Cell Phone Showdown

smartphonesCell phones are an outright necessity these days. Whether you go all in with a fully featured smartphone or if you opt for the bare-bones pay-as-you-go device, you probably have a cellular device rumbling in your pocket right now. With the unending amount of devices and plans on the market today, it can be hard to maneuver through it all to find out what is best for you.

So, let’s take a look at the providers available in Corvallis and give you a basic rundown of what each can do for you, give them a little background, and then identify something special about them, local or otherwise.

Caveat: since there are hundreds of different plan and cell phone combos, we’ll simplify things a bit, identifying some top possibilities first, and then our picks for best overall value in a cell phone plan and the best overall device on the Corvallis market today.

With all that said, let’s get this game started.

Verizon – Support in Numbers
Right off the bat, the most interesting aspect of Verizon in Corvallis is the sheer number of retailers, specialty or otherwise, that carry their phones and plans. With stores like GoWireless, Mobile Zone, Phone Plus, and more, Verizon customers can be guaranteed some sort of brick-and-mortar support when it’s needed and that’s a huge plus. Their data speeds are top-notch as well, but there are some shady practices at play at Verizon, with hefty “activation fees” and the like hidden from most of their advertisements. Be cautious.

T-Mobile – Shaking Up the Cell Phone Norm
A few years back, T-Mobile shook up the scene by breaking free of the yearly contract. They have been followed by a number of their competitors, but T-Mobile has proved time and again that they listen to their consumers. They are still far from perfect, but they forced the industry to change and that’s commendable. T-Mobile also holds one of the only truly unlimited data plans, along with Sprint, so if you’re looking for heavy data use, T-Mobile should be on your radar. In Corvallis, there are some odd connection issues, but for the most part it shouldn’t be an issue.

AT&T – The Old Favorite
AT&T has been in the business for a long, long time, with their roots found in the original Bell Telephone Company. Their importance in the industry has carried through the years, with exclusivity deals for a variety of devices and a consistent first-place hold on the market since 2013. Because of that, it’s no surprise that AT&T’s network has been consistently speedy and high quality, meaning an overall good experience for the consumer.

Sprint – Struggling to Stay Relevant
As the mobile device industry has continued to evolve, Sprint, originally right alongside AT&T and Verizon in terms of popularity, has essentially grown irrelevant. Sprint’s biggest deal right now is the “cut your plan in half” promotion, and they’re hoping it brings them back into the spotlight. Customers can bring in plans from either AT&T or Verizon, and Sprint promises to cut the rate in half. Through that, Sprint promises to pay off whatever fees are needed to break your contract with your old provider,waive any activation fees they require, and even offer a $75 American Express reward card. It all sounds like an attempt to stay relevant against the efforts of AT&T and T-Mobile, but the perks seem more than worth it.

Best Plan
There are an insane amount of plans on the market to date, whether month-to-month based or stuck to the antiquated yearly contract, and it can be hard to sort through what you need. But if I were to label any one plan as the best—and I’m looking at value here—it would be either Sprint or T-Mobile’s unlimited plans. Sprint comes in at $60 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data and T-Mobile will run you $80 per month for the same. Sprint is a nice cheaper alternative, but T-Mobile’s data speeds are much higher than what Sprint provides. While $80 per month can seem a bit steep, both providers promise to be truly unlimited and that may be worth the investment.

Best Device
When it comes to the best device available, it all revolves around personal need. If you simply need a device to make phone calls, you can grab at the bottom of the barrel and come away happy. If you want a smartphone to serve as an accessory to your day-to-day life, you are stuck with a million options.

Then there is the never-ending debate over Apple or Android. The best way to summarize that discussion is ease of use against freedom. If you want complex customization and the freedom to do whatever you want with your device, stick with Android. If you want a device that is consumer-friendly and will be supported for years after purchase, while being held back by Apple’s restrictive parts, the iPhone might be up your alley.

Personally, I believe the Samsung Galaxy S5 is a perfect device for the current mobile landscape. Boasting a beautiful AMOLED five-inch screen and a powerful 2.5 GHz CPU, the Galaxy S5 is a powerhouse. On top of that, its successor, the Galaxy S6, is incoming and will lead to a drop in price for the S5. If you are looking for a device that can withstand anything you throw at it, the S5 will do just fine.

Final Thoughts
If you want to operate outside of the big companies, there are a few alternatives. They range from Wi-Fi calling through services like Skype and Viber to pay-as-you-go phones that allow you to pay only for what you absolutely need. But these things are usually only good in the short term, as the overall costs build up over time.

Cell phones are necessary but the process behind choosing which provider to align yourself with is growing harder and harder every day. What it comes down to is what each individual is looking for in the end. There are so many plans, so many devices, and the mobile landscape is ever-changing. There is no clear winner, though T-Mobile has done me well over the years and their efforts to change the contract schemes that some providers still maintain feels worthy of my loyalty.

If you’re looking for affordability, turn your eyes to a pay-as-you-go plan or AT&T. If you’re looking to put heavy use into your mobile device, then look towards T-Mobile and Sprint, thanks to their unlimited data plans. If you’re looking for support in numbers, you’ll find Verizon to be king here in Corvallis.

 Just keep your eyes open for the best deals and play the negotiation game, and you should end up fairly satisfied.

By Nathan Hermanson