  16. Last place is far too high a rating for Straight Talk. All America Movil brands deserve negative ratings

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  17. The only thing this poll got right is American Movil at the bottom, everything else is (highly) debatable and how the rankings were attained is questionable. Also, it is no secret that Uncle Tom gets a ton of ad revenue from Verizon...no different than all the cash they throw at Root Metrics. Verizon still has a top-notch network but their customer service has taken a dive in recent years, ask real people who were, and in some cases still are, on their network.

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