Today is iPhone day. Again. iPhone 4S presale order sales started at midnight. For the first time there are three different providers offering service plans for iPhones: old standby AT&T, Verizon and newcomer Sprint, plus there's an unlocked phone that theoretically could hop from network to network. With so many options, which phone to buy? The actual phone costs the same with each carrier, so it's all about the plan. With so many possible combinations of voice, data and texting, things can get kind of confusing. We're here to help.
Pros: The original iPhone service provider hopes to keep customers with reasonable prices. It has the lowest possible price plan: For $54.99 per month you get 450 minutes ($39.99) plus 200 MB of data ($15) and you can opt for pay-as-you-go texting. AT&T does not have any roaming charges in the U.S., unlimited mobile-to mobile-calling anytime and rollover minutes. Because it runs on a GSM network, it's the fastest for data and the only phone that allows for simultaneous talk and data usage.
Cons: 200MB is tiny amount of data. It's not even a half an hour of streaming music, according to the AT&T data calculator. If you go over it automatically charges $15 for additional 200MB increments. And pay-as-you-go texting sounds like a potential financial mess at $.20 per text ($.30 if it's a picture messages), which means texting "Where R U?" and "C U there" would cost almost as much mailing a first-class letter. Beyond the potential to surprise you with some scary charges, AT&T also doesn't exactly have the best reputation for phone service. "AT&T has a reputation for dropping calls consistently and having more dead zones than other carriers, especially in some metro areas, such as New York and San Francisco," explains GottaBeMobile's K. T. Bradford. AT&T ranks last in customer service, according to J.D. Power and Associates.