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AT&T ranks last in Consumer Reports survey

updated 03:25 pm EST, Tue December 1, 2009

iPhone hurts service, but customers stay

AT&T is once again trailing other major US carriers in its quality of service rankings, Consumer Reports has found in its latest survey (live soon; subscription required). Readers scored the network just 66 points for its performance in numerous cities, just below the declining Sprint's 67 and significantly lower than T-Mobile's 70 or Verizon's leading 75 points. Most of the criticism was leveled against AT&T's voice service, which has been widely described as unreliable as the sheer load of iPhone customers has oversaturated the 3G network.

Although last in 19 cities, the ratings are particularly low in New York City (63) and San Francisco (59), both of which have disproportionately high number of users with iPhones and other smartphones. The two urban centers have developed a reputation among these customers for frequently dropped calls as well as slow data that sometimes drops to EDGE or even GPRS. In the past several months since the most recently published study, AT&T has pledged to improve support in these and other areas by adding the 850MHz band to its 3G coverage as well as adding to the underlying network capacity.

Verizon, meanwhile, has historically been well-rated for call quality and reliability and scored above average in that field, prompting it to launch anti-AT&T ads highlighting its advantages. While Sprint escaped last place by having a better network, both it and AT&T were also hurt by perceived poor customer service where T-Mobile's average network was assisted by above average marks for customer support.

Regardless, Consumer Reports has noted that many iPhone users are less likely than any other customer, regardless of network, to leave their devices. In addition to topping satisfaction rankings, the Apple handset has developed a particularly high loyalty rate as 98 percent of American iPhone owners would buy one a second time even if forced to use AT&T again. Only 79 percent of those with other cellphones have developed a similar level of attachment.

The study appears borne out by AT&T's recent quarter, when it activated a record number of iPhones even as its turnover of old customers replaced by new ones has reached a low 1.43 percent. However, it has faced multiple lawsuits from upset iPhone buyers that have claimed AT&T and Apple misled shoppers about the performance of 3G service.

By Electronista Staff


  1. Paul Huang

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Sep 1999


    Fewest dropped calls, huh?

    The call does not even get through, so it wouldn't drop anyway.

  1. bleee

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Mar 2002


    Was it really that much of a surprise?

    Honestly who was surprised?... I think AT&T just needs more independent surveys done in-order for the execs to CLUE IN.

  1. Arty50

    Mac Elite

    Joined: May 2000


    The execs already know

    They just don't care.

  1. syzygi

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jan 2008


    The worst

    AT&T and Comcast are the two worst internet/communication companies. They're a bunch of fools, liars and cheats. Stay away at all costs.

  1. pcarrington

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Sep 2000


    Sell iPhone 3GS and Switch to Verizon Motorola

    I am so very frustrated w/ AT&T's inability to review and repair all the dropped calls, loss of signal, and static that when my contract is up, and I don't think it's fair I must tolerate below satisfactory service, I'm actually thinking of selling the iPhone 3GS on craigslist and buying one of the Motorola units or Nokia units.
    After all, what I need FIRST OF ALL is a PHONE. The games and calendar and all else is secondary and can be found on the Motorola or Nokia or other brands.
    Apple really screwed the goose on this one and doesn't SEEM to be rushing to 'make it right.'

  1. bernardb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2004


    I did just that...

    My contract was up a month ago and as difficult as it was for me to do it I abandoned my iPhone and got a cheap little LG and switched to Verizon. I missed several calls from my workplace and that was absolutely not acceptable. When I called ATT to cancel, they were so upset I was leaving it almost made me feel bad...they offered me all kinds of technical assistance to try to get my reception improved but I told 'em I had already switched to Verizon and it was TOO LATE for that now...also, I told the rep that as an iPhone user I often felt slighted by ATT when they never offer any "goodies" to us but do all the time to other smartphone users, and how ATT never even advertised the iPhone in any commercials. Like we were a dirty little secret to be kept in a dark closet somewhere...oh LG gets perfect reception and I guess I will have to be happy until iPhone can be supported on Verizon.


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