Cell Phone Service, Carrier...Family Plan??

tulipsApril 11, 2006


Los Angeles area: What is the best cell phone plan with reliable service & good coverage? Is that in existance?

My husband and I both have Cingular and are paying WAY too much for service. Not even good service at that. I would like to move to a family plan but it seems like (T-Mobile) 2 individual plans would be better than 1 combined. Also, I hate those contracts. We have been with Cingular/AT&T for so long now that neither one of us has a contract.

I need new eyes to either see the value of the current service or new eyes to see how great a new provider would be (even with the contract). Suggestions, anyone?

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I'm not in LA but here's my two cents.

We had AT&T forever and finally caved in and got the Cingular plan. Do you have the old AT&T rates or the new Cingular rates? Cingular service was horrible when we first switched but it has gotten better. We used to have two individual plans but recently switched to a family plan which is cheaper. With the rollover minutes that apply to both people I think we could even switch to a lower priced plan.

I agree - not having a contract is a big plus. When the Cingular service was so crappy I would have changed but we did have the penalty so I stayed. If it continues as it has been recently, I will probably stick with it when the contract is up.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2006 at 9:25PM
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Have you checked out Consumer Reports? They did a study on this not too long ago. Personally, I use Verizon and it works great for me and my family - and most of my kids' friends have Verizon as well, so there is very little usage of prime time minutes because they are 'in-network' - all in-network minutes do not incur any extra charge, no matter how many nor at what time. The signal is plenty strong and I rarely have a dropped call - maybe once a year. However, I live in Minnesota, not CA.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 8:26AM
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CR is relatively useless for this kind of thing. For example, at least in our area, Sprint just declared 7 pm to be "night" for lower nighttime rates. Cool -- if they have usable service where you need it and you plan to talk a lot after 7 pm. But you likely won't hear about that from CR for months because of the lead time it takes to put the magazine together. What I hear of the Web site is that it is not particularly quicker with the news, either.

If you talk a lot, don't bother with prepaid -- most is sufficiently expensive that by the time you're talking hundreds of minutes, it's much more expensive to go prepaid than it is to get a contract with anyone.

It's not possible to give simple "Get [carriername]!" advice. It's just too individual a choice for us to make it for you. Verizon has an excellent network, but you may just happen to be in a low spot for them -- and, anyway, going with Verizon will mean buying a couple of phones and (likely) signing up for contracts. If you've been with Cingular since it was AT&T, chances are you have old AT&T TDMA phones, not the newer Cingular GSM phones. Since Cingy is no longer building out their TDMA network, it may simply be a matter of getting newer GSM phones for better coverage (try online auction sites for phones that may be usable but not brand-new and expensive). T-Mo seems to offer some great deals, but -- well, they have to. They claim they just about doubled coverage in my Twin Cities area, yet coverage (according to their coverage map) in my St. Paul neighborhood still is marginal. Who cares how cheap it is if it doesn't work where you want it?

And, for that matter, you can hit the Cingular Web site or call their customer service (I know...), preferably at a slower time of the day, and poke around asking about cheaper plans. New ones are being introduced all the time; there might be something out there that makes more sense for you now.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 9:42AM
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Thanks for the input. I have noticed that Cingular has gotten better but we are still way too high on rates. We do have the GSM phones so new phones probably won't make things better - just cost us more.

Does anyone know if the websites that carry all providers are better than the company websites?

Side note...I'm from Isanti, MN. We will be there tomorrow for Easter visiting my family! All hail Minnesotans!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 12:22PM
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shop around for a smaller regional carrier. Here we have Cellular South. for about 70.00 per month, taxes and all, you get unlimited local and long distance, unlimited text, and 750 mins a month roaming. the local area covers part of TN, all of MS, and part of AL and FL, so i almost never roam. then you add 1 family plan phone for about 20.00 a month with the same cover!

nothing else here can touch that. If you can find something similar using a regional carrier in your area, you will come out much better.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 1:29PM
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I'm a believer in T-Mobile. They have a very good family plan (reasonable price, and unlimited calls between family members), good minutes, and customer service folks who actually care about what they're doing. I've had other carriers and won't go with them again, particularly AT&T (but that's a long story for another time).

    Bookmark   April 12, 2006 at 2:15PM
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Steve_o, I agree that CR will not provide much in terms of exact location and coverage, but it does at least provide a general satisfaction survey and has overall good information.

I thought it was funny when I heard that T-Mobile had doubled the coverage in Twin Cities area. While that may sound impressive, if they only covered a three square mile area and now they cover a six square mile area, that really doesn't mean much. Okay, I am exagerrating a bit, but I think you get my drift.

When I was evaluating carriers, I went to different ones and gave them the zip codes of where I needed coverage (specifically, could they reach the family summer cabin?). If they could not prove to me on their maps that they could reach those zips, I kept on walking.

Verizon does seem to be expanding all the time. What used to be roaming is now 'limited service', which seems to be that I just can't retrieve my voice mail.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 8:35AM
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We're in L.A. too. We have Verizon and are SO HAPPY with them! It's pricey, but very worth it! DH has had a varity of other plans (through work) including ATT, cingular, and Nextel. My Verizon, even when DH had a 'nicer' phone then I, has ALWAYS had better coverage then his carriers!

Our plan now is I think 800 minutes plus nights and weekends, 'in network', text, all that jazz and it's $120 for 2 phones including taxes and all. We don't even come close to using our shared minutes because almost everyone we know is 'in network'. We only use our home phone maybe once a month (you know, to call the lost cell phone!) and still dont' go over our minutes.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2006 at 8:52PM
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Steve_o, I agree that CR will not provide much in terms of exact location and coverage, but it does at least provide a general satisfaction survey and has overall good information.

Be a little careful of CR's satisfaction "surveys" -- there are many statistical flaws with their surveying process. In the end, all they really provide is a collection of anecdotal evidence. Use CR as a data point, if you like, but please don't think their data and opinions are of higher quality than you'd find on epinions or Howard Forums or here.

Verizon does seem to be expanding all the time. What used to be roaming is now 'limited service', which seems to be that I just can't retrieve my voice mail.

Their "America's Choice 2" program simply put several roaming agreements under one brand. What features you have available in a given area, though, depend on the actual carrier (once you're off Verizon's own network, what you can access likely will vary) and your phone (if your phone is digital-only and you happen to be in an AC2 analog-roaming only area, you will have no service).

    Bookmark   April 14, 2006 at 9:31AM
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Hmmm. Our Cingulair for 1400 Minutes, with 1 primary line and two additional comes to $135 per month. Plus we have roll over minutes. We did have Verizon and while I think the service...clarity, less dropped calls was better, in the end we save quite a bit with Cingulair vs Verizon because our entire family and most friends have Cingulair. We are in Kansas City.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2006 at 3:31PM
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I've had TMobile for 6 years now, as has my Dad and several of his buddies. DH and I have a family plan that allows us to call ANY TMobile user for free, including my Dad. Dad has an individual plan and doesn't have that same perk.

I agree that they have good customer service and their prices are very competitive. I've never had the billing problems with TMobile that I've had with Cingular in the past.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2006 at 11:29AM
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