10 Factors to Consider When Choosing the Right Wireless Carrier

NEWS ANALYSIS: Choosing the right wireless carrier is more complicated than it was a year ago. Consider these factors when picking your service provider.

Choosing a wireless carrier just a year ago wasn't all that difficult. In the United States, it meant deciding between Verizon and its massive network or AT&T and its steady collection of outstanding devices.

But then Apple changed everything when it delivered its iPhone to Sprint, and T-Mobile recently made it even more difficult by announcing new plans and pricing structures that are shaking up the entire industry.

Choosing a wireless carrier now is by no means simple. Some folks just stick with the company they've been with forever because, well, it's a pain to change. At the same time, many people don't realize that they can very easily port their numbers to other carrier networks. In other words, the barriers that kept customers closely tied to their providers in the past have come down. Now, whether a person is a new cell phone owner or is looking for a new carrier, the opportunities have never been greater.

But what makes a good carrier better than others? Being able to choose a new carrier is not the problem. Deciding what factors are important when making an informed decision is the real issue.

Here is what all wireless customers should be thinking about when they decide which carrier is right for them:

1. Which company has the best devices?

First things first: Which carrier has the best devices? Until T-Mobile's recent announcement, it certainly wasn't that company, since it wasn't offering the iPhone. However, the iPhone is coming to T-Mobile. The other carriers also have their own stellar selection of devices with each company claiming to have the deepest lineup. The truth, though, is that it's up to the customer to decide which is best.

2. How's the wireless coverage?

Much of the talk in the smartphone market is about data plans and their costs. But it's still important to determine which carrier has the best wireless coverage in your particular area. Where I live, for example, Verizon is simply the best. AT&T, however, doesn't work in certain areas. It's a huge issue.

3. And what about the 4G LTE rollouts?

The 4G LTE network rollouts are taking place at a torrid pace all across the United States. Right now, Verizon's network covers most U.S. residents, and AT&T is hot on its heels. T-Mobile just recently launched its network, but expects to cover 200 million people around the United States by year's end. All of that should be taken into account when choosing the right carrier.

4. Pricing, of course

Pricing is always a big concern for customers, and it should be. It's not necessarily easy to determine which company will offer the cheapest plan. Right now, it might just be T-Mobile. The company is eliminating subsidies and selling handsets at cheaper prices. Plus it's offering unlimited calling and texting with the customer's choice of data. T-Mobile is delivering great deals.

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger

Don Reisinger is a longtime freelance contributor to several technology and business publications. Over his career, Don has written about everything from geek-friendly gadgetry to issues of privacy...