With a new iPhone or two on the near horizon and plenty of people ready to buy one, there are probably a few million people who are also thinking about switching mobile carriers. Last year, when the iPhone 5 was the newest kid on the block, I decided that I was through with AT&T and I switched to Verizon. Let's just say that I'm now wishing that I had stuck it out with Big Blue instead of jumping to Big Red. Here's my tale of woe, and I hope that it keeps you from making a similar mistake in the next few weeks.
My primary reason for switching last year was the incredibly slow and essentially unusable service that I received on AT&T's network when attending Colorado Rockies baseball games at Coors Field in downtown Denver. On certain occasions, it was apparent that AT&T was bringing in COWs (cells on wheels) to provide extra bandwidth for the crowds of 50,000 attending opening day or a special event. But for the most part, trying to use MLB At Bat in the ballpark was a futile effort as AT&T's network just didn't have the capacity.
So, I complained. For about two full baseball seasons, one of the first things I'd do at a game was to pull out my iPhone and use AT&T's app to send a network complaint. This seemed to be a fruitless effort, as by the end of the 2012 season, I had seen no improvements in service. That's when I decided to bail on AT&T.
I was out of the country when the iPhone 5 first hit, but when I got back, I checked the Early Termination Fee for saying "au revoir" to AT&T and balked at the US$120 or so I still owed on the contract. My initial iPhone 5 order was for the AT&T model... but then I went to my last baseball game of the season and got hit with incredibly slow service again. I canceled my order, and decided to take the hit and move over to Verizon.
When I got my Verizon iPhone 5, the first thing I noticed was that the service at my home was as crappy as it had been with AT&T -- I just live in a shadowed area with lousy service, I guess. But I stuck with it, having heard from others that Verizon's service in the Denver area was awesome. Yeah, right.
Apparently AT&T had acted on my complaints over the winter of 2012-2013, since when we went to the first Rockies game of the season, my wife -- who had stayed with AT&T -- was amazed with the speed of the service at the ballpark. I figured it was just another COW helping things out and that she'd be griping about the service at the next game. Nope, the service was speedy and reliable for the entire season. Apparently AT&T's nationwide investment in 4G LTE had finally reached downtown Denver and really made a difference.
How was my VZW service at the ballpark? Horrible. Oh, on occasion when the Rox weren't pulling in a crowd and the ballpark was relatively uncrowded, I'd be able to get highlights from another game on MLB At Bat, but for the most part, the 4G service was incredibly slow.
Regardless of where I seemed to be with the Verizon iPhone 5 over the past year, my wife almost always had better service on AT&T. The kicker was a trip around Colorado we took over the Labor Day weekend. I'd be looking at one bar and "1x" on my Verizon iPhone, while my spouse was happily pulling down maps and information with four to five bars of signal strength on 4G on AT&T. This happened all over the state, from the beautiful Mesa Verde National Park to the high-country town of Ouray.
The moral of the story? If you're unhappy with the service and coverage you're getting from your current mobile carrier, think long and hard before switching, as you may be going from bad to worse. Of course, you might not have the same experience I did, and you might have much better Verizon coverage in your part of the world than AT&T does.
I don't want to pay another Early Termination Fee to Verizon to switch back to AT&T; perhaps some kindly AT&T rep will read my story and offer to refund last year's ETF if I return to the fold. Please?
*Verizon is currently in the process of acquiring AOL, Engadget's parent company. However, Engadget maintains full editorial control, and Verizon will have to pry it from our cold, dead hands.