Cell phone service around Chicago

Discussion in 'Product Recommendations/Reviews' started by pyrotoaster, Dec 31, 2003.

  1. macrumors 65816

    pyrotoaster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2002
    Location:
    Oak Park, IL
    #1
    It's hard to figure out which phones are good and which service is good. Where I live (Chicago's suburbs), everyone has mediocre service, some worse than others. I've heard a few explanations for this, but their all fairly stupid. Service has slowly gotten better, but that's not saying much.

    I'm shopping around for a new phone because my current AT&T service is terrible. Not just is it bad service, but I have a bad Nokia phone (Nokia used to make solid reliable phones, now they fall apart and break all too easily), and I'm being ripped-off with an overpriced regional plan.

    We've got AT&T, NEXTEL, Cingular, TMobile, and Sprint stores in the area, and I've visited TMobile and Sprint (though what I've read about the T616 makes me want to visit Cingular before I buy). Sprint does seem to have better service across the nation, but I'm still leaning towards TMobile (because I like the Sony phones).

    Anyone (in the Chicago area) have any experience with TMobile, Sprint, or Cingular? I don't want to get stuck with a company - and phone - that I hate for the next year.

    Thanks.
     
  2. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2003
    Location:
    PA
    #2
    Just got the February 2004 Consumer Reports in the mail today. One of thier features is on cell phones. In Chicago, they ranked Verizon #1, followed by Nextel, Cingular, T-Mobile, AT&T, and finally Sprint. They also have a review of several popular phones used by each carrier.
     
  3. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2003
    Location:
    Chicago
    #3
    I live in Chicago and have had Sprint PCS service for about 4 years. I like it. However, I am not a heavy cell phone user, and when I do use my cell phone I am usually travelling around the country. So, my concerns are price and nationwide coverage -- not really concerned with getting the most minutes or other features.
     
  4. macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago (by way of SF)
    #4
    I've had Sprint here for about two years. The service is fine -- far better than AT&T. I have a Samsung phone, pretty standard stuff, but it is very good. I'd check out Verizon, as well.
     
  5. macrumors 604

    iShater

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2002
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    #5
    I have been using SprintPCS for almost 5 years. I love the nationwide coverage, everywhere you go you get the same service.

    The coverage hasn't beeen bad, but my Samsung A400 phone suxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.

    I need a new phone. :mad:
     
  6. macrumors regular

    Joined:
    May 6, 2003
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #6
    VZW

    My mom had Cingular when she first moved to Chicago. The coverage near her home was so bad (near north side) that she had to switch. Now she has Verizon Wireless (which I also have in DC) and it works very well apparently. My experience with Verizon has also been very good all over the country.

    Happy Cell hunting!
     
  7. macrumors 604

    iShater

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2002
    Location:
    Chicagoland
    #7
    The part that bugged me about Sprint PCS was that right after their upgraded their network to 3G, all the old non-Vision phones started dropping calls. Almost sounds like a class action law suite, you have to buy a new phone to keep using our service, even under contract. hhhmmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff.
     
  8. macrumors 601

    zimv20

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2002
    Location:
    chicago
    #8
    i've been using t-mobile for a couple years. service has been available and reliable in a number of areas, including north side of chicago (where i live), new york city, LA (a little spotty, not bad).

    in fact, i've had no trouble anywhere in chicago, and there's reception along major highways in/out of the city.

    the only issue has been that they can't stop sending me these ****ing hockey scores the idiot who had the number before me signed up for.
     
  9. macrumors 6502a

    Phatpat

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2003
    Location:
    Washington DC
    #9
    I've got cingular in evanston and it works great, full reception most of the time. Customer service isn't too hot though, so if you find yourself using customer service regularly, you might want to try something else.
     
  10. macrumors 6502

    macrlz9

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2003
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    #10
    i live in the southwest suburubs and in my area by far the best is nextel and that's what i use and love it, just upgraded to the i730 phone, it rox
     
  11. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2002
    Location:
    Chicago
    #11
    I had Tmobile for about a year and it was all right. Now I have cingular and it's worked great the past few months for me.
     
  12. macrumors 68020

    Rod Rod

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2003
    Location:
    Las Vegas, NV
    #12
    verizon has the best service and the worst phones.. well the phones aren't bad, but they're collectively not the latest and greatest compared to the other providers.

    I'm happy with my v60. I have yet to buy the USB data cable to iSync my phone book with my Mac though. verizon doesn't currently offer any Bluetooth phones.

    reception on my street at in my house used to be terrible but lately it's very solid, full bars and all. they're apparently improving the network.

    I have 300 peak + 3000 off peak, with no roaming or long distance charges nationwide, for about $35. that deal might not be available to new subscribers though. I've only had trouble with signal in parts of Michigan. verizon there used to have a different type of network but I think they're changing over gradually to match everywhere else.
     
  13. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2002
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #13
    Are any of these phone carriers better today? I have T-Mobile, which I get great reception with, but my contract expires in 3 weeks. I need to get a new phone because my current phone, nokia 3650, is huge. Because I like the phones with lots of features, I'd need to either buy a new phone from T-Mobile (about $175-250) or switch to Cingular and get a new phone for cheap. Which Chicago neighborhoods are good and bad with Cingular?

    Thanks,
     
  14. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2003
    Location:
    Chicago
    #14
    I just switched to T-Mobile from Sprint (too many dropped calls), and they gave me a free Motorola V300 when I ordered on-line. So far so good.

    I just look at the T-Mobile site, and you can get a bunch of different free phones, but it is unclear if you have to be a new customer or if you just have to sign up for a new plan with a 1-year service agreement. If you want to stick with T-Mobile, maybe you can call them and try to swing a free phone for renewing your contract.
     
  15. macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2004
    Location:
    Can you say Chi-City??
    #15
    I use Cingular and I used to ***** hate it. Then I figured it was probably the free phone I was using. BAM! $250 later, I have awesome service (in La Grange + surrounding areas). But don't worry, if you sign a new contract, the phone won't cost you that much. That's my plug for Cingular.
     
  16. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #16
    I have no idea whatsoever which service works best for you.

    However, I would likely shove knitting needles into my brain before using AT&T/Cingular (they've merged) for my personal phone based on their customer service alone.

    I get a phone provided for me by work. AT&T/Cingular has the best reception where I live, so I opted for them over T-Mobile, with whom I've been very happy (personal cells) for several years, namely because I'm on lots of conference calls when I work at home and need better reception (my reception is fine pretty much everywhere except my home office).

    My first phone from AT&T , received two weeks ago, arrived coded with someone else's number. As in: a current AT&T customer, paid up, already had the number. Instead of just giving me a new number, they offered him a deal and got him to switch to a new number. So, I had his old one. After about a day, my phone randomly stopped connecting to the network and told me it had been rejected. After two hour+ calls to AT&T - on top of the 80-minute call I made to correct the phone number issue - they shipped me a new phone. Same problem. Then they shipped me a new SIM card (used in GSM phones). Same problem. Then they had me use yet another SIM card in yet another phone. Same problem. They insisted it wasn't their problem. I went through work and was conference-called in with an AT& rep and a rep from my work. They still insisted it wasn't their problem but was a problem with the phone. The same problem on three different phones and three different SIM cards. Idiots.

    We ended up canceling the service with them. If your phone works, you're golden. Coverage is apparently pretty good nationally (but not nearly as good as Verizon's). But their customer service - and I feel like I can say this after a total of eight hour+ calls over two weeks - is utterly inept.
     
  17. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #17
    BTW, check out Amazon for deals - they're offering rebates above and beyond the ones offered by the service providers.
     
  18. macrumors 65816

    Elan0204

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2002
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #18
    I absolutely love T-Mobile. Coming from AT&T myself, T-Mobile was like a god send. Have you ever dealt with AT&T Customer Service? If you have, you will now that in their case it is more like a "customer disservice." Long hold times, only to get a rep who knows nothing. Problems often go unresolved, and you just end up paying whatever errors showed up on your bill because it is just too much trobule to get it fixed. T-Mobile, on the other hand, has the best customer service I think I have ever dealt with. 99% of the time there is zero hold time, and the rest of time you wait less than a minute. The reps are all very kind, and most are pretty knowledgable. But, at least if you get a bad one, you didn't just waste an hour or more on hold. T-Mobiles coverage has been good for me, I certainly wouldn't complain if there were more towers and stronger signals, but the call quality is excellent.

    With any cellular company, you always get the best deals on phones if you are new subscriber. After your initial phone, it tends to be pretty hard to get a good price on anything but the worst phones.

    edit: Looks like jsw beat me to the AT&T sucks rant. But, it goes to show you just how terrible AT&T is. And, yes, if you are signing up a new line of service, Amazon.com often has incredible deals on new phones (all after mail-in rebates, of course).
     
  19. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #19
    Amen.

    After a total of 5 customer-years of T-mobile service (one phone - mine- three years, a second - my wife's - two years), I think I've spent 20 minutes on the phone with them.

    Plus, I can use as much internet access as I like for one fee. I can use my phone as a BT modem at no extra charge. I think AT&T's mLife sucks. T-Mobile's plans are great.

    BTW, you can always cancel your service after the contract is up, then get a new one with the same company for a better phone deal. They don't like it, but they'll do it. All you lose is a phone number, which doesn't matter to me. Amazon's deal on the Nokia 6600 through T-Mobile looks unbeatable to me.
     
  20. macrumors 65816

    Elan0204

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2002
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #20
    That's right. I don't use data services myself, but I have read that T-Mobile has by far the cheapest data services of any cellular company. If you like text messaging a lot, or are into Wireless Internet Service, I strongly suggest you check out T-Mobile's plans.

    As for cancelling your service and signing up again, be careful when you do this. If you want to sign up again under the same name, you may need to wait 90 days before you can get a new activation. Check with your current carrier before you try this to find out their specific policies.
     
  21. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #21
    FWIW, T-Mobile let me do this with two new lines last year. I added the new numbers, then cancelled the ones with expired contracts, in that order.
     
  22. macrumors 65816

    Elan0204

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2002
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    #22
    Following that method would work. I thought you meant cancelling all your lines (and thereby closing your account) first and then starting over. As long as your credit rating allows you to have that many lines at one, you will have no problem following jsw suggestion. Remember, you will lose your number this way, though.
     
  23. macrumors 6502a

    crazytom

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2002
    Location:
    IL
    #23
    You left out U.S. Cellular as an option...

    Even though I'm downstate, I have family in the Chicago burbs area. I've had good reception in that area and no problems with the company.
     
  24. macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    #24
    I can confirm U.S. cellular is the worst option in the Chicago area. In the suburbs it's not so bad, but in the actual city, it is the most pathetic thing I've ever seen. I thought it might be the phone, but 4-5 phones later, their service still sucks my... They also renamed the Sox Stadium U.S. Cellular field, which is a reason in and of itself to avoid their company.

    U.S. Cellular is garbage.

    I hear Verizon (aka T-Mobile) or Cingular are good, when my contract expires (SOON! YAY!) I will drop U.S. Cellular happily for one of them.
     
  25. jsw
    Moderator emeritus

    jsw

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2004
    Location:
    Andover, MA
    #25
    My parents live downstate (near Peoria) and have U.S. Cellular and like it. However, given their proven inability to make good technology decisions, I am left reasonably certain that U.S. Cellular is probably a bad bet. :)
     

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