Sprint vs. T-Mobile: Which is the best Android carrier?

Will Sprint or T-Mobile have the best offerings for Android phones?

With its new HTC Hero, Sprint is about to join the Google Android community. But how do its new offerings stack up against the handsets and services of T-Mobile? If you're looking to purchase an Android phone, which carrier is better?

Phones
Sprint: The HTC Hero will be the first Android phone from Sprint, but rumors suggest that Sprint will also launch a Samsung Android phone later this year. And since Sprint also carries LG phones in its lineup, it could also be a destination for LG's new Android phone .

T-Mobile: Currently, T-Mobile remains the only U.S. carrier to sell Android phones. The G1 debuted almost a year ago and the company sells the MyTouch 3G. What's more, Motorola has chosen T-Mobile to launch its first Android handset , the Cliq, which will come out later this year. T-Mobile USA could also snag the Huawei Pulse that its UK counterpart adopted earlier this month.

Winner: T-Mobile wins this round by default since it is the only carrier with two Android phones and more on the way.

Calling and data plans
Sprint: The carrier just announced its Any Mobile, Anytime calling plans, which offer unlimited calls to any cell phones . Plans range from $69.99 to $99.99 and include unlimited data. For $69.99 a month, you can get 450 anytime minutes, unlimited minutes to any mobile network, and unlimited data and texting.

T-Mobile: Unlike its competitors, T-Mobile has yet to bundle any of its data plans with calling plans. For data plans, users can choose between $24.99 for unlimited data or $34.99 for unlimited data and messages. T-Mobiles MyFaves plans allow you to get unlimited minutes to five phone numbers of your choice. The cheapest plan is the MyFaves 300, which cost $39.99.

Winner: Sprint offers the best deal for Android users with its new Any Mobile, Anytime plan. When you compare plans with unlimited data and messaging, Sprint offers more minutes at a cheaper price.

Network
Sprint: Sprint has a strong EV-DO 3G network and is expanding its new 4G network . It expects to cover 20 markets by the end of the year. The carrier also has announced it will be offering a 4G handset sometime in 2010.

T-Mobile:It is rapidly expanding its 3G network, but T-Mobile was the last major carrier to launch wireless broadband. After months of promises it finally activated 3G in 2008, more than three years after Sprint's 3G became available.

Winner: With more experience behind it, Sprint offers a larger 3G network and has already begun to expand its 4G network.

Exclusive software
Sprint: If you sign up for its Simply Everything plans, Sprint offers GPS navigation, streaming video, NFL Mobile Live, and Nascar Sprint Cup Mobile. Sprint has ported the NFL and Nascar applications to the Palm Pre and I expect to see them appear on Android.

T-Mobile: T-Mobile has released several Android applications, including My Account, Visual Voicemail, and HotSpot Connect. My Account allows users to access all their account info, receive usage and payment alerts, get live chat support, and more.

Winner: We'll have to wait and see which Android-specific apps Sprint releases, but I give T-Mobile the edge for now. Its My Account application is one of the most useful services I've seen a carrier offer. You can check your minutes and text usage instantly, which can help you avoid overage fees.

Intangibles
Sprint: It remains unclear how committed Sprint is to Android. The company took the wait-and-see approach before finally deciding to offer an Android phone. It will be interesting to see how many marketing and development resources Sprint gives to Android in comparison with the focus devoted to the Pre.

T-Mobile: The carrier has supported Android from day one. CTO Cole Brodman has appeared at multiple Android events and praises the mobile operating system every chance he gets. T-Mobile has also said that it plans to release Android-powered home phones and a tablet computer in 2010.

Winner: T-Mobile has been the biggest champion of Android to date. As time goes on, we expect it to offer more and more Android devices. Yet, Sprint could surprise us.

Conclusion
Both carriers have their advantages, but as of now I think T-Mobile offers the best Android experience. It was the first carrier to take a chance on Android and it continue to increase its support for the mobile platform. Sprint offers very competitive calling plans, but we'll have to wait and see how the Hero launch develops.

About the author

    Taylor Wimberly became obsessed with cell phones working as a Sprint reseller as a teenager. When he's not writing about the newest handsets on the market, you can find him on the beach working the BBQ pit. Taylor also blogs about the Android community with Android and Me. Taylor is a member of the CNET Blog Network, and is not an employee of CNET. E-mail Taylor.

     

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