By Russ and Tiña De Maris
For our readers, staying in touch is a major priority. We surveyed readers back in August, asking, “Which cell phone service do you use?” Before we get to the breakdown, here’s one interesting factoid: NOBODY checked the option “None.” Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by that, but somehow, you’d think that among those 3,600-plus respondents, there’d be at least one so-called Luddite (person opposed to new technology).
In case you missed the results, a whopping 53 percent were Verizon users; 22 percent were AT&T customers; 15 percent said they used “other” carriers; 6 percent were with T-Mobile; Sprint pulled up the rear with 4 percent reporting use.
The comments readers left us indicated that some folks did indeed have cellular service from more than one carrier. We asked respondents who used more than one carrier to tell us the carrier they used most. Typical was this comment left by Ron: “I have not found one service that covered all areas. Verizon was best that I’ve tried so far, but did leave us without service for a week in [West Texas]. We will be retired (I am already) completely end of this year, so now have AT&T + Verizon + Verizon hotspot to cover everything. Would be nice to have cheap service, but need to be connected more than saving money.”
“Good coverage” was the watchword for many who commented. The more your travels take you through diverse areas of the country, the more you may find areas where your carrier of choice leaves you “high and dry” when it comes to a usable signal. Are you trip planning and concerned about your carrier? Are you shopping for a new carrier and wonder just which one will do the job? We found a great website that puts together coverage maps for four major carriers: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint. It’s on WhistleOut.com, and it’s easy to use.
Point your browser to the coverage map page and you’ll initially see a map showing the Lower 48 states. Below the map is a pull-down menu that lets you choose your carrier. Then you can toggle off or on your choice of 3G or 4G coverage, or both. Move around on the map and zoom in the area you want coverage information on. If the map detail is purple, there’s coverage as you’ve chosen. White showing? No coverage.
It’s wise to really zoom down close to ensure there’s coverage where you’ll need it. Even the difference of a city block or two (or countryside equivalent) can at times make a big difference. We’re including a coverage map for Quartzsite, Arizona, for Sprint coverage. The purple area shows coverage – if you’re out in the BLM Long Term areas south of town, you’re in the purple “covered” area. But get into one of the big RV parks in town? Suddenly, you’re “out of business.”
We know – we mistakenly took out a contract with the company with promises of great coverage in town. At the time, there were no coverage maps and we spent many, many hours on the phone with Sprint’s customer service people, who finally got so tired of us they let us out of our two-year contract at the end of the first month.
Beware, though, the map doesn’t differentiate between a “blow off your headphones” strong signal and the kind where you have to turn around in a circle and stand still. Still, it’s a great major jumping off point in seeing which carrier will fill your needs.