Consumer Reports survey ranks cell services

LOS ANGELES Almost 60,000 of Consumer Reports subscribers weighed in on the service and the costs with the various cell phone companies.

Surprisingly, in this survey, some companies have improved, but one is still in the cellar.

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

"For years, Sprint has been one of lower-rated cell phone companies in our survey. But this year we saw a dramatic improvement," said Associate Director at Consumer Reports National Research Center

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

"My bill's great. It's cheap. It's small. Small bill, a lot of service," said Sprint customer Drew Williams.

But 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," said AT&T customer Dale Wilson. "There's times I get bills for $200."

If you're looking for 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," said 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, Consumer Reports says the phone will probably cost more. However, 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 e-mail. They're also good if you want a simple first phone for a "tween" or a teenager.

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