Torn between sticking with AT&T and going back to Verizon

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Here’s the deal… I have been an AT&T customer for several years now. I switched from Verizon because I wanted to be able to easily swap phones for review purposes. I was able to do that because AT&T is a GSM carrier and all that you need is that little bitty SIM card. Just pop it into a GSM phone and presto, it’s your new phone. With Verizon, it’s not quite as simple. You would need to call customer service, give them the IMEI number on your phone so that they could switch your service to it…

AT&T has been working out for me pretty well over the past few years and I’ve loved the convenience of being able to just swap my SIM card between phones whenever the mood strikes. So why am I thinking of going to Verizon, a non-GSM carrier? Even though I like AT&T, I do have a few complaints with them.

1. Call audio quality isn’t always that great. Sometimes it’s actually pretty crappy.

2. No 3G in my little town.

Verizon is looking good to me right now for a few reasons.

1. Verizon is the carrier of choice for my day job and as an employee, I get a nice discount.
2. There are also Verizon signal repeaters installed at the various buildings that I work in.
3. We have EVDO (3G) coverage here.
4. I have a Verizon tower about 1 mile from my house.
5. Most of my friends and family members are Verizon customers, so I can talk to them for free.
6. From what I understand, switching phones can now be done through the web instead of having to call customer service.

Reasons why I might not want to switch back to Verizon.

1. I still have about 9 months left on my AT&T contract from when I re-upped for the original iPhone. That means if I do switch, I’d have to pay an early termination fee. When I checked last month, they quoted $175.
2. Verizon’s data plans are more expensive than AT&T’s.
3. Verizon’s selection of phones consists of mainly feature phones instead of smartphones.

So there you have it. What would you do in my position? Would you also be torn? Torn between two carriers…

26 thoughts on “Torn between sticking with AT&T and going back to Verizon”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. $175.00 ?? Ouch. I wouldn’t switch until you’re out of contract.
    FWIW, I’ve been very happy with Verizon service here in suburban Detroit. But, I have been jealous of all the cool phones available on AT&T.

  3. obscurestooge:

    Yes, I agree that the $175 penalty is an ouchy… Lack of cool phones is a big deterrent as well. I think my main draw to switching is EVDO.

  4. Supposedly the early term fee for AT&T is supposed to be pro-rated – so while $175 is your starting point, I think it might slowly drop.

    I struggle w/ the same situation you are in Julie. In Nebraska, there is no 3G – and while rumor has it that Omaha may get it – the Feb 08 rumored release date has come and long gone.

    Meanwhile Verizon has great service, great reception, pretty good phones, superfast EvDO, a company discount, and now, with the purchase of Alltel Wireless, they will have rural coverage (after the integration) where AT&T basically works along the interstate and not much else.

    Since AT&Ts only real advantage is the SIM card swap, if you can work out a deal on the early term fee, I’d suggest you go to Verizon – but then hit your local BestBuy, Sams etc and get a GO phone. They have an el-cheapo Motorola candybar phone that I actually just bought for my daughter for $13 at Sams. Comes w/ $10 of air time.

    Activate that – and buy airtime as needed for when you need to test a GSM phone. Then you have the best of both worlds – a good phone and plan for your main line – and still retain the ability to test new phones as they come along.

  5. I think it comes down to whether you want to optimize for your personal use/cost or for gadgeteer review purposes.

    For personal convenience switch to Verizon, they unquestionably have the best network. For lowest cost, switch to Sprint and roam on Verizon. For review purposes stick with ATT. They have the best phone selection, can use unlocked GSM handsets, and have the SIM-switch ease.

  6. Could these not be legitimate business expenses to you? Why not have both plans and write them both off on your taxes?

    If you want a non-business personal plan, too, that would be your choice. It should probably be with whatever carrier has the best coverage and prices in your area.

  7. AT&T is continuing to roll out 3G across the nation. Small Moscow Idaho got 3G about 2 months ago. Verizon Customer Service is absolutely the worst. Spending 2+ hours on the phone to resolve a bill is probably fast for them. Verizon audio quality is better, but dropped calls in this area are constant.

  8. I would say verizon since i know from experience that verizons call quality is much better and that is all that matters really. also you do pay more for better call quality but you should wail until your at&t contract until it runs out then switch to verizon but hey what do i know i live in the u.k

    [Edited at September 04, 2008 09:47:46 AM.]

  9. Julie: I had a chance to talk to Motorola engineers at dinner a couple of years ago. They said that for voice quality, nothing beats CDMA, which would mean Verizon. They use GSM because they are getting new phones every few weeks to try and the SIM swap makes it much easier.

    I trust my verizon service because I can receive calls in an elevator and never do the dreaded “hang on, i’m going into an elevator”.

  10. Mike:

    Yes, the termination fee will get smaller as time passes… I tried to weasel out of the fee altogether by calling customer service and telling them that I can’t use my AT&T phone in the office I work in as I don’t have a signal. This wasn’t a lie at the time I called. They wouldn’t budge though…

    I’ve considered going the GO phone route… have to keep thinking…


    Yeah, sometimes I just want a regular feature phone instead of a smart phone, just to keep the size super small and for ease of use.


    Yes, I could write off the monthly fees and do that now, but I’m trying to be a bit more minimalist these days with all the services I subscribe to.


    I always have to tell people that I’ll call them back as I am about to drive into a .25 mile black hole on my way home. It can be pretty annoying when that hole comes up quicker than expected and the call is dropped.

  11. I switched from VzW to ATT, and won’t go back. I like the conveniences you site, but VzW is too expensive. Period. Yes, their 3G network is built out more and is more stable than AT&T’s is proving to be with the iPhone 3G and its many problems (AT&T’s network clearly isn’t, and wasn’t, ready for the influx of new iPhone 3G subscribers it got…)

    At the end of the day, I think its going to come down to cost and not convenience. I think you’re likely going to switch based on the cost savings you’ve outlined, but you WILL miss the convenience of GSM/SIM telephony when you want to swap phones (SIM swap is instantaneous. VzW’s website solution will take a while to register the phone and allow you to call out…)

    Chris Spera

  12. I switch phones ALL the time on Verizon. It can be done online through their user portal.


    [Edited at September 05, 2008 06:51:36 AM.]

  13. Bill:

    Thanks for confirmation on that fact. Can you tell us how long it takes for the switch to become active? Is it instantaneous?

  14. Julie, I can’t comment too much on the choice of phones, as all I need is a (relatively) simple phone, hence my choice of the LG Chocolate slider. I do know that I prefer Verizon because:

    1) I felt AT&T didn’t treat me that well when I was a customer.
    2) Verizon’s call quality seems better, at least in my area.
    3) Though I’ve heard otherwise from friends, VZW’s customer service has been really great.
    4) Cost: a while back, I actually received (totally unsolicited) an offer from VZW for a cheaper phone plan than the one I was on. I switched to it and saved about $20 a month.

    Obviously your choice is going to be based on different criteria. I think the choice of phones may be more important to you, based on the reviews I’ve read. As such, AT&T may still be the better choice.

    OTOH, VZW claims they’ll have their network open to “any compatible device” in the not too distant future. Perhaps, if you can manage to wait it out, you’ll be able to switch networks but use the cool phones at that point?

  15. Hi Julie. A shot in the dark… I am over in Asia and the mobile plans are different here. I have no idea what the carriers there offer or what the rates are like or if you are okay with 2 mobile lines. Perhaps you could juggle with my idea to see if it can fit in anywhere. Do both carriers you mentioned have the pre-paid option? If they do and they are not expensive, you could stay on with AT&T but get a pre-paid Verizon for now. When your time with AT&T is up, sign up with Verizon, finish off the Verizon pre-paid and then get a pre-paid AT&T instead. From there on, the AT&T is just for test & review purposes and Verizon goes into your favorite phone or PDA that doesn’t get switched around that often. It will definitely cost more to maintain 2 mobile lines but it shouldn’t be as much as maintaining 2 contracted lines.

    PS. My idea is similar to Mike Roselius’s.

  16. Julie,
    The only problem I have with Verizon is the way they rip the functions out of a phone. The phone I have is 100% mp3 ready, but because Verizon changed the software, you have to hack it to get the mp3 working again. They are well known for removing features from phones, just so you use their pay services, that’s just wrong!

    Other than that, I love the coverage of Verizon. I spend a lot of time in place that everyone else turns their phones off, because they have no coverage, while I just keep on talking. There are a few place it won’t work, but in those locations, no one elses does either. (in a low spot between hills)

  17. Regardless of the phones, Verizon is known for having the best customer service in the industry, and their coverage is really great.

    When I moved to a different part of Virginia three years ago, I had to switch, because they offered no local numbers in my area. My old home was in a rural area, and the coverage there and anywhere I traveled was nothing short of remarkable. I just never dropped calls.

    Coverage wasn’t great in my house, but then they switched on a new tower in my area in it was just incredible.

    The only problem I had with them was back in 2004 when I was using the Kyocera 7135 smartphone. The Treo was new back then, and Verizon was trying to get people off minutes-only use and onto data plans. However, I was grandfathered and still had MOU and no data. Each month, I had to call and have about $4.00 taken off my bill, but that was the worst of it. I’d go back to them in a second.

    I don’t think I could ever become and AT&T customer, especially after hearing the whistleblower’s story about how AT&T was secretly sharing a LOT of private customer information with the government. I also really like the reliability of CDMA coverage.

    I’m with Sprint now, and I have a pretty good plan, since they have kept screwing up service-wise and giving me more minutes to make up for it. What I liked about Sprint initially was cheap (compared to Verizon) data plans, but I think everyone is pretty much the same on data prices now.

    Julie, when I was a Verizon customer from 2003-2005, I was able to easily swap phone ESNs from my account at Were you not able to do that? It’s not as easy as popping out a SIM card, but still really easy.

    [Edited at September 06, 2008 11:11:16 AM.]

  18. First off, I think a recent court decision made contract termination fees illegal, check your state’s Consumer Advocate/Protection Dept.

    Secondly, as a reviewer, you should have a cell account that you use for swapping phones. And, since this www site is represents a buisness (if not, it should be) enterprise, then the AT&T account is, since used exclusively for buisness, 100% tax deductible on Sch C or IRS 1098. Email me seperately for details.

    Third, without AT&T, you don’t have access to an iPhone.

    [Edited at September 06, 2008 12:17:54 PM.]

  19. The big advantage for Verizon is their superior coverage and 3G coverage, as stated. I was actually quite surprised at the cost difference for the AT&T data plan vs. the Verizon data plan and that was a small factor for me when I switched over to AT&T and the 3G iPhone.

    I’m not sure I’d say that Verizon doesn’t have many PDA or smart phones. The really big problem is that there’s no real source of unlocked specialty CDMA phones — you’re stuck with whatever Verizon has for sale in its B&M and internet stores.

    Verizon has been making some significant strides over the last two years to try to keep their phones more up to date. This is good because roughly two years ago their selection was absolutely horrible (though I love and miss my Motorole E815) in terms of functionality and features. Now they have a significant number of feature phones, they have the Blackberry Pearl, Blackberry Curve, some Treos, and usually a couple HTC Windows Mobile phones.

    The disadvantage of this approach is that Verizon’s strategy is a bit chaotic and as a result, they tend to cycle through certain phones very quickly (e.g. my HTC VX6800 didn’t even last half a year). Due to the rapid product cycles of certain models, they do a terrible job of making sure their Windows Mobile phones receive software patches and updates. My VX6800 never received any patches for a myriad of bugs while Sprint users received sporadic updates.

    I’m not sure your corporate discount will really bring the Verizon data plans closer in line to AT&T. I was paying over $20 a month more for my Verizon plan with company discount applied, so that was a pretty painful situation.

    The other CDMA drawback is international support but Verizon does offer certain phones that work abroad (or at least my company has access to Verizon Blackberries that work internationally).

    As others have stated, Verizon has a terrible habit of crippling phones with their own Verizon-specific OS that locks down and removes certain functionality so they can charge you to use their alternative. They generally don’t do that with the Blackberries or Windows phones so you’ll probably be pretty safe with a smart phone.

    Overall, I think Verizon still doesn’t quite get the smart phone market and they’re struggling to find ways to compete with AT&T and the iPhone. The HTC Touch is actually pretty nice but still falls short for me based on my in-store testing. If Verizon isn’t going to dedicate themselves to rolling out regular OS updates for their smart phones then I think they’re going to really suffer as Apple continues to add functionality to the iPhone.

  20. I was a Verizon subscriber (NYC) who switched to ATT to get a cool phone–at the time, the Blackberry Curve had just been released–and within 6 months I was back with VZ, willingly paying a hefty early cancellation fee and giving up my Curve to do so. The main reason? Call quality. As you rightly note above, Julie, ATT’s can be “pretty crappy,” even when your phone is showing a 5 bar signal. I remember my six months with ATT as one long bout of “Can you hear me now?” and hardly a day went by when I didn’t want to hurl my phone out a window. Mind you, I’m not complaining about lack of coverage here–I knew going in that GSM wasn’t going to match CDMA in that department. I’m talking about crappy call quality when the signal was supposedly great.

    Eight months after switching back to VZ, I’ve never regretted the decision.

    [Edited at September 09, 2008 06:42:15 AM.]

  21. Fred:

    I don’t use the iPhone all that often anyway. :o)

    I’ve decided that I will probably just hold off on any moves until my contract runs out next Spring.

  22. I have many phones through verizon and switch them out regularly depending on whats going on that day. Some days I may use 2 or 3 different phones.

    Out of curiosity with regards to your question I timed how long it took to switch out a phone online. It took less than 2 minutes to go to verizon, log in, change the esn and finish. It said wait 5 – 10 minutes to call *228 and program it, however it did it after about 2 minutes.

    Bottom line is it was under 5 minutes from start to making calls on the new phone and I didnt have to speak to anyone!

    It now does the same process when going from a smartphone to a regular phone and the other way around. It ask you which features like data, etc you would like and does it all via automation.

    Much improved over the “call customer service”

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