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Consumer Reports: Jan2012 Best Phone Plans

Consumer Reports: Jan2012 Best Phone Plans

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Published by desijnk
Best mobile phone plans
Best mobile phone plans

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Published by: desijnk on Jun 20, 2012
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consumer reports
 january 2012
cover story
We recommendthe iPhone 4S
Page 29
First looks: Hotnew phones
Page 30
How to cutyour phone bill
Page 31
Page 32
Android vs.iPhone
Page 32
Which phone& plan for you?
Page 34
Page 36
Page 38
Page 40
Best phones & service
The top carriers and hottest phones, plus cost-saving strategies
f the best news
ab bil lih day i h aival  ah ad a wk, h wi wha h iv ca c.T advac a igifca: lag,dazzlig dilay; ll-ad caa;hacd vid cha; ad b vic c-gii. Ad h h’ d. Mayw a h hav a c,ad  i fv—icldig   -ad dl—ca cc  dy4G (h-gai) daa wk.Sch advaag  db acc h ac ha  ha 60 c  Consumer Reports ad dig  la vy  cll h w aa h. I  ca, h wih4G h w  aifd wih hicai ha h wih  acc  hahigh-d vic—cially wh ica  h daa vic d  dwladvid, bw h Wb, ad .B g c a a ic, ad i’lil wd ha val wa h biggac by a i divig aiaci wihcll-h vic ag  vy -d. T cllla cig dg cab xiv ad cld g v cli.T la a h yically c$200 ad , v wih a w-ya c-ac, ad hly vic ca aily c$100. Wih daa ag  a hkyckig—h avag ad by al- 90 c  2010  2011, accd-ig  Nil—bill cld g v high.Ta’ cially  w ha all haj cai xc Si hav ddliid, ll-d daa vii.M hav vd  la ha bill i iaccdig  h a  daa y  ha lw dwlad d a y hi acifd hly lii.
    i    l    l    u    s    t    r    a    t    i    o    n    s    b    y    l    e    o    n     m    u    s    s    c    h    e
28-33 CELL PHONES Intro 01-12.indd 2811/10/11 8:41:03 PM
 january 2012
Fo moe th  e, o smt-phoeRtigs eected  oml: The iPhoe 4ked highl o o stdd tests, d etwe cold’t ecommed it becse o  wwith its eceptio. Its sccesso, the iPhoe4S, is lso  e peome, d it does’t hvetht poblem. We ecommed this phoe.Thogh the ew iPhoe closelesembles the iPhoe 4 i ppece, itis’t poe to doppig clls whe o cove spot o the phoe’s lowe let side dewek sigl coditios. Apple ss theiPhoe 4S hs  edesiged te sstem;pehps tht’s wh it pssed o tests wheethe iPhoe 4 did’t. (The iPhoe 4 emisvilble d still does’t pss, we comedi tests o the phoe. Bt whe it’s sedwith  cse, the poblem disppes.)As we wet to pess, Appleckowledged  btte-lie poblem withsome smples o the iPhoe 4S d iPhoe4. Some owes complied o se omso shot  times. Apple blmed “ ewbgs” i its ltest mobile opetig sstem,iOS 5, d pomised to delive  sotwepdte to ddess the poblem i Novembe.Becse o the complits, we smples o the iPhoe 4S d ew dold smples o the iPhoe 4 thogh speciltests i o lbs. We od o otblebtte poblems o the phoes. We pl toetest them with the sotwe pdte wheit is vilble, st i cse the x fectsbtte peomce i  w.The iPhoe 4S hs othe impovemetsove the iPhoe 4, icldig  bette cmed  ste pocesso. It lso dds theitigig Sii voice-ctivted ete, whichccepts d espods to vebl commdsi  covestiol toe sig  sthetic-sodig emle voice.
But some things about cell-phone plansdon’t change much—unortunately. Car-riers still don’t make it easy to compareplans; each typically ofers unequal buck-ets o minutes, messages, and megabytes.Some phone owners are texting more andtalking less, but most contract plans stillrequire buying hundreds o voice minutesa month, whether or not you need them.And unless you buy messages in bundlesor in unlimited plans—again, possiblymore messages than you might need—you’ll pay an à la carte charge that’s exor-bitant, considering how little data a textmessage carries.Read on or a rundown o the latestdevelopments in the market, news romour tests and reader surveys, and adviceon how to get more and better or less.
Best and worst carriers
When it comes to standard cell-phone ser-vice (meaning billed monthly, oten undera contract), the most satisying carriers inour Ratings were smaller. At the top o theRatings were Consumer Cellular, a nation-al carrier that uses A&’s network, andU.S. Cellular, which operates in 26 states.Credo, which ofers service in much o thecountry over Sprint’s network and donatespart o its earnings to socially responsiblecauses, was next in satisaction.Te major national monthly-bill carri-ers now rate no better than the third tier,occupied by Verizon and Sprint. -Mobilewas below those two but continued to ratesignicantly better than higher-pricedA&, whose plan to eliminate its betterrival was thwarted by a Department o  Justice antitrust lawsuit last summer. Atrial is scheduled to begin in February.On the whole, readers who prepaidor their service (without a contract, ormonthly minutes, unlimited or pay-as-you-go) were more satised overall thanrespondents with standard service.Customers at prepaid carriers were alsohappier with the value or money o theirservice. Paying à la carte or the calls ortexts you send can be a cost-saver or occa-sional phone users, and unlimited plansofered by prepaid specialists such asStraight alk typically cost less than stan-dard service rom a major carrier.One reason prepaid customers may behappier with their service is that they usethe phone less than customers with stan-dard service or such demanding tasks asWeb surng and watching videos. Withsimpler needs, those customers might be
At last, a new iPhone we can recommend
easier to please overall. (Not surprisingly,most so-called prepaid carriers ofer ew i any smart phones.)And prepaid looks like it’s gettingcheaper—again. As we went to press,racFone began promoting a “triple min-utes or lie” option ree with certainphone models, which means i you buy120 minutes or $30, you get 360 minutes,which cuts the unit price rom 25 to 8 centsper minute. -Mobile ofered a data- andtext-centric prepaid 4G plan providing 5GBo data, unlimited texting, and 100 voiceminutes or only $30, which is great ordata hogs who don’t talk much.Interestingly, usage patterns or sub-scribers to Consumer Cellular’s contractplans more closely resemble those o typi-cal prepaid customers. Tat, along withits relatively low prices, might help ex-plain the carrier’s high standing in thestandard-service Ratings.
Phones are better
Te top phones in our smart phone Rat-ings are the best we’ve ever tested, withthe highest overall scores or phones soar. Most o the standouts are 4G phonesthat share several traits, including stun-ning screens and cameras with more so-phisticated controls and eatures. Manywere rom Samsung, which made 20 per-cent o the phones in this Ratings, uprom only 5 percent in our 2009 report. Ourtests uncovered other news, too: Apple’snewest iPhone, the 4S, scores highly inour Ratings and is recommended.
Fourth-generation models pro-vide super-smooth video streaming andultraast loading o Web-based content, atleast under optimal network conditions.
Fr standard srvic,smar carrirssatisfid th mst.
Apple iPhone 4S
28-33 CELL PHONES Intro 01-12.indd 2911/10/11 8:41:06 PM
consumer reports
 january 
cover story 
best phones & service
 vi—h fgn funin?
The m be smt bt the’e stillphoes. Wh, the, do smt phoescotie to e medioce scoes, t best,o thei most bsic ctio?Thei middlig voice qlit mes om stt to miss sllbles o wods sbckgod oise iceses—s, wheo’e o the steet o t  pt—thogho shold be ble to hold  esoblcle covestio de eltivel qietcoditios. We expect bette th tht.Aothe bsic ctio, plcig  cll,hs lso become moe o  chllegethks to tod’s toch-scee iteces.O most smt phoes, phoe cotolsd kepds do’t ppe til o tp phoe-pp ico. Ad the ico itsel isel lge o moe distigishble ththe othe pp icos tht sod it.Sometimes while o’e o  cll, let om othe pplictio mightlch othe scee, hidig o phoecotols i the pocess.BlckBe smt phoes e theexceptio. The lmost lws hve desigted Sed ke o ctivtig thephoe d  coespodig ke ohgig p. Ad o c pogm theiphsicl kepds to ctio s speed-dilbttos, which is  ice pls.
Tat’s not entirely due to the aster down-load speeds o 4G networks. 4G phones arealso likely to have state-o-the-art proces-sors that can provide ast perormanceeven on 3G networks.Another plus to 4G: It allows you to talkand sur the Web at the same time on allour major carriers; only A& and -Mobileallow such multitasking on 3G networks.Contrary to popular belie, not all 4Gphones have notably short run times on acharge. Tough 4G phones rom Verizonand Sprint had lower scores or battery liethan the carriers’ 3G-only models, plentyo 4G phones rom A& and -Mobilescored very well in our battery tests.Many more 4G models will be out laterthis year, possibly at lower prices, andmore areas will have 4G coverage. And 4Gservice could be aster than it is now orA& and Sprint, which plan to shit romtheir current network technologies to LE,the high-speed technology used by Veri-zon. (-Mobile is on the HSPA network.)But i you use your phone mainly to talkand text, you won’t get the benets rom4G that a heavy data user will, so decidewhether you need it.Note, however, that the biggest datahogs who have grandathered unlimitedplans with A& and Verizon may see theirdata speeds clipped in months when theirusage is high, in a controversial practiceknown as data-throttling.
Displays o 4 inches or largerare becoming more common, as are high-resolution screens that look better thanever, with bright, vivid colors.
More phones than ever have8-megapixel cameras and such big-cameraeatures as ISO settings, tap to ocus, andace detection. wo rated phones, the HCEvo 3D and LG Trill 4G, can capture sub- jects in 3D. One eature still missing,though, is optical zoom.In addition to ofering more eatures,the best phone cameras have very goodphoto quality, with little or no graininess,decent detail and color rendition, and ashort shutter lag. And even run-o-the-mill phone cameras ofer photos that aretypically good enough or casual use.A growing number o phones can shootHD video at 1080p (so-called ull high-denition) resolution, the best o themwith video quality approaching that o thebest pocket camcorders we’ve tested. (Buteven smart phones with better camerasand pocket camcorders can’t match ull-sized HD camcorders or image quality.)
FIRSt lookS
H nw phn
HtC Vivid
$200 (AT&T) 
Samsung Gaaxy S II Syrce
$250 (AT&T)
These phoes, which e the st to  oAT&T’s ewl pgded 4G (LTE) etwok,hve 4.5-ich displs (high-esoltio, ithe cse o the Vivid);  8-megpixel cmecpble o ecodig video t 1080p; d ot-cig cme o video cht. The o the Adoid Gigebed opetigsstem d hve dl-coe pocessos.
Samsung Gaaxy Nexus
This 4G (LTE) phoe, o which  pice ws’tet vilble t pess time, pomises to be godbeke i sevel ws. Its specs listthe lgest scee (4.65 iches) d thehighest scee esoltio (1280 x 720) we’veeve see i  phoe.It’s lso the st phoe to  o IceCem Sdwich, the ltest vesio o theAdoid opetig sstem. The pdtepomises  ewl desiged se itece, st bowse, d  ew implemettioo Gmil tht lets o sech thoghmessges eve whe o’e ofie. A ewpp clled People will spposedl let obowse high-es photos d pdtes omGoogle+. A Fce Ulock ete will secil ecogitio to lock the phoe.Othe Glx Nexs etes iclde dl-coe pocesso d 5-megpixel cmetht c ecod video i 1080p,  ot-cigcme o video chts,  compss,  go,d  bomete.
Mra Drid Razr
The Rz is  4G (LTE) phoe tht etes 4.3-ich high-esoltio displ, Hee e o st impessios o sevel sigict ew smt phoestht ived too lte to be iclded i o Rtigs.8-megpixel cme tht ecods video to1080p,  ot-cig cme o video cht,d  dl-coe pocesso. Less th thid-o--ich thick, the Rz is oe o thethiest 4G phoes o the mket. It lsopomises toghess, with  “splsh-esistt” cse mde om Kevl be.This Doid is lso billed s oe o the stphoes tht c dowlod HD video omNetix d tht comes ed to wok withMotoCst, Motool’s ow pesol “clod”sevice. Tht pomises to eble o toshe phoe cotet s well s scdocmets d cleds with o PCs.Ad like the Motool Doid Bioic dAtix, the Doid Rz hs  optiol lptopttchmet ($300).
28-33 CELL PHONES Intro 01-12.indd 3011/10/11 8:41:16 PM

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