AT&T Wins When It Comes to Mobile Service Plans


NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Carolyn Blackburn maintains cell phone service for herself, two college-aged sons and her new husband through Sprint. The Newport Beach, Calif. resident pays $325 a month to provide service for five iPhones.

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"I could save money if we went to AT&T, but my credit is marred from a divorce three years ago," Blackburn told MainStreet. "That's why I haven't switched."

When Blackburn signed on with Sprint in 2003, she had no debt problems.

"I am locked in, because Sprint only knows me as having wonderful credit," she said. "My new husband has good credit but we are keeping our money separate."

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Blackburn and her family are among the many Americans who have found happiness with their mobile devices through Sprint.

However, overall satisfaction is highest among AT&T customers followed by Sprint and T-Mobile with Verizon Wireless sliding into 4th place, according to a 2014 J.D. Power U.S. Wireless Smart phone Satisfaction Study.

"AT&T has a higher percentage of its customer base owning iPhones which tend to generate higher satisfaction scores," said Kirk Parsons, telecom services analyst with J.D. Power & Associates. "All carriers have competitive pricing but typically T-Mobile has the lowest monthly cost."

The J.D. Power study also found that the iPhone has higher overall market share in the U.S. than Android does, and the average purchase price for a smart phone device is on the rise, increasing to $202 from $174 in 2011.

"More customers are paying full price to lease their service plan devices then previously when they were subsidized with a two year contract," Parsons told MainStreet.

But while the average purchase price for smart phone devices has increased, consumers are less likely to receive a discount.

"Carriers are offering less promotion incentive to buy service plans then in the past because they are moving to unsubsidized device plans where customers pay full price for their device," said Parsons.

About 35% of smartphone owners cite features as the primary reason for selecting their device.

When asked which features they would like on their next device, 36% said seamless voice control; 35% said built-in sensors that can gauge temperature, lighting, noise and moods to customize settings to the environment; and 28% said facial recognition and biometric security.

"To get ahead of the competition and satisfy customers, manufacturers must meet the expectations of customers, ensuring the features they want next are intuitive and rewarding," said Parsons. "Providing an easy-to-use, yet powerful operating system with the ability to customize applications to suit individual needs is essential to providing a high-quality and positive wireless experience."

Only 21% of smartphone owners cite price as the main reason they chose their particular device, and that's a 13% increase since 2011. The problem is that when consumers select a device based on price, they may not be making the best choice in terms of size and function.

"Selecting a device based on features and ease of use increases the likelihood they will be satisfied with that device," said Parsons.


--Written by Juliette Fairley for MainStreet

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