Which iPhone carrier has the fastest cellular data service?
June 25, 2013 2:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to replace my iPhone 4s. The most important factor to me is cellular data speed and reliability -- accessing the Web, syncing iCloud data, YouTube, stuff like that. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area (East Bay region), but it would be great if it worked well in New York, L.A. and other parts of the U.S. Should I go with Verizon or AT&T? Also, any pointers to websites with tools/reviews/resources to help me make the selection?

Not sure it matters, but here's some additional info just in case.

I currently have an iPhone 4s with Sprint and the data service is so slow and unreliable that it's practically unusable. Also, sometimes the phone won't play voicemails until I reboot it. So I'm really looking to switch carriers.

I have an iPad that's connected to AT&T and it seems to work pretty well. At least I can watch videos and stuff.
posted by trevor_case to Technology (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Verizon has by far the best LTE coverage. I switched from AT&T to Verizon when I got my iPhone 5 and found that my cell coverage in general was greatly improved. I'm on the East Coast, FWIW.
posted by killdevil at 2:29 PM on June 25, 2013

TechHive/PC world latest survey on throughput speed.
AT&T comes up ahead in the LTE world in many cities. (Assuming you're switching to iPhone 5 - older iPhones use 3G technology).
posted by 7life at 2:42 PM on June 25, 2013

AT&T is generally considered to be fastest, Verizon the most reliable.
posted by Oktober at 2:50 PM on June 25, 2013

Anecdotally, AT&T has better service in the Bay Area than Verizon. However Verizon overall has way better customer service (in national surveys/rankings and in my personal experience).
posted by radioamy at 2:50 PM on June 25, 2013

Verizon on my 4S is better in the Bay Area for me than AT&T. AT&T got so awful that I just couldn't use it at all. Calls never worked, web page loads would fail 1/3 of the time, etc. Verizon also fails sometimes but seems better. They're both not great, honestly.

Sprint's the only iPhone provider with an unlimited data plan. If you're watching video, you may want to think about switching away from them.
posted by Nelson at 2:53 PM on June 25, 2013

Sprint's LTE will be much faster than their 3G service, which is craptacular on the iPhone 4S for some reason. They're not fully rolled out in the Bay Area yet (they're mostly in Marin and Contra Costa counties so far), but they're planning on expanding "in the coming months."
posted by zsazsa at 2:59 PM on June 25, 2013

Just jumped from ATT 3G iPhone 4s to Galaxy S on Verizon 4G LTE last week. So, so, so, much better especially during BART commute from East Bay. Coverage is much better also in Oakland Hills, we couldn't really make calls from home, now have voice and usable data service. Very happy with switch.
posted by Disco Moo at 3:04 PM on June 25, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks all for the info.
posted by trevor_case at 3:36 PM on June 25, 2013

AT&T is superior in Manhattan and Hoboken for coverage, speed and amount of dropped calls. I drop approximately every call on my Verizon iPhone—not once with AT&T from iPhone 1 through 4S for me. Verizon LTE is generally less bandwidth than AT&T 4G, which is crazy.

Verizon will more likely have signal should you find yourself in the middle of nowhere.

AT&T also has simultaneous voice and data, Verizon does not-but will in the future once they have voice over LTE.

AT&T handles poor signal by lowering audio quality. Verizon handles it by dropping the call.

Man do I regret going from AT&T 4S to Verizon 5...
posted by ridogi at 5:30 PM on June 25, 2013

In my experience(admittedly in Seattle, Portland, and other west coast cities and not specifically SF. But still, multiple places!) AT&T was hypothetically faster and always won on those benchmarks done by popular tech sites.

However, in any real life situation AT&T totally sucked. Sucked ass even. Awful latency, pathetic speeds, timeouts, all of it.

I pull down 20mb+ on Verizon and haven't looked back. Not only that, but basically anywhere I have even one bar it's consistently warp speed. There were always select pockets of "good" on AT&T. Never experienced that with Verizon. I've also never encountered any awful areas the way downtown seattle was on AT&T(30 seconds to the first ring on calls, nothing will even respond to ping on data, woo!)

The only reason I'd switch would be to get a super cheap tmobile/sprint/ting/virgin plan or something. And most of those companies have poopy customer service anyways.

Also supposedly AT&T has "worked on that" I've seen some places. I don't buy it. They made claims like that all the time in the years I had their service.
posted by emptythought at 6:55 PM on June 25, 2013

i have at&t on my iphone4 in los angeles and it sucks. lots of dropped calls, slow connection and poor quality for the person on the other end of my call. the minute my contract is up i'm switching to verizon. i don't have wifi though but that would only change things at home.
posted by wildflower at 7:57 PM on June 25, 2013

Also East Bay person here. I switched from AT&T to Verizon early last year and the difference in overall reliability has been a huge improvement.
posted by migurski at 7:59 PM on June 27, 2013

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