When the retina iPad with LTE came out I picked up the Verizon model, largely as means of determining whether it would be worthwhile ditching AT&T when it was time for my inevitable switch to this year’s iPhone. I’ve been with AT&T since 2007 and have generally been happy with the service (aside from the near-zero signal in my office at LucasArts). When it’s good it’s really good, and when it’s not I can usually live without it.
Over the past year though I’ve become increasingly cheesed off with various AT&T antics that are frustrating, or simply seem designed to wring more cash from customers. Delayed hotspot features on iPhone, lack of hotspot on iPad, removing messaging bundles, forcing plan changes to use Facetime over 3G etc etc. It just tastes bad.
So, since getting the LTE Verizon iPad I’ve been running 3G/LTE tests whenever I feel I’m in the type of environment that would usually result in the “full bars and no signal” behavior often seen on AT&T. Airports, hotels, downtown SF etc.
Here’s what I’ve found -
- LTE is so fast there isn’t likely to be a of difference between carriers when if you have reception. It’s doubtful you’d even notice a “poor” 8-10mbps connection compared to a good 20mbps one most of the time. (Side note: Verizon have by far the largest LTE network)
- With purely 3G, with equivalent signal strength AT&T seems to be 3x-4x faster due to their support of advanced 3G technology such as HSDPA.
- With 3G 3-4mbps on AT&T versus 0.9-1.5mbs on Verizon seems about average when running bandwidth tests
- Strangely AT&T doesn’t feel that much faster for webbing/facebooking. My guess would be HSDPA only comes into play for sustained transfers (like bandwidth tests..)
- Several times at airports (and prior to take off!) I’ve had the old “full bars and no data” with AT&T on my phone, while Verizon on my iPad has either been fine, or slow but working.
- Signal at my desk is better
Given all this, tonight I pre-ordered the iPhone 5 through Verizon – I figured that this was the best path to avoid anything going wrong with switching. Afterwards I heard from a friend that he’d had to pay the full phone price (as opposed to the “your-contract-is-not-up-let-full-price which is usually $200 more). Out of interest I went to Apple’s site and checked my eligibility, and sure enough if I had wanted to stay with AT&T I’d have had to pay $850, instead of $400 + $300(?) early termination fee to AT&T.
In fairness that rigorous adherence to annual renewal rates may not be exclusive to AT&T, but it is a good example of why I feel zero loyalty to them, even after five years of service.