Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

How the Carriers Will Pitch iPhone 5 Buyers (And What They Won’t Tell You)

The iPhone 5 is pretty much the same, regardless of which U.S. carrier you choose. But that doesn’t mean you will have the same experience.

If you ask Sprint, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, there really is one right choice. They just each think they are that right choice.

Here are each of their pitches — along with the downsides they won’t tell you about.


The pitch: We’re the only carrier with unlimited service. High marks in recent customer service surveys.

The unmentioned downsides: It has the smallest LTE network of the three carriers, with just 19 areas now. The company announced plans this week to deliver LTE in 100 more cities in the coming months, but didn’t offer a specific timeframe.


The pitch: You can talk and text at the same time. Largest network of 4G (if you count both HSPA+ and LTE areas). Data speeds are faster than on other networks when LTE isn’t available.

The unmentioned downsides: Verizon’s LTE network is significantly larger than AT&T’s. The company has been a lightning rod for service complaints, particularly in areas such as New York and San Francisco.


The pitch: The largest LTE network in the U.S. Strong reputation for call quality.

The unmentioned downsides: Speeds are slower when LTE isn’t available than on AT&T. Can’t talk and surf at the same time over cellular (though if you have Wi-Fi available, you can talk and surf simultaneously). New service requires customers to use one of its shared data plans.


The pitch: Well, we don’t have an iPhone, or LTE for that matter, but you can bring your own device. And our service is cheaper than the big three carriers.

The unmentioned downsides: You can’t buy an iPhone from T-Mobile. For now, not only doesn’t T-Mobile have LTE service, you can’t even use the iPhone at 3G speeds. It is working to change that and have iPhone-compatible 3G service in a number of cities by the end of the year.

And, if you want to be the first to get that new iPhone 5, it’s probably time to start making up your mind. Preorders from the carriers start at 12:01 am PT on Friday, with the first customers due to get their devices on Sept. 21.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik