I wish CNET would, as a routine part of their ratings/review process figure out some way to include the relative "signal pulling/signal lock" power of various phones. I've spent a LOT of money on cell phones over the years and always seem to live or work in an area where the reception is LOUSY!
At my present home in AZ, I'm just far enough out of the city to pick up AT&T (just barely) on one side of my house and an "AT&T Affiliate Carrier" on the other. (FYI- AT&T has contract relationships with small rural carriers to carry the AT&T traffic as it crosses their area. To the customer it looks like an AT&T cell tower, but in reality, it's NOT! It is the provenance of some small rural GSM operator who's allowed to use an "alternate network ID" which fools your phone into thinking it's grabbed an AT&T tower and connection when in fact it has not. For billing purposes, AT&T pays these little carriers some token amount of revenue per month based on overall minutes of talk time vended out to AT&T customers. WAY below what they'd charge you for it, but at least it provides the rural carrier with some much needed revenue and makes AT&T look as though they offer coverage where they really do not. If you have a "national" plan, there is no roaming and no charge for using the "oddball carrier". However if you make the mistake of calling 411, you'll be patched thru to that carriers 411 contractor - who usually Is NOT the same one AT&T uses. And you'll be billed a couple of dollars per call for having done so. Other than that, there's no charge for using one of these 'affiliate carriers" as long as you don't have a LOCAL ONLY plan. If you do, then you're going to pay roaming rates both per call and per day you are logged into the system and it can get costly.
Anyway, after the above digression to explain the situation I'm in - I would LOVE to know which specific models of phones provide the best ability to pull in a signal when you're on the fringes of the towers range and which ones can, once they've seized a channel, hold onto it for the duration of a call. There are still, sadly, lots of parts of the west where even the biggest carriers have spotty or no service. Knowing which phone will do it's best to cover you in those areas could really be useful info for lots of people.
In Europe, the carriers share tower space with each other. For instance, if you're in Amsterdam and you are standing next to a KPN tower, but you're an "Orange" customer, the KPN tower will carry your call and then at the end of the month KPN and ORange do a debit/credit and reimburse each other for calls carried from the other carrier. This is why in Europe, cellular service is nearly ubiquitous. When we lived in Holland we had service in high rise elevators, in parking garages underground, and in places that you'd NEVER dream of getting cell service if you were in the US.
I wondered why and my neighbor was a senior VP for KPN Mobile and kind enough to explain the main difference in service and how it's provided there vs how it is provided here. In the US, if you are out of range of your own (for instance AT&T) carriers tower, but underneath a TMobile GSM Tower, you will not have service. T-Mobile is NOT about to carry your call for love or money. A very short sighted attitude that AT&T got written into law years ago when the old IMTS Mobile was the only game in town. The old laws still are on the books and are frankly anti-competition yet no one even knows they exist and therefore no one is lobbying to change them.
If these ancient laws were changed and carriers were mandated to carry (where technically possible of course) each other's customers calls, the entire AT&T and T-Mobile GSM Network would more than double overnight! Of course this is the VERY LAST THING that VERIZON wants to see happen for obvious reasons.
Verizon with the CDMA tech they use, is not compatible with anyone other than themselves. (Oops, themselves and Altel if Altel is still around??) So while this possible change in laws/regulations would help the GSM carriers in the US to be better service providers by far, it wouldn't do a thing to boost Verizon's ability to carry calls. Hence they would oppose changing the laws and probably already have done so. Someday the US GSM carriers will ban together and get public support for the change in FCC regs and supporting laws, I hope, and then finally we'll have full national coverage on GSM. But until then, don't count on it once you venture outside a major city limit or too far off of a well traveled interstate highway.
As for those of you who so unkindly recommended changing to Verizon from AT&T, while it may not make any difference to you - but there are lots of us who don't spend our entire lives in the USA. I have a home in Holland that I bought when I worked and lived there and venture back there at least 2 times a year. Lots of other American's travel for pleasure or business or both. GSM is the INTERNATIONAL STANDARD in Cellular Communication. Don't you think there is a REASON that Apple with the amazing success of the new iPhone decided to build the iPhone to GSM standards? If you're an iPhone customer you're using GSM even if you've unlocked your phone and moved off of AT&T. The other choice for iPhone service in the USA is the other GSM carrier, ie: T Mobile. Why would changing to Verizon in the US be a benefit? Verizon uses ONLY older, less utilized, non-standard technology, and they charge slightly more than either AT&T or TMobile for comparable plans and their coverage is just as bad, if not worse in some areas.
A buddy of mine who's an exec for Verizon Mobile once said that they have an inside joke about their company. The joke is that their corporate slogan should be (if there really were truth in advertising required) -- "Verizon - The Company That Brings You Yesterday's Technology, Today, at Tomorrow's Prices - and thinks you should LOVE IT !! "
Yeah, that's what their own execs joke about privately.
OH, BTW - CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? I trust that point was made loud and clear, even if you're on Verizon!