at&t vs. verizon for iphone in bay area?
September 16, 2012 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Should I choose ATT or Verizon for iPhone in San Francisco/Bay Area?

my flipphone is finally on its last legs and i've never had a smartphone. i'm probably going to get the new iphone (5). i've been with att forever but don't have any contract obligations.

i keep hearing mixed things about verizon vs. att and would love any current information/input/advice on service in the bay area, and about any features that might make one company a better choice than the other. i live in 94117 (north of the panhandle). thank you!
posted by roxie110 to Technology (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Verizon is a little more expensive ($85 for the most basic plan: 450 minutes, 2 gigs of data, 1000 texts], vs. AT&T's cheapest (which I have: around $71 for 450 minutes, 200 megs of data, 200 texts, and Smart Limits, which lets you block up to 30 numbers). But Verizon's reception is definitely better--especially in the East Bay, but also in SF proper.
posted by Lettuce_Leaves at 6:56 PM on September 16, 2012

VERIZON. ATT basically gets zero reception in many parts of the Bay Area (though it's gotten better over the past few years - but Verizon is still much better).
posted by rainbowbrite at 6:59 PM on September 16, 2012

Verizon still generally has better coverage in more rural areas - which can be surprisingly close to more urban ones.

However, Verizon reception inside the Giants' ballpark is basically nonexistent (and AT&T's public wifi there is crappy). Jerks.
posted by rtha at 7:05 PM on September 16, 2012

We have both in our household. Honestly I haven't noticed a difference.
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:07 PM on September 16, 2012

I live in San Francisco and have an iPhone 4S on AT&T. By and large I haven't had problems with reception. Of course, your mileage will vary greatly. Note that you may be able to return the phone within a certain time period, so if you have problems with reception you may be able to switch.

Alternatively, you may be able to get a free femtocell (or whatever they're called these days) for your home if you have particularly bad reception there.

You can see the various plans available on Apple's site (linked from the iPhone 5 page on the Apple Store).
posted by danielparks at 7:10 PM on September 16, 2012

Oh, and I find that I use an average of less than 200 MB of data a month — but I don't watch many videos on my phone.
posted by danielparks at 7:12 PM on September 16, 2012

Should I choose ATT or Verizon for iPhone in San Francisco/Bay Area?

Since my two years with AT&T are almost up, I've been looking into this a bit recently.

And from what I've gathered, it really isn't anymore about I am in city X, which provider should I use? It seems to be more along the lines of I live in neighborhood A, and I commute to my job in neighborhood B, along route 1, which provider is going to give me the most uptime? Oh, yeah, my sister lives in neighborhood C, and I'd like to get a couple of bars there.

It seems that cellphone reception is getting so saturated in the US, especially in large metro areas that it's more and more about whose towers you're closer to on any given day. I hope this doesn't make it more complicated. Good luck.
posted by Sphinx at 7:13 PM on September 16, 2012

Choosing an iPhone 5 carrier
posted by mlis at 7:19 PM on September 16, 2012

Definitely Verizon. I have service almost everywhere on my iPad data plan. When I have both side-by-side, AT&T nearly always has fewer bars.

I don't live in the City though. I'm talking about East Bay and North Bay.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:31 PM on September 16, 2012

I'll just say Verizon as a company sucks as much as ATT but they definitely have better coverage. I've never had a dropped call, and I call Europe every day with no problems. (Verizon/Android here. Can't speak to iPhone.)
posted by trip and a half at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2012

I'm in the City -- that's why I spoke up.
posted by trip and a half at 7:35 PM on September 16, 2012

nthing Verizon. The service has always been spectacular in the bay area for me (from flip phone days to iphone). I even disabled the signal bars (on my jailbroken iphone) since I don't ever need that info (I always have great reception).
posted by special-k at 7:46 PM on September 16, 2012

There are tradeoffs for both carriers.

Verizon has better coverage, and a more fleshed out 4G LTE network. Their signal is much better indoors. In my experience, their customer service is also better.

Verizon also includes features which cost additional on AT&T, such as tethering and Facetime over cellular.

AT&T is usually cheaper. Note that Lettuce_Leaves's comment references a Verizon plan that you can no longer get. You are now required to sign up for a "Shared Everything" plan which includes unlimited calls and texts, and gives you a smaller amount of data usage. AT&T has plan rollover minutes, which with my usage is equivalent to unlimited.

AT&T also has faster download speeds on their 4G network.

After your contract with AT&T ends, you can carrier-unlock your phone so that you can switch to T-Mobile or other cheaper prepaid options in the US. With Verizon, your phone is forever tied to Verizon, even if you unlock it for global use.
posted by meowzilla at 8:55 PM on September 16, 2012

In the Mission, the Outer Richmond and Sunset, and downtown SF, my AT&T service with an iPhone 4 is anywhere from incredibly bad to nonexistent. It's fine everywhere in the East Bay, North Bay, and on the peninsula I've ever been, as well as everywhere else in the US/Europe I've been with it, including very rural places. I can't offer any comparative Verizon data.
posted by obliquicity at 9:57 PM on September 16, 2012

For the 3G iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, absolutely Verizon. AT&T's GSM network simply does not function in San Francisco. It's not "coverage"; often you will find 3-5 bars of signal. It's saturation, AT&T has failed to provision enough cell bandwidth for San Francisco users. Consequently AT&T has dropped calls 3-4x the rate of Verizon, and data connections frequently don't work. Not just in strange valleys in SF, anywhere in the city, like Noe Valley or Dolores Park. Switching to Verizon's CDMA network has moved me from a miserable iPhone user who never trusted the AT&T cell phone to work to someone who's only moderately frustrated with occasional call quality problems on Verizon.

The iPhone 5 is new, though, LTE. It's possible AT&T's LTE network will function better than their GSM network. Given AT&T's contempt for their customers the past four years, though, I suspect not. I'll stick with Verizon.
posted by Nelson at 10:02 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're thinking about the North Bay and you expect to live/visit outside of the metro areas, such as the North Coast and the ranchlands between the Coast and Highway 101, you definitely want Verizon, because AT&T doesn't cover these areas at all.
posted by Lynsey at 10:33 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

They both suck. Pick the plan that seems best for you.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:30 AM on September 17, 2012

Response by poster: it does sound like verizon for the win, without much question! what a pain not to be able to use the phone and talk on it at the same time, though.
posted by roxie110 at 11:02 AM on September 17, 2012

Response by poster: i ordered an iphone 5 with verizon... hoping it turns out to be a good decision. thanks, all!
posted by roxie110 at 12:14 PM on October 17, 2012

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