If you are unhappy with your cell-phone service, you're not alone. In Consumer Reports' annual cell-phone survey of 50,000 subscribers only about half of the respondents were highly satisfied. The survey was conducted in 26 cities: Atlanta; Boston; Charlotte, NC; Chicago; Cleveland; Columbus, OH; Dallas-Ft. Worth; Denver; Detroit; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, FL; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; Minneapolis-St. Paul; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; Seattle; St. Louis; Tampa; Washington, D.C.
AT&T ranked at the bottom for customer satisfaction, along with Sprint. AT&T got the lowest rating for connectivity. That's how well people could make calls without getting static or having their calls dropped. AT&T's network is apparently being overtaxed by the iPhone's incredible popularity.
Overall, the top complaint was price. Many respondents may have seen their bills rise because they're probably using their phone more, and in different ways. Take texting. Almost 70 percent said they now send and receive text messages. And about 40 percent said they access the Internet over their phone. While texters didn't have too many problems, more than a third of surfers complained about slow Web access.
Verizon Wireless was a top performer in most cities. Verizon rated above average for everything Consumer Reports measured, including connectivity and customer support. But you can pay premium prices for Verizon, and that turned out to be the biggest survey complaint about the carrier.
For a less expensive cell service, Consumer Reports says that T-Mobile is worth considering. It rated second overall in the survey and is among the least expensive carriers for Web access and text messages.
If you are dissatisfied with your service, Consumer Reports says shop around. Online services like BillShrink, at www.billshrink.com, and Validas, at www.myvalidas.com, can help determine your cost under the major carriers' plans. And periodically check your current carrier's available plans to make sure you're not overpaying.