Consumer Reports readers were polled and rated wireless carriers. CR also offers tips for saving money on your cell phone bill. Consumer Reports subscribers rate carriers differently than the tech press does. The consumers are able to rate, "value," "voice", "texting," "data", "staff knowledge" and "issue resolved" which effect customer satisfaction.
Verizon and Sprint were the better-rated national carriers. Verizon had an edge over Sprint in texting and in knowledgeable support staff, but Sprint rated better in value. T-Mobile was below Verizon and Sprint but continued to rate significantly better than AT&T.
Bypassing the carrier and using third-party services for texting and voice calls can be a real money-saver. New apps such as Heywire and TigerText let you send text messages for free over your data connection. With most carriers, that means you won't have to pay 10 cents per text or $5 to $30 a month for limited-to-unlimited messaging plans.
Max out on Wi-Fi. Consumers should avoid using their plan's allotment of data by tapping into the rising number of Wi-Fi networks that are available. Those who own 4G phones should set them to connect only to 3G whenever its adequate such as when texting or streaming music.
The full report features carrier ratings in 22 metropolitan markets and can be found in the January 2012 issue of Consumer Reports and at www.ConsumerReports.org . We have been examining how Consumer Reports rated the top smarpthones of the year for T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint, and will cover Verizon Wireless, soon while compiling our top ten best smartphones of the year report.