Consumer Report: Best Cell Phone Companies

If you've ever been shocked by a cell phone bill, you're not alone.

One in five people got an unexpectedly high bill in the past year, according to Consumer Reports' just-released cell phone survey. Almost 60,000 subscribers weighed in to help determine the best services and the money-savers.

Sprint's C.E.O.'s confidence in his company's improvements appears to have struck a chord with Sprint customers, according to Consumer Reports' annual cell phone survey.

"For years, Sprint has been one of lower-rated cell-phone companies in our survey," says Donato Vaccaro of Consumer Reports. "But this year we saw a dramatic improvement."

Sprint tied with Verizon among the top carriers for cell phones with a contract. Most Sprint customers said the carrier offers good value.

"My bill's great," says Drew Williams, a Sprint customer. "It's cheap. It's small. Small bill, lotta service."

Even better in Consumer Reports' survey is U.S. Cellular, which rated highest for customer satisfaction.

AT&T is solidly in last place again for almost everything, from customer support, to problems making calls, to value for the money.

"My iPhone bill is just, it's over the top," says Dale Wilson. "There's times I got bills for $200."

If you're looking for a cell-phone service with no contract, a small company called Consumer Cellular came out on top.

"People found it offers great value, but it has a limited choice of phones," says Vaccaro.

If you prefer a greater selection of phones, Consumer Reports says consider T-Mobile, which now offers most of its phones, even smart phones, with a no-contract option.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to buy a phone without a contract, the phone will probably be more expensive, but your monthly fees will probably be less.

No-contract plans are best suited for people who only make occasional calls and text but don't surf the web or use their phone for email. They're also good if you is want a simple first phone for a tween or teenager.


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