A Consumer Reports survey released Dec. 6 named AT&T "the worst-rated cell-phone service carrier," based on responses from 58,000 ConsumerReports.org subscribers. That represents a significant dip for AT&T since the review firm's 2009 survey.
"We take this seriously, and we continually look for new ways to improve the customer service," an AT&T spokesperson told CNNMoney.com Dec. 6.
Consumer Reports also named AT&T's GoPhone the worst provider in the no-contract category, "receiving relatively low marks for value and voice service."
Among those surveyed, around half of AT&T subscribers owned an iPhone. "Consumer Reports data, reflecting all versions of the phone," read a Dec. 6 note from the review firm, "found that iPhone owners were much less satisfied with their carrier and rated data service (Web and e-mail) lower than owners of smart phones on other carriers that, like the iPhone, have a host of apps to encourage heavy data use."
The survey also found that 20 percent of respondents had received an "unexpectedly high cell-phone bill" in the previous year. "Half of those respondents were hit for at least $50, and one in five for more than $100," read Consumer Reports' note.
"Our survey suggests that an iPhone from Verizon Wireless, which is rumored, could indeed be good news for iPhone fans," Paul Reynolds, electronics editor for Consumer Reports, wrote in a Dec. 6 statement. Verizon Wireless and Sprint were tied neck-and-neck in the survey, with U.S. Cellular edging both out to take the top slot.
Consumer Reports famously became Apple's bane this summer, when it refused to endorse the iPhone 4 because of antenna issues. "When your finger or hand touches a spot on the phone's lower left side-an easy thing, especially for lefties-the signal can degrade enough to cause you to lose your connection altogether if you're in an area with weak signal," the firm's Mike Gikas blogged July 12.
Two weeks later, Apple launched a free bumper giveaway to anyone purchasing an iPhone 4 before October 2010. The bumpers covered the antenna rim, supposedly correcting the issue. Apple ended that program for all iPhone 4 units sold after Sept. 30.
Rumors suggest that AT&T will lose its excusive hold on the iPhone-most likely to Verizon-sometime in early 2011. In a Dec. 6 research note, Kaufman Bros. analyst Shaw Wu suggested that Verizon may be negotiating with Apple to prevent competitors Sprint and T-Mobile from obtaining their own iPhones.