One of the compromises of our lifestyle is that we need to be connected at all times. We were extremely fortunate that right as we began this lifestyle, T-Mobile pushed the “unlimited” data plans back into the mobile market. We decided to get service with all three of the carriers as insurance for our connectivity. We’ve gone coast-to-coast and here’s our experience.
Our Devices And Situation
Two of our devices are Android and we use them with our VR headsets. We do not use those phones for any other purpose. They were purchased to be “internet hotspots”. We each have an iPhone as our primary devices. We then have an iPhone dedicated to Waze and an additional iPhone dedicated to our drone. Finally, we each have our own iPad.
We started with all eight devices on AT&T. When T-Mobile pushed out their new T-Mobile ONE plan it really pushed me into testing other carriers. I had tried both Verizon and T-Mobile years ago. At that time their service was not that great and I was dropping calls frequently. Things have changed!
I transferred two devices over to T-Mobile at first. I then made my primary phone on Verizon. I have unlimited plans with all three carriers now.
Summary Of Carriers
AT&T has always been my goto for coverage in rural areas, tiny roads in the middle of nowhere, and farm areas. I’ve always relied on them to give me “something” while the other carriers say “No Service”. I can tell that over the past few years market pressure has caused AT&T to clean up their customer service experience and improve their website. Even still, they always seem slow to respond to changes in the market, they seem to be the biggest ass holes about using their network, when you get throttled their network is absolutely unusable, and their response to the “unlimited” plans was TERRIBLE. They were slow to respond and their offering was poor.
Verizon has been touting the best LTE coverage map for years. The last time I tried them I had a fairly poor experience with dropped calls but they have spent billions of dollars on their network since then. They are typically the same or more expensive than AT&T. They responded quickly to T-Mobile’s unlimited offering with their own offering. Their offering was reasonable - but, more expensive.
T-Mobile has been making waves in the press lately with their “uncarrier” moves. They are making a real effort to be different and not treat their customers like crap. You still find the occasional story online about how they suck but my experience has been great. Apples-to-Apples my bill has been MUCH cheaper with them. Additionally, they are the only carrier that allows you to pay a little more for “unlimited LTE tethering”.
Service Across America - The Surprise
As we’ve crossed America I expected to need to shift between the carriers. T-Mobile has the best plan for us with an Unlimited LTE Tethering Option. We expected we would only be able to use T-Mobile near large cities. Wrong! It works everywhere now (mostly)!
I have to say - T-Mobile - you guys have really grown up. We have received equal signal or “better” signal with T-Mobile in all sorts of unlikely places. That’s not to say T-Mobile is better. There have been a few instances where AT&T and Verizon had service while T-Mobile was dark but it’s been rare. VERY rare. Based on this experience, after this year we will be switching all of our devices to T-Mobile. There isn’t enough of an advantage to AT&T or Verizon to warrant keeping them. T-Mobile is being really aggressive with their offerings right now and their service has been.. STELLAR.
Verizon and AT&T has been neck-and-neck in our experience. I don’t have bias towards either of them but I would likely keep Verizon over AT&T these days. After 17 years, AT&T’s response when I was removing six lines from them was meh, see ya. Their counter offer to the unlimited plans was poor and now we have real world coast-to-coast experience that proves to us that Verizon has caught them in coverage.
The big surprise for us as been T-Mobile. They have improved their network tremendously.
Service In Canada
We probably won’t travel to Canada or Mexico nearly as frequently as we will travel around the USA. Choosing a provider doesn’t factor in Canada. We were willing to pay “extra” or do what was necessary for the temporary time we were here. It turned out to be unnecessary. ALL three carriers have data, text, and minutes included while in Canada.
They all have about the same coverage here. They are piggy backing off contracts with local carriers. The BIG BIG HUGE difference is T-Mobile again. “UNLIMITED LTE DATA” in Canada also. Verizon has throttled me twice when my apps updated. As soon as the throttle kicks in - the service drops to NOTHING. Dead. Can’t even use data. AT&T has been fine but similar data concerns. They turn your data off after a little usage.
We have been able to rely on T-Mobile all over Canada for our data needs without any throttle or any worry. This company is really starting to stand out for us.