Seattle iPhone carrier recommendation
December 23, 2012 2:51 PM   Subscribe

We want an iPhone. We want to pay as little as possible for the service and can buy the phone up front. But we don't want to sacrifice good coverage (in Seattle). Please recommend whether we should go with ATT/Verizon or one of the much cheaper alternatives (Virgin, TMobile, etc.)

My wife's not a heavy phone user and is unlikely to use a whole lot of data. On the other hand, she'll use this phone for her business and can't handle crappy service, lots of dropped calls, and etc. Getting an iPhone5 would be nice, but she could handle using an older phone. We're particularly interested in hearing from other Seattle users who've gone with TMobile, Virgin, or one of the other cheapo providers. Thanks!
posted by carterk to Technology (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It might help to note which neighborhood of Seattle you're in. Some have small but dramatic dead spots for AT&T coverage, for example.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:59 PM on December 23, 2012

Also, be sure to verify your ATT coverage with an actual iPhone. My iPhone4 has significantly worse reception in my apartment than my old ATT blackberry did.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:14 PM on December 23, 2012

We're on Beacon Hill, pretty close to the light rail stop.
posted by carterk at 4:19 PM on December 23, 2012

One thing to be aware of, is that even if someone like T-Mobile offers good coverage there, it is going to slip up drastically in terms of in-building reception. I was considering leaving Verizon and doing the same thing, but I didn't want to have great coverage outdoors and then almost none when I'm deep inside a mall, office building, etc.

Definitely something to consider if making many voice calls for business use.
posted by signondiego at 4:23 PM on December 23, 2012

For what it is worth, Verizon has its own patches of poor coverage. I couldn't use my phone at home in the Greenwood neighborhood when I was an Verizon customer before the first iPhone came out. Now, years later, I find my Verizon iPad has a weak signal and slow throughput from home.

For what it is worth, Virgin uses Sprint's network, but Sprint's coverage for people on traditional "post-paid" contract plans isn't necessarily indicative of Virgin's coverage, because Sprint supplement their network with Verizon's towers.
posted by Good Brain at 4:28 PM on December 23, 2012

I have used an iPhone 4S on Straight Talk with AT&T and T-mobile SIM cards in the Seattle area and find that T-mobile coverage is better but the data rates are noticably slower.
posted by wongcorgi at 4:32 PM on December 23, 2012

My old Nexus 1 just bit the dust, so I replaced it with an iPhone 4s and got a T-Mobile card for it.

Data's been fine. So have the few calls I take - I really don't do voice much - although it's definitely no better with dealing with the on-and-off dead spot in the front of my apartment in the U.
posted by egypturnash at 6:49 PM on December 23, 2012

My friend used to work for T-Mobile and had an android through them. When she was laid off she switched to Virgin and bought the iPhone. She says it's cheaper and faster and in the few months she's had it hasn't had any problem with coverage where she is in Wedgwood. She loves it and I'm considering switching myself (I have t-mobile with a windows phone).
posted by E3 at 7:41 PM on December 23, 2012

AT&T has HORRIBLE coverage, though in Seattle it's mostly okay. Don't exoect it to work in tall buildings though - I switched to Verizon for exactly that reason.
posted by Artw at 11:51 PM on December 23, 2012

I had good luck with ATT on my HTC phone a few years ago, contemporary to the first couple of iPhones, but my iPhone-using friends had major issues with ATT here in Seattle, and ranging from Lynnwood to the south end.

If you want to look at some quantitative research on cell coverage, throw your zip code into coverage map at Root Metrics, which surveys this sort of thing.

On the topic of 4G, specifically LTE, Verizon is the market leader, and Sprint's LTE network is not yet up in Seattle, probably not until this summer.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:39 AM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If your wife's business use will be in one specific location, for example in a home office, then you could improve the reception by installing an antenna & booster amplifier system. It's an investment of money ($2-500) and time (installation and wiring) but I can speak from experience that it definitely makes a significant improvement. I recommend the Wilson Electronics brand. I bought mine from Newegg.
posted by conrad53 at 10:16 AM on December 24, 2012

Just throwing this out there, I have made good experiences with pageplus cellular. They run on Verizion and offer rather inexpensive plans. I am also using Kitty Wireless as a front end to their service and am in the moment on a 1200 minutes/2000 SMS and 250MB plan for $30. No contract, of course. Whilst they officially do not support iphones, people say that they got theirs running. But your mileage may very. Just a thought if you want to avoid the contracts and high monthly fees. Having a wireless network at home makes me use very little data during the course of a month.
posted by nostrada at 4:13 PM on December 24, 2012

Right- lots of my wife's usage will be at home, where of course we have wifi, so we can get by on a low-minutes plan. Still, I was hoping to hear from some folks using Virgin or Straight Talk here in Seattle, but that's life. Thanks for the advice!
posted by carterk at 5:16 PM on December 24, 2012

Ah– here's a followup question for anyone still listening. What's to keep us from buying Virgin's cheapest smartphone (looks like $39) and a month of service to test out voice and data connections before splurging on the iPhone? Would the quality of service necessarily translate to what we should expect with a different handset?
posted by carterk at 5:19 PM on December 24, 2012

I'm not in Seattle and can't comment on reliability, but you can get a no-contract (read: cheap) plan for iPhones on either T-Mobile or AT&T by following the advice here.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:58 PM on December 24, 2012

« Older getting older, horny as ever   |   What is it like to live on a reservation? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.