AT&T Vs. Sprint Vs. Verizon: Which Is The Best Carrier For iPhone 4S?

iPhone 4S

Apple’s new iPhone 4S will be available for pre-order shortly and for the first time in the US, users will have the option to choose from three carriers – AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

But before selecting a carrier there are number of parameters you need to consider such as pricing, network reliability, speed, ability to surf while you talk etc. So lets take a look at how the carriers stack up against one another.


PC Mag has created a nice comparison chart of the various voice and data service plan options that is being offered by the three carriers for iPhone 4S, which should make it a lot easier for you to make a decision.

The chart is broken down into different sections for voice plans, data plans and add-ons such as Mobile Hotspot feature.

AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offer three standard voice tiers (450 minutes, 900 minutes, and unlimited), PCMag has paired the voice plan with unlimited texting.

As you can see from the chart below, at $99 per month, Sprint offers the cheapest monthly data plan for 900 minutes, unlimited texting and unlimited data. It is also important to note that Sprint is the only one to offer unlimited data plans compared to AT&T and Verizon, who offer only 2GB of data.

Sprint charges $29.99 per month for the Mobile Hotspot add-on, which comes with unlimited 5GB of data, where as AT&T and Verizon offer the Mobile Hotspot feature for $19.99, but with only 2GB of data on top of the data plan. The Mobile Hotspot feature allows you to use your iPhone 4S to provide a Wi-Fi connection to up to five different devices. So Sprint’s unlimited data for Mobile Hotspot will be a lot more cost effective for heavy data users.

iPhone 4S Plan Comparison

Network Reliability:

According to the network reliability test by PC World in 2010, AT&T and Sprint were the top performers with 94% reliability, while Verizon scored a 92%.

However, one of the biggest complaints from AT&T’s iPhone users is poor network coverage resulting in dropped calls, whereas Verizon is considered to have the largest 3G network of the three. So as Mashable points out, you’re more likely to get a 3G signal in the country side with Verizon than with AT&T.

Though Sprint has the smallest 3G network of the three, Sprint users can roam on Verizon’s network for free, which probably helped it score higher than Verizon in the network reliability test.

At the end of the data, network reliability depends a lot on your location, so find out if the carrier has coverage in your area of work and residence before selecting a carrier. It is also important to note that a lot of these tests were done way back in 2010 and lot may have changes since then as we know AT&T has been working hard to improve its network.


According to the 3G network wireless performance test by PC World in 2010, AT&T was the top performer, with download speeds 67% faster than its competitors.

In the tests, AT&T posted an average download speed of 1410 kbps, while Verizon posted an average download speed of 877 kbps and Sprint was the slowest posting an average download speed of 795 kbps.

Surf while you talk:

AT&T is the only carrier that allows users to surf while they’re speaking on the iPhone. Verizon and Sprint currently do not support this functionality.

Decision Time:

So which network should you pick? It depends on your priorities, Mashable sums it up very well:

  • If you care about speed the most, AT&T is your best choice.
  • If you care about simultaneous talking and web surfing, AT&T is your best choice as well
  • If you’re very price-conscious, Sprint is the way to go.
  • If you care about unlimited data, Sprint is the only one that offers a new plan.
  • If your concern is network reliability, you need to test the different networks in the areas you visit most.
  • If you travel a lot and want constant 3G access, Verizon is your best bet.

We hope you found this useful, don’t forget to drop us a line to tell us if you plan to buy or upgrade to iPhone 4S and also let us know, which network you picked along with your reasons as we’re sure it would be helpful for fellow readers.

[via PC Mag, Mashable]

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  • Badapples

    It should be noted that the Sprint hotspot feature is now capped at 5GB per month.

    • Thanks, we’ve updated the post to reflect the 5GB cap.

      • Baka

        Hi iPhonehacks,

        Care to do a comparison for carriers in Australia?

  • Hosegyver

    Moan all you want about AT&T. I still think it’s the best network for the iPhone. Nevermind that I’m grandfathered into a 69.99 unlimited calls and still have my unlimited data. The new 4S should also be faster on AT&T’s HSPA+ (thier 4G for now) than the other’s 3G. Being on AT&T tier 1 is nice. I’ll be able to upgrade to 4S in a few.

    • rayzr

      How do you feel about AT&T now?

  • Mark

    ok the 4s looks just like the iphone 4 right?….but witch version? the CDMA or the GSM version? i know the mute switch is a little different between the two

    i have the GSM version of the iphone 4 with a bumper case that apple made for it…will it fit the 4S or do i have to buy a new case for it

  • RelicS13

    AT&T was the original, u can never go wrong with original, besides i have the unlimited data plan lol

  • Michael

    No no no. Vzw does not have the largest 3G coverage. Maybe if your in a city. I travel all over this country and I’ll tell ya, AT&T has 3G just about everywhere. I never saw that with Vzw when I was with them. Facts not stats or sales pitches. AT&T is the best for any iPhone for the simple fact that it’s the home for iPhone. Vzw and now sprint wanted the iPhone to boost their sales and customer base. I don’t see AT&T begging for a phone to boost their sales or customer base. Come on.

    • VZW guy

      Actually Vzw has the best coverage… Look at the map coverage! AT&T tried to sue Verizon for the map coverage saying I was wrong, but funny story AT&T lost… Come to find out the 3G coverage Verizon was advertising was actually correct

      • Look at experience

        experience says AT&T is better

    • Chris

      well I am “that guy” who comments on stuff 3 months later but here is what is all wrong with your philosophy of why you should buy with At&t.
      For starters, I am NOT saying that At&t is a bad company, im just saying that in this particular scenario they do not outshine any of the other carriers. Im not sure if this site allows it but I am going to include a link to At&t’s 3G coverage map. ( ). This map is by no means outstanding. And you say that that At&t is the best because, and I quote, “for the simple fact that it’s the home for iPhone”. This is a ludicrous reason under any circumstances. That is like me always buying a windows computer for the simple fact of them being first to market with the PC. I would NEVER look into say a mac or lunix even though those are just as fit to run my computer as windows. That is having a closed mind and sir, At&t has you exactly where they want you. My next issue with your comment, and I quote again, “Vzw and now sprint wanted the iPhone to boost their sales and customer base”. First improper grammar. It should be want. Next item. You say they now want them. Keyword here: NOW. Incorrect. Verizon reportedly actually turned down the iPhone due to Apple’s rough demands to be the sole carrier of the iPhone. In essence here cingular, and then At&t had to BEG to keep the iPhone exclusive to themselves through them complying to Apple’s every whim. Is it true that Verizon and Sprint benefit by carrying the iPhone? Hell yes. But is it the result of them begging or the result of Apple more willing to strike a deal so that they also have a larger market against their rival Android? Android was available on every carrier and the iPhone wasn’t. Apple was loosing valuable time against competing OSs and they needed more customers, and they needed them fast.
      Now that we have discussed the motivator behind Apple’s move, let’s get down to the real nitty gritty. Warning: I am biased. I am. But I am not blindly biased. I have formed my opinions on facts and not based on the “home for iPhone”. I choose Sprint. Yeah, I said it. Why would you ever do that???? Well for simple reasons. Let’s answer the question with questions.
      Q: Isn’t the iPhone expensive monthly?
      A: It doesn’t have to be 110+ a month. And it also doesn’t have to be $80 while having a 200MB data cap. It can be ONLY $80 with unlimited data, text, and pretty much minutes.
      Q: Doesn’t Sprint have HORRIBLE customer service?
      A: No. They have gotten MUCH better. They value you as a customer and will do anything to keep you one. They have, and it is marked by JD Power and Associates been the most improved in customer service for the past 2 years. They now outrank At&t in customer satisfaction and customer service.
      A: Where Sprint doesn’t have coverage, Verizon does. In this case Sprint roams. FOR FREE. And with Sprint’s new network vision, they will soon be turing single towers such as a single wimax, a single cdma, or a single iden (push to talk) into a tower with all three built in. In essence we will have up to 3x the normal coverage in select areas. In most others we will have 2x.
      So my good Michael, please go and learn why you love At&t rather then just elevating them with the sole reason of them being original. Verizon and Sprint didn’t beg, Apple got reasonable. And most importantly, please don’t follow the crowd on important decisions like a wireless carrier. Obviously I can’t talk about a wireless carrier in your specific area, but chances are all 3 are very good. I hope that in the future you will be more of an informed consumer.

      • gwen girl

        You are informed Sir, and I acknowledge and appreciate it!

  • Cody

    Also keep in mind on Sprints network if you roam on Verizon’s towers to much, Sprint will cut your service off and send you a letter saying you need to switch to Verizon since you the customer use Verizon’s towers more.

  • Duke

    ATT’s website is getting slammed

  • orderingsucks

    really they cannot process this shit

  • ybt

    Yeah Im in the middle with ATT.

  • Doxi

    I haven’t heard any positive comments about the iPhone on the Verizon network from people… My plan is with them and I’m scared to order it without some good feedback. I just have an old flip style right now. Does anyone have any experience with it on Verizon?

    • Al

      I have the iphone with Verizon and it’s completely awesome. In fact I have 3g coverage anywhere I go unlike my fellow At&t counterparts who are very limited with their 3g coverage (there’s a map for that!). However, I’m grandfathered in the unlimited data with Verizon but you being a new smartphone user will be getting ripped off with a tiered plan. I suggest you go with Sprint who still offers the unlimited data plan and you still will be able to use Verizon’s 3g network when sprint does not have one where ever you may be at the time. Do go with At&t, i had the iphone with them for a month and had to cancel because i was always dropping calls!

      • Al

        I meant to say at the end “Do NOT go with At&t”

        • rayzr

          AT&T dropped call customer #1. Calls dropped while on phone with AT&T to cancel lol.

  • Chaz

    Doxi, I had the iPhone unlocked on t-mobile network and it was good (was with t-mobile 8 years) but then I switched to verizon for the iPhone. I must say Verizon service is great and I have not had a single dropped call. Yes, Verizon is more expensive than t-mobile but there are no complaints on my end with Verizon. Don’t think I will be leaving Verizon anytime soon.

  • fas

    T-Mobile might be the best carrier! When is it getting the iPhone?

    • Anonymouse

      Dear, tmobile isnt getting iPhone! 🙁

    • myles Harold

      Umm sir your a little off T-mobile is the worst carrier and they cannot afford the iphone rmobile has been the worst of the 4 carriers for a long time they suck

  • Paul

    i go to the bears game and can’t check my fantasy scores on my ATT iphone, while person sitting next to me with Verizon iphone can do so without any issues
    im driving with my wife to Minnesota, she has a verizon blackberry that works the whole way there, my ATT iphone craps out midway, and gets barely any service upon arrival

    i’m at a bar in the basement section, no service, while another person with verizon iphone is fine

    Yeah, i’m switching to verizon

    • Key

      little trick to fix that when in a crowded place – go into your settings and turn your 3g off. sucks to be back on the Edge network but it works

  • Doxi

    Thank you everyone who gave me feedback!! 🙂

  • John

    Its all about AT&T! (stuck in 2yr contract)

  • Mr. Know-it-all

    ATT is the best way to go period. You dont get an iPhone so you can be a little slower (the article says ATT fastest when tested). Plus the network (GSM) can handle data while youre on the phone. This may seem like a small thing to some but when you use the phone, you will find this is used more often then you might have thought! And to top it all off, its cheaper than Verizon! So you get the fastest network, very good coverage for the second best price. You want the cheapest service, get a droid or something like that. iPhone customers are not bottom feeders. We like the best … right now, ATT offers the best package for said iPhone! Amen.

  • Ron

    Is there anyone recommending Sprint? I have used Sprint with good coverage & great service for 6 years. Something about the “all unlimited” makes it easier with Sprint for the iPhone, since you won’t have to be monitoring or guessing as to data usage.

    Any comments or suggestions re: Sprint?

  • Leroy

    “You want the cheapest service, get a droid or something like that. iPhone customers are not bottom feeders..”

    Yet you are a deluded elitist suckered.

  • rayzr

    I am a previous iPhone4 AT&T customer (2+ yrs) and adopted a new Droid on the Sprint “Unlimited” 4G network. I decided to ditch the iPhone due to it’s inability to support a 4G network, and AT&T because well.. it’s AT&T, need I say more?

    I got frustrated with the dropped calls, and constant threats from AT&T in text message format that essentially I would need to upgrade my plan to support data transfers reaching over 2gb.

    The Samsung Galaxy S II Epic is an android phone, and it’s a nightmare.
    Plug in the USB to sync and what happens? device drivers not found.
    Download the drivers from the manufacturers website and install. Doesn’t work.

    Call Sprint to discuss my new Unlimited Data (Everything) plan ($90/month).
    Customer service’s response “You will need to upgrade to Wi-Fi Hotspot for $30”

    Ok so to get something I should have already is going to be $120?
    Plus my device is buggy as well and won’t sync due to faulty drivers?

    Really? Am I in hell or just.. is anyone else getting this? How does this even HAPPEN?

    • Jami

      I need help and hope to God that someone reads this. First, I’m not a tech person. Just a grandmother looking for direction. I’ve had AT&T for years. It is a business plan with 7 cell phones on it. I can’t get internet where I live. Not so much that I live in a rural area (I’m 15 min from State Capital) but I live on the back of 40 acreas of woods. So I find out about AT&T hotspot and I give up my unlimited minutes for it. (Their requirement). I upgraded which allows me 5g however I go over the amount every month which then means I pay $10 for every G. Last night I went to Sprint because of the unlimited data. They said that I had to buy a new Iphone 4 because the way the phones are configured are different. Also, could not keep my number because it was a “business plan”. I figured it would still be cheaper to have the unlimted with a new phone to use strickly for the home computer and also keep my AT&T phone. However, when I got home and started to use the new sprint phone, downloading on the internet took twice as long as it did for my AT&T hotspot. Is this normal? I have 14 days to take my sprint phone back and cancel contract. PLease reply. Thanks. Jami

      • Hey Jami,

        It depends on the coverage in your area.

        Based on various speed tests, Sprint is considered the slowest among the three carriers (AT&T, Verizon and Sprint). However, as mentioned earlier it also depends on the coverage in your area and depends on your priorities as we’ve mentioned in this post.

        You can check out this post, which provides 3G cellular data speed comparison across the three carriers:

      • gwen girl

        You might solve all your problems by purchasing a cell phone antenna/amplifier.

        If you are in an area that is say 3 bar coverage for Sprint, a cell phone antenna/amplifier like the Zboost, can take you up to the 5 bars. Because 3g runs off the same tower that your cell signal does, 3 bars is fine for a phone call, but really slow for streaming data.

        I would check the coverage map and also see if you have 4g coverage in your area. Although iphone does not work on 4g, many Android devices do, and they typically have better internal antennas in them. Also the speed from 3g to 4g is much faster, even with less signal strength.

        Look to 3g becoming antiquated in the future, or more for the most basic of internet tasks. I see it becoming like dial up used to be. Just not able to keep up with the demands of mobile users.

        I hope that helps. Keep in mind that whatever you do, with the contract you are locked in for two years, so act fast while you still have time in your 14 day return period.

        I do believe Sprint provides the best value in wireless, and in the coming months, you will see the LTE network dominate for Sprint.

    • gwen girl

      I own the same phone, and I love it. Sounds like you have a defective model. With or without insurance, you are covered under Samsung’s 1 year warranty. Visit and check your options. I have had good experiences with Samsung, and in fact I bought the surround sound, home theater and HD TV from them too! Love them all!

  • gwen girl

    I really appreciate how NO ONE gets all the facts straight about the Sprint plans. The 69.99 data plan with 450 minutes…..Well those are for landlines, Mon-Fri 7am -7pm. Nights, weekends and mobile minutes are all unlimited. So with a $10.00 data surcharge, you are looking at 79.99 a month, with unlimited data, that never slows down. I also want to point out that the iphone may be the top seller, but it’s not a top performer in many areas. In fact, I’d estimate that about 30% of Android users that switch to Iphone, return the phone within the first two weeks and go back to Android. It’s hard to give up the Android options and apps, which in most cases are free.

    Not all Android phones are equal though. Some of the less expensive models just end up killing the brand’s rep.

    Just one wireless consultant’s opinion…….. BTW, I chose Sprint as a customer before I chose them as an employer. I’m looking at BIG things to come by the end of 2013 for SPRINT. In fact, I am putting my money on it!