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The popularity of the cellphones and major cell phone providers in the us

Whether you're looking for Apple, Android, or even a simple feature phone, these are our top picks for a variety of budgets across the major US wireless carriers. The typical feature set of these palm-size marvels is astounding. It's your phone, your messaging device, your web browser, your camera, your music player, your GPS, and more.

Cell Phones in Africa: Communication Lifeline

We're a smartphone-dominated nation, with 4G LTE networks beating many home internet connections in terms of speed. We have more good wireless carrier options than we've had in years, thanks to vigorous competition between the four major carriers and smaller virtual carriers like Google Fi. But some of our choices have constricted a bit: The smartphone OS marketplace is basically down to Apple's iOS and Google's Android, and it's hard to find a really good simple voice phone nowadays. Rather than purely choosing the phones with the highest ratings here, we're trying to deliver a list of phones that's spread broadly across different price points.

  • In a few nations, such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, mobile banking is also relatively common;
  • Its LTE network is improving quickly, but it's still the worst-rated carrier by our readers because of several years of network troubles;
  • And for our Fastest Mobile Networks feature, we send drivers to 30 US cities to scope out which smartphone carriers have the best data coverage;
  • Men are also more likely to own a smartphone than women in four countries — Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Uganda.

That means including two of last year's phones, the LG G6 and the iPhone 7, as low-cost alternatives to this year's models. We think that provides a broader spectrum of buying options. But what should you be looking for when buying a cell phone?

Here are some key points to consider: Despite all the recent hardware and mobile software innovation, your wireless service provider remains your most important decision. No matter what device you buy, it's a doorstop unless you have solid wireless coverage. Maybe you have friends and family on the same carrier that you talk to for free, and you don't want that to change with your next phone. Maybe you're lusting after a certain device—say, an unlocked smartphone for international travel.

And of course, you want to choose a carrier that offers fair prices, and provides the best coverage in your area. These are all good reasons to put the carrier decision first.

We have two major features to help you choose a carrier. For our Readers' Choice AwardsPCMag readers tell us which carriers they prefer based on coverage, call quality, device selection, and other factors.

Pagination

And for our Fastest Mobile Networks feature, we send drivers to 30 US cities to scope out which smartphone carriers have the best data coverage. Because each of the national carriers sells a wide variety of phones, choosing your service provider should be your first move.

  • Right now, Android and iOS are the two top smartphone platforms, both in US sales and in the availability of third-party apps;
  • Sprint and T-Mobile offer considerable savings, especially on unlimited voice, data, and texting plans;
  • Sprint has had a rocky few years;
  • The second most popular activity is taking pictures or videos;
  • The phone, though incredibly expensive, became a pop culture symbol, showing up on everyone from Gordon Gekko in the movie Wall Street, to high school heartbreaker, Zack Morris, in Saved by the Bell.

Here's a quick rundown of what each one offers: After a few struggling years, its speeds really jumped up in our most recent tests, and they'll get even better as the company turns on more "5G evolution" markets throughout the year. Sprint has had a rocky few years. Its LTE network is improving quickly, but it's still the worst-rated carrier by our readers because of several years of network troubles. That said, if you're willing to bet on a rising star, Sprint has promotional service plans that can often be insanely cheap, especially if you're switching from another carrier.

It's now the best rated of the "big four" carriers by our readers in the Readers' Choice Awards. In our Fastest Mobile Networks tests, it was basically neck-and-neck with Verizon on speed and reliability.

New low-band spectrum has radically expanded the carrier's LTE network, so it can finally balance terrific speeds in cities with decent coverage in suburban areas. T-Mobile also has the best international roaming plan, including to Canada and Mexico. Verizon Wireless is famed for its top-notch network quality and good customer service. Its prices can be higher than the competition, but its combination of very reliable coverage and good speeds made Verizon our Fastest Mobile Networks winner this year.

US Cellular is only available in about half the country.

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It has a reputation for good customer service, but has been suffering recently in our surveys as readers have said its prices and LTE network quality don't match up to some of the alternatives. There is also a wild slew of virtual operators that use the big four networks, but offer lower monthly rates, cheaper international calls, or other benefits. They're usually better for lighter users and most don't have family plans. The winners of our Reader's Choice awards this year were both virtual carriers: Tracfone is another prominent virtual carrier, with spinoff brands like Straight Talk, Family Mobile, and Net10, all of which have their own plans.

As carriers have moved to increasingly more confusing service and pricing plans, the value of unlocked phones has been rising accordingly. Unlocked phones are bought from a third-party store or directly from the manufacturer, and aren't tied to any specific carrier. But some popular unlocked phones work on all four major carriers.

If you want the best flexibility, look for a recent Samsung, Apple, or Google Pixel flagship, or a Motorola phone. If you buy an unlocked phone, you'll be able to move it freely between compatible carriers.

  1. Cell Phones in Africa. They're easier to use, and they charge much lower monthly fees because data isn't involved.
  2. They're easier to use, and they charge much lower monthly fees because data isn't involved. The cell phones of today are also replacing our other gadgets, such as cameras and video cameras.
  3. The typical feature set of these palm-size marvels is astounding.
  4. They're also devices that tend to be easy on tired or older eyes.
  5. Eventually, cell phone manufacturers began to realize that they could integrate other technologies into their phone and expand its features. Sprint and T-Mobile offer considerable savings, especially on unlimited voice, data, and texting plans.

But even if you don't intend to ever change your carrier, unlocked phones are free of carrier bloatware and with Android phones often receive software and OS updates more quickly than the carrier versions do. What Is the Best Smartphone? As more people become accustomed to instant email, web, music, and messaging access at all times of the day, regardless of where they are, smartphones have become almost indispensable. That said, there's plenty of variety out there—not to mention devotees of specific OS platforms.

That makes sense, though; sometimes, a platform's user interface or app selection just speaks to you, and that's all there is to it. With that in mind, and at the risk of attracting flames, let's break it down as well as we can for those who aren't so fully vested.

There's actually less diversity in smartphone platforms and designs than there was a few years ago. Right now, Android and iOS are the two top smartphone platforms, both in US sales and in the availability of third-party apps. The iPhone has the best app store and the best media features.

  1. Strictly interested in Android? Even the keyboard is being taken away, replaced by a touch screen keyboard that only comes out when you need it.
  2. Head over to our Best Android Phones roundup.
  3. Phones are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, to fit various sizes of hands. Strictly interested in Android?

But Apple's tightly controlled ecosystem can feel stifling to some, and iOS isn't easy to customize or modify. There's far more variety among Android handsets, and its open-source nature makes it a tweaker's dream.

The Best Phones of 2018

But it also means fragmented third-party app compatibility, occasional bugs, carrier-installed bloatware you can't remove, and scattered, often sporadic OS updates. In terms of form factor, it's difficult to find a smartphone that isn't a solid black slab anymore. The only remaining, high-quality phone with a physical keyboard is the Blackberry Key2. It's a good device, and worth choosing if the physical keyboard is important to you, but fewer and fewer people seem to consider that a key feature with time.

Phones are available in a wide range of sizes and shapes, to fit various sizes of hands.

US carriers will now unlock your phone, thanks to law change

The iPhone SE is perfect if you're looking for a tiny, but powerful phone, although it's starting to show its age. Samsung's Galaxy S9, LG's G7, and the iPhone X are taller and narrower than most other phones, giving them big screens that are easy to hold in one hand. The Best Phablets The word phablet, a portmanteau of phone and tablet, has largely gone out of style as pretty much all new phones are big phones.

  • They're also devices that tend to be easy on tired or older eyes;
  • Samsung's Galaxy S9, LG's G7, and the iPhone X are taller and narrower than most other phones, giving them big screens that are easy to hold in one hand;
  • Though the phone may have functioned perfectly well, their opinion was partially driven by the perception that the phone was simply too small;
  • They're unlocked and compatible with all US carriers, and they use a fast, clean version of the Android OS;
  • Another point to consider:

Nowadays, it refers to the absolute biggest phones, generally with screens that are six inches diagonally or larger.

These are devices that take either very large hands, or two hands, to hold. They're also devices that tend to be easy on tired or older eyes. The size of a phablet's screen doesn't necessarily reflect the size of the device.

Motorola and LG low-cost phablets tend to be good choices for people who want phones with easier-to-read, larger-to-type-on screens. The Galaxy Note 9 and Google Pixel XL series, meanwhile, are for people looking for the absolute ultimate power in their phones.

The Best Feature Phones A good portion of the US population is still using simpler phones, but there are surprisingly few current choices out there. There are still reasons to get a simple, less-expensive device: They're easier to use, and they charge much lower monthly fees because data isn't involved. There are some killer deals for voice-only usage on virtual carriers like TracFone and Consumer Cellular. Unlike smartphones, feature phones are a matter of "what you see is what you get.

For voice quality, read our individual phone reviews. Wireless network coverage is always the biggest factor, but individual phones can vary in reception, earpiece quality, transmission quality through the microphone, and side-tone the echo of your own voice that helps prevent you from yelling at the other person.

A phone with middling to poor reception quality can be almost impossible to use in a marginal coverage area, while one with excellent reception can make the best of the little signal that's available. Another point to consider: Some phones have much louder speakerphones than others. For more, see our picks for The Best Simple Phones.

We're big fans of Motorola's low-end and midrange phones. They're unlocked and compatible with all US carriers, and they use a fast, clean version of the Android OS. Because of the current trade war between the US and China, the low-cost market has been hollowed out a bit recently.

For the moment, look primarily at lower-end Motorola and LG phones if you're trying to save money. Apple tends to program its operating systems so that once a model is about the popularity of the cellphones and major cell phone providers in the us years old, it can no longer handle some of the latest features. That means iPhone models older than the 7 are more than halfway through their fully supported lives.

Don't buy an older iPhone model. Cell Phone Plan Pricing Cell phone pricing is more confusing than ever. Some carriers still have the old-school, binding two-year contracts where you pay a higher monthly rate in exchange for a discounted phone.

Wireless carrier/operator subscriber share in the U.S. 2011-2018

But there also now payment plans where you pay the full retail cost of your phone, but pay less on your service plan; fast-upgrade and leasing plans where you pay a monthly fee and trade in your phone for a new one every year; as well as more carriers just selling phones for their retail price upfront. Which one you choose depends on how long you intend to keep your phone and what you want to do with it after you're done with it. If you intend to upgrade frequently, you'll get the most financial advantage by buying phones upfront and reselling them on eBay when you're done with them, but that takes effort.

Traditional two-year commitments make sense if you stick with the plan of getting a new phone every two years and you're OK with the long-term commitment. T-Mobile and Verizon don't offer two-year contracts anymore; you either pay upfront, or pay in installments over 24 months. Apple offers leasing and installment plans just like the carriers do. There are also your monthly carrier fees.

And this is where things gets tricky, as the carriers make it exceedingly difficult to figure out how much you'll actually pay per month. T-Mobile now includes fees in its base advertised plan prices, and we hope other carriers will follow. Sprint and T-Mobile offer considerable savings, especially on unlimited voice, data, and texting plans.